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Til death do us... just kidding!!!

By Elizabeth Breyer

New York Times News Service

It was a beautiful June day in Providence, R.I., a perfect day for a wedding. The bridegroom, Brooks King, and the bride, Megumi Aihara, had recently graduated from Brown University and hoped to start a business together.

The wedding was catered, and a friend with a degree from a French culinary school had constructed an ornate cake. The night before, guests had enjoyed the traditional bachelor party and a shower for Aihara.

At the ceremony, about 100 of the couple's closest friends, wearing dresses and lightweight suits, squeezed onto a dozen or so rows of metal folding chairs.

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But as soon as the bridegroom appeared -- wearing a bear costume -- accompanied by a best "man" (who was actually a woman) and four "groomsmen" (two of them women), it became obvious to the few who may not have known that the wedding was not real.

It was an elaborate mock wedding, entirely fabricated by the bride, the bridegroom and some close friends. Aihara, who is not romantically involved with King, described the wedding as "completely fake." King called it "a performance art piece."

Across the nation, whether for artistic expression or just to have a good time, perhapsdozens of men and women in their late teens and early 20s have been putting on costly pseudo-weddings, complete with ceremony, reception and festivities.

The trend, scarcely two years old and, according to anecdotal evidence, increasingly popular, has surprised experts like Dr. David Popenoe, a sociology professor at Rutgers University and co-director of the National Marriage Project, a research institute there. He had heard only a little about the practice, and finds it bizarre. "It sort of leaves me in a state of shock," he said laughing.

Popenoe attributed the phenomenon of mock weddings among college-age students and recent graduates to a new attitude toward marriage. Students' parents wed as soon as possible after graduation day. But now, a generation later, the marrying age has been pushed back.

"The college years used to be, not so long ago, a time for matchmaking," Popenoe said. "So that is a base point in the minds of these people's parents. But for the most part today, people don't even talk about marriage in college. They know that they want to get on with their careers, and marriage is way down the road.

Last fall, Megan Anderson, a senior at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, was a bride in a make-believe wedding sponsored by her sorority, Alpha Phi.

Anderson said mock marriages had become especially popular among members of her sorority who do not expect to be married for a while.

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"I know personally I won't be getting married for quite some time," she said. "There was so much planning and detail that went into it, even for a mock wedding. I can't imagine planning a real wedding now, at this age."

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