Riverside mayor assists marrying military couples

Belgin, a senior airman and geospatial analyst in the United States Air Force, was leaving soon for training in California in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later in the year.

“I’ve been in the Air Force for three years. We met online two and a half years ago and we’ve been in love ever since,” Belgin said.

“And then you lived happily ever after,” Moore corrected him.

The challenges faced by military couples like Belgin and Moore inspired Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute to act. Flaute conducted a “Mayor’s Wedding” for the couple – marrying them for free and with minimal planning due to their tight schedule.

Flaute has conducted more than 300 such weddings for local military couples.

“It’s a service I can do for my country,” said Flaute.

Flaute said military couples often must get married quickly, so that the wife can get information on her husband while he’s away from home. This often creates a hectic and rushed schedule for the couple.

“The Marine who was married last Friday needed his paperwork brought downtown that day because he was leaving for boot camp early Monday morning,” he said. “I hated to drive downtown, but I thought ‘If this guy is going to dodge bullets for me, the least I can do is drive downtown for this guy.’ ”

Tim Fritts is president of the Wedding Connection at 4140 Linden Ave., which works with Flaute on the weddings.

“A lot of people think that you can’t have a mayor’s wedding and have it be special,” Fritts said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. We want the wedding to have that special feel.”

The Riverside venue allows couples to be married in its chapel, and gives them access to photographers, caterers, and DJs in order to reduce the stress of finding and booking services on their own. Military couples often decide to plan receptions later, further complicating things.

“We want to give them something memorable, something special, where they don’t have to spend a lot of money,” Fritts said.

For Belgin and Moore, they say the main challenges are not being able to plan in advance as Air Force commitments get in the way.

“It’s hard to make certain plans, because it’s hard to know in advance about him leaving,” Moore said. “They can pull him away at any time.”

For now, though, the young couple doesn’t mind a little bit of adventure.

“We’d love to see the world,” Moore said. “I would like to see England and Europe. We’re pretty happy to see where it takes us.”

Contact The Wedding Connection at (937) 254-6930.

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