When Jim and Diane Cook renewed their wedding vows Thursday after 60 years of marriage, they had a minister, a flower girl and professional violinists playing Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”
And the romantic venue? The parking lot of a dry cleaner in Robbinsdale.
It wasn’t because they were worried that someone would spill something on their clothes at the reception.
It’s just that 60 years ago, before it became the Pilgrim Dry Cleaners, the corner of 42nd Avenue N. and Bottineau Boulevard was where First Congregational Church of Robbinsdale stood. That’s where Jim and Diane met and later got married on Aug. 30, 1958.
Jim Cook became a schoolteacher and then a Presbyterian minister. He and Diane raised three children before they retired in New Hope.
The church later moved and the old building was demolished in 1965 and replaced first by a gas station and later by the dry cleaner.
Sometimes when the couple would drive by, they would tell their children, “That’s where we got married.”
So as their 60th anniversary approached, their children hatched the idea of surprising them with a vow renewal ceremony on the spot that now specializes in getting spots out.
The dry cleaning chain was happy to accommodate.
“We’re just really excited,” said Pilgrim Dry Cleaners marketing director Keona Tranby.
The Rev. Richard Buller, pastor at the Cooks’ current church, Valley Community Presbyterian Church in Golden Valley, agreed to perform the ceremony.
Fellow church members Taichi Chen, a violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra, and his wife, Robin Chen, also a violinist, agreed to provide the music.
“This is very special,” said Taichi Chen, of his first performing gig after touring with the orchestra in South Africa.
“This is unique,” said Robin Chen.
The secret arrangements made by the family included a decorated golf cart, because once, after performing a marriage on a golf course, Jim announced in a church service that he wanted a golf cart involved if he ever renewed his wedding vows.
“My face is hurting from smiling,” said Lynne Osterman, one of the Cooks’ daughters, of the planning for the event. “It’s just a hoot.”
On Thursday evening, Jim and Diane thought they were being driven to an anniversary dinner. Instead their other daughter, Donna Philippot, pulled into the dry cleaner parking lot.
“My dad said, ‘Oh, is the dry cleaner going to have a reception for us?’ ” Philippot said. “I said, ‘Close.’ ”
Philippot had gotten a white dinner jacket and horned rimmed glasses for her father to wear to duplicate the way he looked on his wedding day when he was 23. She got her mom a veil and lace gloves that Diane Cook remembered wearing as a 19-year-old bride.
They repeated their vows in the parking spaces next to the front door, near the drive-through lane and the sign announcing “Same Day Service.”
They were surrounded by about 18 friends and relatives and evening rush hour traffic, including someone driving by who shouted, “Congratulations!”
After Buller announced, “Diane, you may kiss the groom,” there was a touch of Christmas in August as the violinists played “O Holy Night.”
The family is uncertain why that carol was played at the original wedding. Maybe because it was a holy ceremony at night?
“Humor and friendship,” Jim Cook said afterward of the secret to 60 years of marriage. “Can’t think of a day without being with the person who makes your life whole.”
The couple then rode the golf cart to a reception dinner at a nearby restaurant while spectators honked their horns.
“It was just as emotional as I thought,” said Donna Philippot.
It was also convenient. While preparing for the parking lot ceremony, Lynne Osterman said she took the opportunity to get some clothes dry cleaned.
“I just dropped some off,” she said. The dry cleaner employee gave her a reminder slip. But she said, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to remember this.”