Idaho

Coeur d’Alene church offers free Valentine’s Day weddings

Theresa and Mark Eskridge took advantage of the free services offered at First Christian Church in Coeur d’Alene on Monday and renewed their wedding vows. The couple will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in March. (Kathy Plonka)
Theresa and Mark Eskridge took advantage of the free services offered at First Christian Church in Coeur d’Alene on Monday and renewed their wedding vows. The couple will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in March. (Kathy Plonka)

Every half hour, a new couple stood before the Rev. Al Holm, promising to love and cherish each other.

By the time twilight fell on Valentine’s Day, the retired police chaplain had performed six weddings and one renewal of marriage vows at First Christian Church in Coeur d’Alene.

Marrying couples is one of the most joyful duties of being a preacher, Holm said: “It’s a good overall vibration.”

On Monday, Holm tied the knot for free to help advertise the church’s wedding chapel. Normally, the church charges a $75 fee, which helps fund First Christian’s food pantry and homeless outreach.

Holm and his wife, Karen, saw a steady stream of couples. The youngest was 17; the oldest were in their 50s. The brides came in jeans and heirloom wedding gowns, while the grooms’ attire ranged from tuxes to casual.

During each 10-minute ceremony, Holm repeated the words of St. Paul: “Three things are eternal: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”

He also offered tongue-in-check marriage advice. “I tell the groom never to forget the three words his wonderful wife wants to hear every day: I was wrong,” Holm said.

To brides, he said, “You’re going to marry three people today: the person you think he is, the person he really is and the person he’ll become as a result of being with you.”

Mark and Theresa Eskridge, already veterans at marriage, came to renew their vows.

The ceremony was Mark’s idea. “What are you doing on Monday?” he asked Theresa. “Will you re-marry me?”

Theresa said “yes,” but confessed to being more jittery during the impromptu ceremony than during her wedding nearly 30 years ago.

The couple’s daughter, Adrianna Reeder, wiped away tears as her parents repeated their promises to each other.

“May your days together be forever on this Earth,” Holm told them.



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