The Anaheim Marketplace was established in 1990 with only 20 stores. Today, it is the largest indoor swap meet in Orange County, with about 200 stores and vendors. The marketplace was designed to immerse the shoppers and vendors in a shopping experience that made them feel like they were walking through Mexico.
The Anaheim Marketplace is the heart of the community, with about 349,717 residents in the City of Anaheim, with 184,046 (53.4%) Hispanic population as of the 2023 census. The marketplace is popular among local Latinos and hosts an event called “Bodas Comunitarias” (Community Weddings).
On Sunday, February 12, the Marketplace sponsored and hosted 12 weddings for community members. “I believe Valentine’s Day is a holiday in America that all communities can celebrate,” said Giselle Lopez, marketing coordinator at Anaheim Marketplace. “We wanted to continue making the Anaheim Marketplace a space for Latino communities and all communities in Anaheim to remember such amazing days to celebrate.”
Magda Sellon-Schamber, 53, and her husband, Thomas Schamber, 66, are one of the 12 couples that participated in the weddings. “I won a contest with the radio station KLOVE,” Sellon-Schamber said. “I entered the contest and didn’t tell Thomas because I wasn’t sure what would happen.”
The couple has been together for 10 years after being neighbors. “I moved into an apartment across the street from her house. We met in one of her yard sales she had one day at her house,” Thomas Schambers said. “I started to do handy-man work for her for a couple of years, we became a couple and the rest is history.”
So when Sellon-Schamber got the call from Lopez, excitement rang through the air. “I was at work when I got the call and I screaming in my office,” Sellon- Schamber said. Her husband Thomas recalls his thoughts when she told him what happened, “I just thought, ‘Hey man, we’ve been waiting a long time to do this.”
The Anaheim Marketplace hosted a similar event in 2017 but not since then. “We cover everything from food, decorations, venue, ceremony and entertainment for the receptions,” Lopez said. “Weddings are expensive and we want to try and help bring members of our community together, whether they be a couple getting married or a local band that volunteered to play.”
The average cost for a wedding is at least $27,000. A report showed that in 2021, the total number of weddings in Los Angeles County was 43,843, with the average cost being $37,619.
“Weddings are costly and we held off on getting married because we financially couldn’t afford it,” Sellon-Schamber said.
Everyone looks forward to seeing the dress the bride will walk down the aisle in and the rings the couples will wear to lock their vows in place. “We have so many vendors here at the Anaheim Marketplace that sell just the things they need for the wedding,” Lopez said. “We are working with our vendors to provide promotions exclusive to the 20 couples participating in our community weddings.”
Sellon-Schambers mentions that she found her wedding dress at the Anaheim Marketplace, “It was all last minute, so I came here and saw a dress and it happened to fit so I got it.”
The grooms can rent or buy a tux from Anaheim Marketplace vendor. The same goes for the brides that are in search of affordable wedding dresses. “We are hosting raffles and giveaways because we want to make this experience as accessible as possible for the couples,” says Lopez.
CALÓ NEWS interviewed Lopez, the marketing coordinator at the Anaheim Marketplace, to learn more about this event.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
GISELLE LOPEZ, 23, ANAHEIM, LATINA/MEXICAN, MARKETING COORDINATOR AT ANAHEIM MARKETPLACE, SHE /HER
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND BODAS COMUNITARIAS? ARE THESE EVENTS ANNUAL, OR IS IT A NEW EVENT?
We have had this event in the past. The last time we had it was in 2017. So, our marketplace has always been a location where we celebrate just about everything and I think the marketing teams that we have had here in the past, just like us now, have all of our events community-oriented. Bodas Comunitarias is a creative way to celebrate love, give back to our community and pay for these weddings because weddings can be very costly. We are always looking for creative ways for us to be a service to our community. Our marketing team found a folder in the office and thought, “Let’s bring this back because it is such an original idea and event.” But also, it is a great year to celebrate our community continuously and have this event every year. I believe Valentine’s Day is a holiday in America that all communities can celebrate. We wanted to continue making the Anaheim Marketplace a space for Latino communities and all communities in Anaheim to remember such amazing days to celebrate.
HOW WERE THE COUPLES ABLE TO BE INVOLVED IN THE EVENT? DO THEY APPLY OR SIGN UP?
All the couples have to do is come to the Anaheim Marketplace and sign up once they get here. Interested couples had to come and sign up before February 5. All they have to do comes to our main office at the Anaheim Marketplace. Let us know that you are here to register for the community weddings, and our front desk will help you sign up. Then, upon arrival or interest, we will give you a packet. The packet gives you a step-by-step on what you need to plan and prepare for their wedding here on February 12. We are offering this to the first 20 couples that come and sign up
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS FOR THE COUPLES AND THE EVENT TO BECOME WHAT IT IS?
