Plenty of couples over the years have met or fallen in love at Santa Barbara’s oldest and largest city-heritage celebration. In fact, it’s happened so many times that Old Spanish Days organizers made “Fiesta Romantica” this year’s theme. Now, thanks to an area service organization, Fiesta is playing a big part in another couple’s love story.
In the spirit of Fiesta Romantica, the local Rotary clubs offered to host a wedding on their parade float, which is a replica of the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens. The Rotary organizers, who announced the offer only a week before the parade, weren’t sure they would find a couple willing to plan a wedding on such short notice. But, they did.
The groom, James Reichlen, was listening to KJEE radio when he heard reporter John Palminteri announce that the Rotary was looking for a couple to get married. On Tuesday, August 4, Reichlen purchased a ring from a vending machine in a grocery store. He used it later that night to propose to his sweetheart, Lindsay Muse.
“I wasn’t sure if it was real, so I said, ‘I love you?’” said Muse. It was real, and Muse said yes. The real ring, Reichlen’s grandmother’s, arrived with the groom’s parents from Virginia just days ahead of the wedding.
This will be the bride’s first Fiesta. The couple, who moved to Santa Barbara just over a year ago, met in college at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They told Rotary members they discussed moving to the American Riviera on their first date five years ago.
“I am so honored to be part of this blessed moment!” said Palminteri, Santa Barbara’s most recognizable newsman. Palminteri is senior reporter at local TV station KEYT and anchors morning news on KJEE radio, where Reichlen heard about the Rotary’s unusual wedding offer.
On Wednesday night, after securing their marriage license, a wedding dress, and an officiant, the couple visited their wedding venue. They watched windows and adornments appear on the float’s miniature courthouse at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum.
“The hardest thing is going to be letting all of our friends and family know before Friday,” Muse said. “To us, Old Spanish Days represents a celebration of people coming together with their friends and families, so what better way to celebrate our love than with the whole town?”
In his application to be selected by the Rotary clubs, Reichlen said the couple is no stranger to this kind of spontaneity. “Lindsay and I have made a habit of jumping upon the opportunities that are presented to us seemingly without question and I feel that this is another situation in which we are obligated to at least try our luck at destiny,” he said.
David Velarde, a past president of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise, has been managing the logistics of throwing a wedding for an estimated 100,000 people. “Usually Rotary is known for eradicating polio, and bringing clean water and literacy to people around the world,” he said. “This weekend, we’re bringing a little extra romance to Fiesta Romántica.”
Santa Barbara area Rotary Clubs contributed to this report. There are eight Rotary clubs in Santa Barbara, Montecito, Goleta, and Carpinteria.