There came the brides - all 250 of them. And if some didn't look ecstatic at the prospect of starting married life, it may be because many of the couples who tied the knot in New York's Manhattan Center yesterday had only just met.
"I feel good," said Aissatou Fofana, 41, the corners of her lips quivering as she flashed a nervous smile.
A native of South Brunswick, N.J., Fofana wed Sheku Kabbah, the brother of Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, with whom she has been acquainted for five years.
But the fact they knew each other was not the only thing that set them apart from other pairs mass-married by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church.
"She's a Pentecostal Christian and I'm Muslim," Kabbah said matter-of-factly.
According to the Rev. Phillip Schanker, one of the event organizers, Fofana and Kabbah's union is "a statement of reconciliation and hope" that couldn't be more appropriate on the week America marked the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"This is an affirmation that we're one family," said Schanker, whose marriage to a South Korean farmer was arranged 30 years ago by Moon. "These are people who are willing to experience love beyond barriers."
The ceremony in New York was broadcast live over the Internet to locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and 145 countries, where couples gathered to be married by Moon.
The two-hour wedding started with a recitation of prayers by a rabbi, an imam, a Christian pastor and an American Indian. Wearing a dark blue suit with a pink carnation pinned to the lapel, Moon then recited wedding vows in Korean while the English translation appeared on a giant screen.
"Do you promise God that you will be faithful to your wife?" he asked.
Staring at his wife to be, Kabbah shouted, joining the other grooms: "We do."