— Love can blossom in the strangest places and at the most unexpected times. For Santina Bowers and Moise Naolo, romance bloomed amid — well — actual blooms.
There they were, two years ago this spring, admiring colorful petals and lush greenery at the annual Macy’s Flower Show in New York. They stood right by each other, marveling at the same window display. Suddenly Naolo noticed Bowers — and stopped noticing the flowers.
“I had to start a conversation with her. She was very beautiful,” recalled Naolo, 26, an officer with the New York Police Department. “She was holding the same exact phone as I had, so I said, ‘Are you having any problems with that phone? Do you like it?’ ”
The chitchat continued with Bowers, who was visiting New York from California with a group of girlfriends. They all made plans to meet up again the following night. Then Naolo took Bowers to the American Museum of Natural History and out to dinner.
And that was that.
“We’ve been seeing each other ever since,” Naolo said.
“He would fly out one month, I’d fly out the following month,” said Bowers, 38, who works as a paralegal.
As you might have gathered, the couple’s story doesn’t stop there. A little more than a year into their cross-continental relationship, Naolo hatched a daring scheme and asked Macy’s employees for some help with it. They readily obliged. During Bowers’ next New York visit, the couple wandered past that same store window on Broadway where they’d first met — and Bowers stopped in stunned silence.
In the window was a huge sign that said, “SANTINA WILL YOU MARRY ME?” Naolo dropped to one knee. At first, Bowers couldn’t think clearly. Then she burst into tears and said, “Yes, I love you, of course I’ll marry you!”
Their wedding took place Sunday night at — you guessed it — the Macy’s Flower Show in the heart of Manhattan. Macy’s covered the costs for the entire event: flowers, gown, ring, cake, cocktail reception and more.
“With their back story, their amazing meeting, the proposal — it made sense to close the loop on this love story here where it all began,” Macy’s spokeswoman Marissa Nicolaescu said.
‘The ultimate testimony’
Macy’s is among many retailers to host weddings for loyal customers in recent years. Ceremonies at Home Depot, T.J. Maxx, Whole Foods, McDonald’s and Taco Bell have generated plenty of headlines — and positive publicity — for the businesses that helped coordinate the nuptials.
At a Home Depot wedding last June in Southern California, the wedding party marched down an aisle of light bulbs, grills and paint to the outdoor garden section. T.J. Maxx also hosted a wedding last summer; in that instance, the wedding aisle was the size 8 shoe aisle of a store in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
Some retailers and restaurant chains have created side businesses by offering quirky wedding packages. Voodoo Doughnut, which has two wildly popular locations in Portland, Ore., has an entire section of its menu devoted to wedding services. Here’s what the $200 “Legal Voodoo Wedding” package includes: “Legal wedding ceremony, coffee & doughnuts for 24 people, 700-square-foot chapel, free parking & doughnut centerpiece.”
In Hong Kong, McDonald’s began promoting kitschy “McWeddings” earlier this year. The newlyweds can enjoy a cake made out of a tower of McDonald’s apple pies and give their guests Happy Meals toys as wedding favors.
“This is the next generation of guerilla marketing for retailers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the market research firm NPD Group.
Cohen noted that the holy grail of marketing is to get consumers to share their enthusiasm about a particular brand with other consumers.
“If someone is so passionate about that coffee shop or that grocery store or that department store that they have their big day there? Wow," Cohen said. "What more glowing endorsement from a consumer could you ever get?"
Macy’s spokeswoman Nicolaescu said the company genuinely wanted to do something special for Bowers and Naolo because of the circumstances of the couple’s story.
“We truly fell in love with the details surrounding this couple’s relationship,” Nicolaescu said.
‘Out of a fairy tale’
Naolo’s and Bowers’ wedding took place on opening day of the 37th annual Macy’s Flower Show. Each spring, designers and horticulturists meticulously festoon the store and its window displays with some 100,000 plants and flowers — making it an exceptionally good time for a couple to get married in a retail setting.
Sunday’s wedding ceremony began at 8:45 p.m. after the massive store had closed to customers for the night. The wedding aisle was the main aisle of the store itself, which is a centerpiece of the show’s botanical largesse.
A private reception for about 100 guests followed upstairs on the store’s 13th floor, with drinks and dancing on into the evening.
“For us to get married inside [this] Macy’s ... is straight out of a fairy tale,” said Bowers, who is leaving California and moving to Staten Island where Naolo lives.
“We’re extremely excited,” Naolo said. “Without Macy’s we never would have met, and now we’re getting married there.”