Till Death do us part

For Scott Amsler and Miranda Patterson a graveyard seems the perfect place to get married. A rather morbid yet unusual idea.

Come September, the Illinois couple expects to pledge their undying love among the dearly departed in this St. Louis suburb’s city cemetery, even though those who approved the request are dead set against seeing it become a trend.The wedding wouldn’t be out of character for Amsler, 27, a computer expert for a financial company by day and rehabber of old hearses by night.

The graveyard, he said, just has a certain tranquility and thriftiness for nuptials the young couple insists will be small, private and traditional — except for the bagpipes, Amsler’s refurbished hearse and the throng of eternally silent witnesses.

“People are going to think how they want. I don’t actively try to convince people that my interests are normal or logical,” Amsler said. “I’m not a freak or Satan worshipper or cult member. It just goes with our theme.”

Deep down, the couple said, it just seemed right.

Amsler and Patterson, who recently moved to Collinsville, Ill., became an item not long after they met in November 2005 at a birthday party where Patterson, 21, was to have been the celebrant’s blind date. Amsler showed up in a retooled hearse that caught Patterson’s eye.

“I wanted a ride in it but I chickened out at the last minute,” she said.

By their first date weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, Patterson knew Amsler was the one. Not long afterward, she quit her factory job in Sullivan, Mo., and moved in with Amsler in Troy, Ill.

Amsler proposed last June, affixing to the side of the 1965 hearse — which the two call “Edgar” — a plate with a simple message: “Will you marry me?” Seconds later, the ring slid onto a crying Patterson’s finger.

She received Edgar as an engagement gift and had only one stipulation: The wedding had to be outside, in a gazebo.

Her worries were laid to rest while she and Amsler drove to her dad’s house. While traveling on Interstate 44, Patterson spotted a gazebo on a hilltop, only to find it was in a graveyard. No worries.

“The view was just gorgeous,” she said. “I said, `This is where I want to get married.'”

When the couple called last fall for permission to use the three-acre cemetery, which dates to the Civil War, City Clerk Jo Ann Hoehne told them the local cemetery committee would have to decide.

“When I spoke to them, they were just a normal young couple who wanted to have a wedding some place they thought was nice and serene for a very small, intimate wedding,” Hoehne said. “They weren’t any cult group or anything like that.”

Bill Hohman, a 71-year-old alderman on the cemetery panel, wasn’t sure what to think.

“It’s strange to me. This is kind of an unusual thing around here,” he said of the country town where the roughly 5,700 residents “roll up the sidewalks at nine o’clock, and everyone goes to bed.”

The committee last month signed off on the couple’s request despite concerns about the appropriateness of the setting for the occasion — and fears that a burial might be scheduled for the same time.

Hohman, though, vows to introduce a measure to make Amsler-Patterson nuptials the last among this town’s tombstones. “Once the horse is out of the barn, you have to have an ordinance,” he said.

But Patterson said she and Amsler have respect for the living and the dead.

“We’re not going to do anything stupid or horrible. We just want to have a wedding,” she said.

“Some of the ladies I work with said, `Are you crazy? Why would you get married in a cemetery?’ Does it matter where we get married, just as long as we get married?”

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