Attention, Shoppers Check Out the Wedding Special in Aisle 2!

updated 10/26/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/26/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

They were both tired of shopping for love in meat markets that passed for local singles' spots. And so it was especially ironic that when Debbie Francis and Vic Radeka met last October, it was in front of a meat counter at a Publix Supermarket in Davie, Fla., during the store's first Singles' Night. And it was especially fitting that, a year later, the couple chose to exchange their wedding vows in Publix, attended by 150 friends and family members and approximately 850 people they'd never seen before, who stopped loading their grocery carts long enough to watch the proceedings.

Radeka, 30, a Fort Lauderdale auto mechanic, had been divorced for six months after a brief marriage when a friend persuaded him to attend the Singles' Night. Browsing in the meat section, he was approached by Francis, 29, a Fort Lauderdale pharmaceuticals saleswoman who had been divorced for seven years after a two-year marriage. "What are you eating?" she asked. "Free samples of chicken wings," he replied, and the romance took off from there. The couple went out for beer—and more chicken wings—then went back to his place to shoot pool. They had their first official date three days later, upon which occasion Radeka presented Francis with a gift—an armrest for her Chevy. "We've been together since," says Debbie.

By Valentine's Day Vic had upscaled his attentions. He presented Debbie with a one-carat diamond ring and a marriage proposal. When the couple shared their good news with WMXJ, a co-sponsor of Singles' Nights at Publix, the radio station arranged the supermarket wedding. "We wanted to be different," says Debbie.

Mission accomplished. A wedding bower—a white wrought-iron arch and a raised platform covered with green indoor-outdoor carpet—was set up between the cash registers and the bakery department. The area was decorated with pink and white carnations, white gladioli, areca palms and crepe-paper wedding bells. Out of respect for the ceremony, the cash registers were closed for half an hour.

Glad that Debbie and Vic were getting married anywhere, their families made no objections to the unusual venue. Although the bride's father, Mel, had threatened to wear a shopping bag over his head, he turned up instead in traditional formal garb. The groom wore an ivory tux, the bridesmaids black cocktail dresses, and the bride walked down the aisle in a strapless, ivory-lace tea-length gown, a double strand of pearls and, in her hair, a circlet of baby's breath. Most of the guests wore T-shirts and Bermuda shorts. Munching on popcorn, they crowded around the bower, some clambering up on checkout counters or standing on piles of dog-food bags to get a better look.

The ceremony, performed by Justice of the Peace Mitchell Cohen, went off without a hitch. After sharing a dance and cutting their cake, Francis and Radeka went shopping with a $100 gift certificate from Publix. It was a good night for the store, which rang up about $2,000 more in sales than normal. But not everyone made out as well. Chiropractor Howard Dinner, 32, who usually meets dates in bars or through friends, arrived thinking that a supermarket wedding would be a great place to meet women. "But it's a little too crowded in here tonight," he said, leaving with just a pint of rum-raisin ice cream.

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