Couples Get Free Lovin

It is 9 o’clock on a Saturday night, and Sean Cononie has just finished ordaining a wedding. The couple shares a kiss and gets in a car to head to a Marriott hotel. But after their two-day honeymoon, they won’t go home to a house with a yard. The newlyweds will return to the homeless shelter where they live.
Cononie isn’t a traditional minister. He runs the shelter the couple will return to. The Coalition of Service and Charity (COSAC) currently houses about 300 people in their four buildings in Hollywood. A year and a half ago, Cononie decided to expand COSAC’s services to include holding and paying for weddings for homeless and poor couples.
“We do enough funerals here, so we needed to do something more.”
Over the past 18 months, COSAC has organized five weddings, all free of charge to the couples. So far, four out of the five weddings were for couples that lived in the shelter.
“We’ve been blessed with donations, so if I can help them out, I do,” says Cononie, founder/director of COSAC. “It costs us hardly anything.”
But these wedding aren’t traditional. They are usually organized and held in one day. The shelter offers to pay for cake, flowers and clothing. The organization also offers two nights in a hotel and around $200 for spending.
“We did a wedding for an outside couple who were disabled and poor,” says Rich Carlish, COSAC’s hotel manager. “We provided food for the 25 people attending and because it was donated, the whole thing was done at almost no cost. I enjoyed it.”
According to Cononie, outsiders tend to think that COSAC’s residents are “alcoholics and druggies.” But most of the time, that isn’t the case. Either way, he ensures that the couple is making an informed decision before he gives his blessing.
He usually meets with the couple at least three times, similar to a counselor, before deciding whether COSAC will organize a wedding for them.
“I want to make sure they aren’t making a bipolar decision,” he says.
One thing Cononie requires the couple to do is obtain a marriage license.
“If they say, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ then I say they aren’t ready.”
Getting a marriage license for the couple isn’t always easy. Only three out of 15 people who come to COSAC have an ID. Getting them IDs is one of COSAC’s goals when new people come to the shelter.
That is the final step before the wedding day.
“There is something satisfying [about doing this] even though it is as low-budget as it gets,” says Richard Carlish. “It is satisfying taking what you have to work with and making it as beautiful as possible.”