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FALLS HOPES TO ATTRACT 2,000 FOR WEDDING OF THE MILLENNIUM

There may be a few cold shoulders in the bunch, but that's to be expected when the latest low-cut styles are donned for outdoor ceremonies.

As long as no one gets cold feet, everything should move along just swimmingly.

To kick off the millennium in style, Niagara Falls will be the backdrop as 1,000 couples exchange wedding vows -- either new or renewed -- in Queen Victoria Park, as part of the "Wedding of the Millennium."

With a love-in of this magnitude, it's only right that it take place on the most romantic day of the year, Valentine's Day. Given the temperamental nature of Niagara's weather, especially winter waterfront weather, that's a bit of a gamble, admits "Wedding" coordinator Betty Colaneri. But it will be well worth the risk for the divine dividends.

"It was going to be on New Year's Eve (in conjunction with the Winter Festival of Lights) but we thought it would be much more romantic on Valentine's Day," Colaneri said. "I'm really excited about it.

"You hear lots of great stories from people about why they're participating," she said. "That, to me, makes it all worthwhile."

To date, folks from across the eastern United States and southern Ontario have signed up.

"Today I had a call from Texas," Colaneri said last week. "And I got an e-mail from Japan" from a lovebird who had read about the event on the web site www.niagarafallstourism.com.

For those who don't mind a chilly reception from their spouses or spouses-to-be, there's still time to reserve a spot in the wedding line. Couples are asked to call 1-877-FALLWED (325-5933) before Dec. 31 to secure a spot.

There's a $100 registration fee per couple, to cover costs. For that, you'll be serenaded by the Niagara Symphony, enjoy fireworks over the falls in your honor and get a chance to win a one-carat diamond engagement ring ($10,000 value) or a "fantasy package" consisting of wedding wear, photos, video, a limo ride, a three-tiered cake, a bridal makeover and a two-night stay in the Sheraton Foxhead's honeymoon suite.

"Niagara Falls has long been known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World," Colaneri said. "Our idea was to reinstate that."

Mayor Wayne Thompson said that he's all in favor of the event and would like to participate in some way. Whether that involves a recital of vows remains a state secret, however.

One of the headaches of organizing such an event is the fact that "it has to be legal," Colaneri said. "And in order for it to be legal, (the participants) have to all say their own names -- you can't do it en masse."

To accommodate that, organizers are lining up 100 ministers.

After all, no one would want to kick off the next thousand years with a mass of misbegotten marriages. Participants must have a valid marriage license or proof of prior marriage in hand.

Colaneri said she may contact the Guinness Book of World Records people, "because this could well be the world's record" for largest wedding ceremony. Likewise, she'll see what she can do about the forecast for that day -- but the weather may be somewhat out of her hands.

Just in case, she says, couples may want to pack his-and-her ski suits, or at least wear matching long underwear. After all, teeth-chattering at the moment of truth could be misinterpreted as a sign of reluctance.

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