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Taco belle creates media frenzy


Zoe Satherley
14 January 2009
An international media frenzy has erupted following the quirky wedding of Associate Professor Karen Brooks’ daughter in a US Mexican fast-food restaurant last week.

Dr Brooks, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Southern Cross University, said the saga had ‘taken the world by storm’ with both Australian and international media latching onto the story of her 21-year-old daughter, Caragh Brooks’ wedding at the Taco Bell restaurant in the town of Normal, Illinois, last Friday.

“They didn’t invite the media to the wedding and are overwhelmed by the attention,” Dr Brooks said. “But I think what has triggered the mass appeal of their story is that theirs is a simple love story that, amid the current world economic crisis and turmoil, harkens back to the basics.

“They have spoken to the zeitgeist, the culture of the times. In this day and age of hugely expensive Hollywood-style extravagant weddings, they have shown that it is love that counts and it doesn’t matter where you have the ceremony or what you wear.”

The unusual wedding was anything but normal, with bride and groom, Paul Brooks, 30, exchanging vows in an orange-coloured Taco Bell booth, supported by the cheering applause of friends, restaurant diners and staff who helped decorate the fast food joint with balloons and streamers, displaying hot sauce packets labeled with the words ‘Will you marry me?’.

Their wedding video is currently the third-most-watched online video in the world and there have been over 500 stories published about the wedding, with the media hounding Dr Brooks and the couple for more interviews daily.

The couple met online on an internet dating site about two years ago. They shared the same surname and found they had a lot in common: “We have the same brain, just in two bodies,” Paul said. “We think alike in virtually every manner. We have the same interests and viewpoints.”

The two wrote back and forth and talked on the phone for nine months before Caragh moved from Melbourne to the United States nine months ago. Paul proposed to her on New Year’s Eve. Because they liked to spend time at the local Taco Bell, they decided to wed there.

“We didn’t want to do things in the traditional sense,” US-born Paul told reporters. “We are a bit of an offbeat couple so we figured we wanted to have an offbeat ceremony.”

The bride wore a $20 hot pink dress and the entire wedding cost about $280.

With several dozen invited guests in the room, the couple sat in a decorated booth with T-shirt-clad friend, Ryan Green, of Normal, who became an ordained minister online, acting as the celebrant.

They said the same vows: “I promise to honor your life’s choices, comfort you in sorrow, celebrate in your joy and support your endeavors…,” they said. “Whatever the world brings, I take you as my partner.”

Business went on as usual in the front area of Taco Bell and some customers in the Friday night supper rush stopped to watch.

Shortly before the ceremony, Kathy Brooks, the groom’s mother, said: “This is the way to go - there’s no stress.”

Dr Karen Brooks said she and Caragh’s father, Stephen, were disappointed they hadn’t been able to make the wedding, but were only given two days’ notice.

“She wanted the wedding to be on our wedding anniversary, January 9, and as City Hall was booked, Taco Bell seemed the next best thing,” Dr Brooks said. “I think people related to the venue as a very normal, ordinary place to have a wedding and in that regard it seemed unusual, even outlandish.”

Photo: Associate Professor of Media Studies Dr Karen Brooks and her daughter, Caragh, in Sydney. High resolution image available on request.