Miami's historic Black Police Precinct & Courthouse Museum is now welcoming brides and grooms who just don't see themselves saying "I do" at some lame country club. They call it Ball & Chain Weddings.
The cheekily named packages range from "Bail," a $375 drive-thru ceremony that includes his-and-hers T-shirts, all the way up to the appropriately dubbed "Life" package, a $2,500, all-inclusive wedding that features a party bus and a catered reception.
The woman behind the concept is Stephanie van Vark, a
"I love this place," she says of the museum. "I thought, We've got to try something different that's going to be a fundraiser and a draw, and they were very receptive to the idea."
Photo courtesy of Stephanie van Vark
The precinct was built in 1950 to accommodate black policemen, judges, and defendants. The second floor was home to a courtroom, while incoming inmates were kept in holding cells on the ground floor until they could be transported to the main jail. Segregation of the criminal justice system ended in the 1960s.
For decades after the precinct closed in 1964, the building remained vacant. After undergoing a million-dollar renovation, however, it opened as a museum in 2009.
These days, it welcomes visitors, students, and even film crews looking for an authentic jail setting.
The venue is being advertised as a place for quick and affordable weddings "after which you're locked in love, but not in debt." Van Vark's hope is to bring Vegas-style nuptials to Miami not only for locals but also for tourists looking for a simple but unique destination wedding.
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"Miami is a place where people like to come visit, like to vacation, and it's a great place to honeymoon," she says.
The packages include help with obtaining marriage licenses for out-of-towners and locals, and the museum has two officiants available to perform ceremonies. Proceeds will be used to support the upkeep and programming at the museum, she says.
So far, the museum has hosted only mock weddings used in its promotional materials, though van Vark hopes to court brides and grooms through word of mouth and social media.