Local couple marries in Union Cemetery
NORTH SMITHFIELD – Gail Denomme and Ron Berlinghof had more than 9,000 guests in attendance when they exchanged wedding vows earlier this month, but they don’t think the governor will mind.
That’s because Denomme and Berlinghof married among the permanent residents of Union Cemetery, a place of great personal significance to them both.
The couple met 10 years ago when Denomme returned to the area from North Carolina to help care for her aging father, the late Arthur Denomme, a former town administrator who died in 2018. At the time, Berlinghof was living across the street from her parents near Union Cemetery.
Though they’d both grown up in North Smithfield, they met for the first time as neighbors that year. A few years later, they started dating.
That’s when he discovered her unusual hobby.
“I am a taphophile,” she explained, using the term for someone who loves cemeteries.
Denomme said she’s always loved cleaning up and conducting genealogy research among old tombstones and met many people over the years through the hobby. Paying tribute to her passion for cemeteries, the two decided to get married on his parents’ plot in Union Cemetery.
The location was also a way to honor his mother. Shortly after they started dating, Berlinghof’s mother asked if they would get married. At the time, both were in their late 50s and had been married previously, and were reluctant to give her the answer she was looking for.
Two years later, she passed away, followed by Berlinghof’s father in 2017.
“It’s closure for his ‘no’ to his mother,” explained Denomme.
Despite the serious location, the wedding was a joyful affair, taking place at sunset last Friday, May 1. Though they’d already planned to marry in the cemetery, the couple had to make some adjustments due to the measures surrounding COVID-19. Only one individual, Denomme’s daughter, attended the ceremony in person, serving as maid of honor, photographer and videographer. Denomme’s nephew officiated via Zoom, while her brother watched from his vehicle.
Following the ceremony, said Denomme, they visited her father’s gravestone, paying tribute to her family as well.
The couple streamed the wedding on Facebook Live, where more than 300 friends witnessed it.
At home, they ate a wedding cake she’d baked herself and enjoyed a stay-at-home honeymoon weekend of barbecues and campfires. Denomme said they hope to have a reception in the summer after the state eases up on COVID-19 measures.
“I’m very stubborn. I’m like my dad,” she said. “It was going to happen regardless. It was going to happen, and it did.”