'I love you.' 'I know': Star Wars fans marry at Akron court’s May the Fourth weddings

·3 min read
Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable presides over a Star Wars themed wedding for Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein of Beachwood on Wednesday at the Highland Theater in Akron.
Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable presides over a Star Wars themed wedding for Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein of Beachwood on Wednesday at the Highland Theater in Akron.

For Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein, the wedding march was a bit played out.

Instead, the couple walked down the aisle to "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)."

The Star Wars superfans were among seven couples wed by the Akron Municipal Court on Thursday: a holiday coined by the saga’s fans as “May the Fourth” as a nod to the famous “May the force be with you” line exchanged among the lightsaber-wielding Jedi knights.

Judge Ron Cable presided over the weddings at the historic Highland Theater, which projected the 1977 debut film “A New Hope” on the single screen as couples were married.

Newlyweds Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein of Beachwood are photographed by Nicole Hagy, community outreach coordinator for the Akron Municipal Court, in front of the Highland Theater after their Star Wars-themed wedding Wednesday in Akron.
Newlyweds Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein of Beachwood are photographed by Nicole Hagy, community outreach coordinator for the Akron Municipal Court, in front of the Highland Theater after their Star Wars-themed wedding Wednesday in Akron.

“I was probably on the phone 20 minutes after I saw they were doing this,” Bernstein said. “We already knew we wanted our anniversary to be May the Fourth, so it felt like a cosmic, galactic coincidence.”

He and Samuels began dating in 2017. At the time, Samuels was living in Virginia, so their long-distance relationship began with virtual movie dates over video calls during which they watched all the Star Wars movies.

“It’s just something we connected about very early on,” Samuels said. “We both grew up with it and had great memories attached.”

Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable presides over a Star Wars themed wedding for Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein of Beachwood on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Akron, at the Highland Theater.
Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable presides over a Star Wars themed wedding for Julie Samuels and Jared Bernstein of Beachwood on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Akron, at the Highland Theater.

When she returned to Ohio, they put their love for Star Wars on full display in their shared Beachwood home. Their green bathroom walls are adorned with art from the films, their living room features a Millennium Falcon rug and large Lego displays of iconic machinery such as AT-ATs and X-wing Starfighters are scattered throughout their rooms.

“What I love about Star Wars is it lets you dream and think about what else could be out there,” Bernstein said. “They built this world that so many people care about.”

Akron Municipal Court's previous theme wedding days have included Halloween and Valentine’s Day, as well as unions at special venues like Jilly’s Music Hall in Downtown Akron. The court will even host a Harry Potter themed wedding at the Summit County Historical Society on the protagonist’s birthday weekend this July.

“I really enjoy doing these weddings,” Cable said. “You know, a lot of the time people aren’t so happy to be in a courtroom before a judge, but these events are always so happy and upbeat. I feel fortunate to be able to officiate such a special day.”

Ashly Bitter and Michael Codispoti walk under lightsabers as they head down the Highland Theater isle to be married by Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable in a Star Wars themed wedding on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Akron.
Ashly Bitter and Michael Codispoti walk under lightsabers as they head down the Highland Theater isle to be married by Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable in a Star Wars themed wedding on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Akron.

While some, like Bernstein and Samuels — clothed in matching shirts with Han Solo and Princess Leia’s profession of love in the “Empire Strikes Back” (“I love you” “I know”) — were dreaming of the unique experience, many couples appearing at the theater on Thursday were in for a big surprise when they saw an archway of green and blue light sabers waiting for them at the end of the aisle.

“We didn’t know,” said Eric Kakimbekov, who intended to marry his now-wife Zhanar Makhambetova in a courthouse wedding when he was told ceremonies were being held in the Highland Theater. They were unfamiliar with the films as they exchanged rings with the opening credits rolling behind them. “What a unique ceremony. Something to remember.”

Eric Kakimbekov and Zhanar Makhambetova of Columbus are married by Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Akron, at the Highland Theater.
Eric Kakimbekov and Zhanar Makhambetova of Columbus are married by Akron Municipal Court Judge Ron Cable on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Akron, at the Highland Theater.

“You know, it’s really cute,” said Ashly Bitter of Hudson. “I’ve seen all the movies; I wouldn’t call myself a super fan, but I like Star Wars — and it’s just a fun way that makes the day a little more memorable.”

Reporter Abbey Marshall is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at at amarshall1@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Star Wars fans marry at Akron court’s May the Fourth weddings