After seven rescheduled wedding dates, Rachel Dietrich could not wait for her cue to say, “I do.”
Trembling with excitement, and with tears running down her face, Dietrich joyfully responded before Camden County Surrogate Michelle Gentek-Mayer could ask the question to confirm her union with Ermes Rojas during a brief civil service Thursday.
“Yes, yes, yes,” she repeated as she stood next to Rojas in front of a trellis decorated with red and white flowers in a second-floor hall at the Camden County Boathouse, overlooking Cooper River Park in Pennsauken.
The service capped a whirlwind week for Dietrich. Two days earlier, she was among hundreds of brides from around the region who received free wedding gowns during a two-day dress giveaway by the county for veterans and military families. Dietrich is a member of a Gold Star family.
The 500 gowns, accessories, and special occasion dresses were donated to the county by M&M Realty Partners after Alfred Angelo Bridal abruptly shut down in 2017, closing salons including one in Cherry Hill. M&M, which manages the Cherry Hill property where the bridal shop was located, had one stipulation: give them to veterans.
Another bride at the wedding gown giveaway was Priscilla Pazmino, 29, of Pemberton, a retired Air Force medic, who said “I do” to Joseph Muller Jr., a Millville, N.J., police officer, during a ceremonial service Thursday in New York on Fox & Friends. The couple, who plan to officially tie the knot next year, received a free honeymoon in Barbados.
“She looked beautiful,” said county spokesperson Dan Keashen, who accompanied the couple, along with the consultant who helped Pazmino select her gown.
Dietrich, who is studying musical theater at Camden County College, held a bouquet as her father, Larry, escorted her down the aisle with a soft wedding medley playing on Pandora. She whispered to Rojas, “Do you like the dress?” He nodded and smiled broadly.
Gentek-Mayer performed five marriages Thursday. She normally conducts the ceremonies once a month at the Regan Building, a county property in Gloucester Township, but the nuptials were moved to the Boathouse for Valentine’s Day with a few special touches added, such as brownies trimmed with red icing.
“I love doing weddings," she said. "It’s an honor.”
Dietrich and Rojas, both 22 and of Somerdale, met online in January 2018, Rojas said. The couple got engaged last summer, but their wedding plans fell through seven times because they couldn’t afford it, said Rojas, who works at a warehouse.
“We prayed for this day," he said. “We just feel that God’s pointing us in this direction.”
Rojas’ uncle Sgt. Hector Louis Ortiz Jr., 33, died in 2012 while on active duty.
The wedding day, said Dietrich, was perfect. The couple planned to have brunch with family and then stay overnight at the Jonathan Pitney House, a bed and breakfast in Absecon, N.J.
“It’s kind of beyond what I was hoping for. I wouldn’t ask for anything different,” said Dietrich, who works at a fast-food restaurant.
With the clock ticking, Brittani Wright, 31, a math teacher at Camden’s Mastery High School, rushed in for her union with Kiran Kumar Dayyala, 28. The groom, who works at a convenience store, wanted to get married on Valentine’s Day, and the only available slot with the surrogate was during Wright’s lunch break. The couple planned a dinner celebration Thursday night.
“This is the best lunch break ever,” she said with a smile before rushing back to her students.