We have the legality part of it. We require the couples to have their marriage license with them. The packet they get when they sign up contains a step-by-step to help obtain that and the overall process. Our marketing team needs to be knowledgeable or somewhat knowledgeable about the legality of all that. We have a priest and someone that can legalize and testify to the process because we are offering both nonreligious and religious weddings. So, we have started to work with representatives of that. Part of the weddings includes the ceremony, so we also have to do that. We also have to bring out our creative sides with decorating and props and making the wedding venue and everything work together. The Anaheim Marketplace is a place with over 200 vendors. That is one of the advantages we have because our vendors offer just about everything and we are working with our vendors to bring these events to life, whether it is one of our party planning vendors and us communicating with them on how we plan on decorating the venue. We are hiring the mariachi. We have outside organizations that we are working with within our community to make this event special. We also have our photographers here at the Marketplace. We are working with them to be able to sponsor professional photography for each of the weddings and each of the wedding couples as well. The after-party will bring the celebration to life, where we will also have music which we are sponsoring. We work with the community to bring live entertainment here every weekend as it is and we will coordinate for these couples and families to enjoy. It is a little bit of everything while working with our vendors and community members who want to participate and do something amazing for the community this year.
HOW IS THIS EVENT IMPORTANT FOR THE LATINX COMMUNITY? HOW HAS THE COMMUNITY RESPONDED TO THE EVENT?
One aspect of the marketplace is that base we do here is that we are such a prominent space in the City of Anaheim and Orange County, the largest swap meet. We are predominantly Latino; we have mostly Latino vendors and customers. For many years, we have always been a space for our community to be comfortable shopping, enjoy the experience, and feel like they are walking through Mexico. Vendors and customers alike and other community members that don’t associate or identify as Latino have a safe space for the community and a place where or community can create memories with their families. It is important to bring events like the community weddings where we continue to create these lifetime memories and staple memories in the community to bring such a memorable day and for people to want to spend it with us. It is special that a marketplace is where our guests can go back and celebrate things culturally and we can help them do that continuously. Month after month, we have events at the marketplace. We have our events based on culture and based around our community.
HOW IS THIS EVENT JUST AS SPECIAL AND MAGNIFICENT AS A TRADITIONAL WEDDING THAT THEY WOULD PLAN ON THEIR OWN?
I think that something we are doing to make it special, for one, we are sponsoring the event, so I feel like that is something that may not be as accessible to some community members or be something that takes a lot of stress and a lot of time that maybe some of us don’t have and we are doing that for them. We are doing something within that same concept: the vendors we involve and the community members we also involve outside our marketplace. Our media and radio are the support we have here at the Marketplace. Not only do the wedding participants have the opportunity to bring their family and create this memory with their family, but we have the support of the entire community. So, it is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate on a beautiful day at a beautiful event. We are kicking off this event with everybody happy for the people of the community who are willing to take that step and try to celebrate with you here and the vendors that are willing to celebrate with you here and our team who is doing everything that they can to make this day as special and as memorable as possible. I love what I do.
HOW ARE THE WEDDINGS BEING PAID FOR? IS IT BY ANAHEIM MARKETPLACE, OR ARE THEY PAYING?
Upon arrival here, when you sign up, you will have to pay a $50 registration fee, which will take care of everything, including the ceremony. You will be able to bring up to 10 guests and it can change depending on how many participants we have and how much space we have available, but that is what it is. We are going to have mariachis here during the ceremony as well. This will also include a private cocktail party for each wedding party and their invited members. We are also going to have professional photography as well. Then we are also going to include a cake for each couple and then we are hiring music bands and entertainment for each party for the rest of the night. We just ask for that donation, but other than that, everything is taken care of. We are also working with our vendors to offer discounts for additional things like the rings. For wedding dresses, we are doing giveaways for our participants so that we can also sponsor those things. So we are looking to make this the most affordable wedding possible. Upon receiving your wedding licensing, the city asks you to pay, costing you $61. So that is something else you would have to pay for but with the courthouse.
HOW DO THE COUPLES GET THEIR ATTIRE? FOR EXAMPLE, THE GROOM’S TUX AND THE BRIDE’S DRESS AND ACCESSORIES, IS THE EVENT JUST THE CEREMONY AND THE RECEPTION?
For the attire, we have our vendors here where you can buy your suit from one of our vendors or rent your suit from one of our vendors. The brides can do the same. They can buy or rent a dress from one of the vendors at our Marketplace. We have many options with our vendors compared to other vendors outside our marketplace. Our prices are already low, but we also work with vendors to get exclusive deals and promotions for our participants. So, that is an option as well. We also are hosting raffles and giveaways, so we want to sponsor that to make it as accessible and possible for everybody.
DO YOU HOPE TO HAVE MORE EVENTS LIKE THIS FOR THE COMMUNITY?
Yes, this is the first time our current marketing team and I are bringing this event to life in years, so we are excited about that. But we host an event at least once a month. We make these events as special as we can for our community. We make these events quite often with what is going on. At one point in December, we had two different toy giveaways. In November, we had giveaways where we gave away turkeys and all the fixing for a Thanksgiving meal here at the Marketplace. We also had an event that was like a health fair. We had organizations from all over the community and live entertainment. Community members were able to come and get free health care. So, we try to host events every month but are always open to new ideas and creative ways to incorporate our community and have fun with our community. Many people will say, “That is such a crazy idea.” but we always say, “Well, it’s been done before.” We are excited to bring this particular event back and have something for our community and their families together and continuously celebrate one another.
Find more news related to the different cultures in the U.S. here.