Downieville wedding special for couple
The tiny town of Downieville welcomes weddings of all sizes. Just ask these newlyweds …
Andre and Julia Gerhard thought they’d sneak off, just the two of them, and have a simple wedding. They were planning on getting married at the courthouse in Butte County near their home and then heading to Downieville for a quiet honeymoon. But when the Paradise couple called to schedule their wedding, the Butte courthouse was all booked up.
It looked like the wedding and the honeymoon were going to have to wait.
When Andre called Downieville to cancel their honeymoon reservations, he ran into the first of what he called the “Downieville mother hens.”
He told the sympathetic voice on the other end of the line about their predicament and she said: “Why don’t you just come up here to our courthouse and get married? We’re not booked up, and you can still have your honeymoon. Here’s the number for the courthouse. Ask for Mary Jungi. She’ll take care of you.”
Andre, touched that someone he’d never met wanted to help him, and happy that they might still be able to get married as planned, called the courthouse number. He spoke to Jungi, who became “mother hen number two” and found out that yes, she could marry them, no problem.
They made all the arrangements and headed up to Downieville.
Now Downieville is a tiny town, population 365. News travels fast. By the time Andre and Julia arrived a few days later, everyone already knew they were coming.
Once in town, while checking out the stores on Main Street, another local (“mother hen number three”) heard that they were the couple getting married.
“Oh, you just have to stay in the honeymoon cabin at the Lure Resort. It’s right on the river and really romantic. Would you like the number?”
So Andre called the Lure and met the owner, Linda Zolldan, (“mother hen number four”). He booked the honeymoon cabin and they were set.
On the afternoon of the wedding, Andre and Julia, Mary Jungi, and Peggy Zimmerman, another court clerk who acted as the couple’s witness, (aka “mother hen number five”) all walked down behind the courthouse to the river and stood in the sun as the couple exchanged their vows.
“Mary did a great job with the ceremony. The vows were more personal than just some formal ones from a book. You could tell that she cared about what she was doing. At one point, she said: ‘now you two take care of each other.’ It was very moving,” Andre said. “And the setting was so beautiful. The sun, the trees, the sound of the river rushing by. We couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.”
That evening, when the newlyweds went into the St. Charles Bar in Downieville, it happened to be “Ladies night,” so all the mother hens were in one place, plus a whole lot more.
Someone popped a bottle of champagne and everyone toasted the happy couple.
“Everywhere we went, people would call out to us: ‘Congratulations!’ and smile or pat us on the back. It was amazing,” Andre said. “Even when we went to Sierra City for breakfast, (12 miles up the road from Downieville) it was the same thing. We’re so happy with how it turned out. And we loved our cozy cabin on the river.”
Jungi, County Clerk Recorder, has performed numerous wedding ceremonies, in the courthouse or down at the river.
“We had a couple of cyclists who got married on the bridge in town,” she said. “We even had a couple who wanted to say their vows while standing in the river.
“I believe that marriage should be about trust and friendship and I have interwoven that into the vows. We will work with couples on their vows if they want to write their own.”
The courthouse ceremony takes about a half hour. You can bring your own witness or they will provide one. For a fee of $25, they can also deputize someone for one day to perform a wedding. For a larger ceremony, if you let them know in advance, they can connect you to people who do catering, make wedding cakes and do flowers.
The beauty of Downieville has attracted many couples to plan their weddings there. One couple who met in Downieville during a bike race, returned to get married. They brought family and friends, hired the Fireman’s auxiliary to do the food and got permission to have it downtown. The whole town turned out to celebrate with them.
“It’s the only time you ever saw men in tuxedos in this town, I’ll tell you that,” one local commented. That couple returns each year to celebrate their anniversary, staying at the Carriage House, a downtown bed and breakfast.
“I’ve stood up as a witness with couples on my lawn and also had whole families here for wedding celebrations,” said Zolldan, owner of the Lure. “When they get married here, they keep coming back each year to celebrate their anniversaries.”
“Spring and fall are ideal for weddings. The weather is gorgeous and we have more space for reservations,” said Laurie Elliott, president of the chamber of commerce and owner of the Pizza Parlor. “The surroundings are so peaceful and cell phones won’t work up here,” she said with a smile.
The Grubstake Saloon on Main Street can do a full dinner for the wedding party, handling up to 75 people. There is a community hall and churches, too, but with the river and the rugged mountain setting, the town is perfect for an outdoor ceremony,
So if you want a simple, quiet wedding or something more elaborate, Downieville will welcome you.
Andre and Julia have vowed to return each year for their anniversary.
“We were told that we’re family there now,” Andre said. “We both agree that getting married in Downieville on that mid-September day, was nothing short of magical.”
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