Their romance began in the usual way.

He was teaching a graduate linguistics seminar at the University of Maryland. She was his brightest student. One day she asked, in her lilting Romanian cadence, "Isn't that what Martinet meant by double articulation?" Soon they were helplessly in love.

But their wedding last night was another matter entirely.

George Dillon, 40, and Cristina Cheplick, 30, said "I will" in a crowded theater, Roth's Seven Locks in Potomac. The ceremony was witnessed by colleagues from the Maryland English department and more than 200 perfect strangers, covered by TV crews from "Entertainment Tonight," "PM Magazine" and WJLA, and amplified by a sound system from DC-101, the all-rock radio station.

Two disc jockeys gave the bride away. One of them, a large chubby person called "Smash," insisted on serenading the groom with original lyrics ("Be a man, if you can") to the tune of the Beatles' hit, "I Shoulda Known Better." Theater mogul Paul Roth tossed the cheese-crackers-and-Coke reception. Columbia Pictures donated party favors. And local merchants gave limousines, balloons and other goodies in exchange for promotional considerations.

It was a bit of Hollywood hoopla for a Washington premiere, a marriage of life and art, or something like that. The newlyweds, who arrived in an open 1935 Rolls Royce 20-25, made their escape in a hail of popcorn.

The movie is "The Bride," a "Bride of Frankenstein" retread pairing the rocker, Sting, with the starlet, Jennifer Beals -- but whose most convincing connection to the real-life couple would seem to be the bride's home town of Cluj: "in the historical province of Transylvania," says a Roth Theaters/DC-101 (WWDC) joint press release, "an area not unfamiliar to horror/love story enthusiasts."

"Everything is in the best of taste -- no fangs," said Roth's Amy Cubert, who cooked up the idea with the radio station's B.J. Cohen. "These are professional people of a very high caliber, and very refined."

Moments after the ceremony, with the bride and groom looking on, Cubert and Cohen skipped to the front of the theater, where a beaming Paul Roth told the crowd, "Let's have a delicious, lugubrious, go-bananas, Smash kind of hand for B.J. and Amy!" Whereupon the publicists bowed to wild applause.

"This is about the most bizarre ceremony I've ever done," said Cindy McAllister, assistant chief deputy clerk for Montgomery County, who presided, then presented the couple with an autographed poster of Beals.

"I think it's American way," ventured the bride's mother, Domitia Ionescu, a Romanian physician who flew in from Cluj, the look in her eyes wavering between amusement and terror.

It was the second marriage for the bride, the fourth for the groom. Catalin Tercolea, a touring Romanian pan flutist who phoned out of the blue to offer his services ("Would you like a press kit?" his manager asked), played a traditional Transylvanian wedding song and a ditty he introduced as "Dracula Boogie."

The bride -- a petite, big-eyed woman known to intimates as "Kuki" -- wore a garland of carnations in her hair and a 45-year-old satin gown, donated by the groom's "ex-stepmother-in-law," as Pearl Barnett referred to herself. The groom, a mild-mannered academic who smokes a pipe, sported rented tails. Also in the wedding party, in a pink sensation from Classic Clothing, was the maid of honor, the groom's 13-year-old daughter by a previous marriage.

"When I told my mother about this," Jennifer Dillon said, "she laughed so hard she nearly went into hysterics."

"Smash," otherwise known as DC-101's "Adam Smasher," modeled a black, high-collared satin cape, black fedora and black shorts that showed off his kneecaps to best advantage. "I wanted to give the bride a memory of her home," he explained.

The radio station distributed wedding tickets to listeners with agile dialing fingers. Two of them, Eileen Rudden and her friend Nick Zerega, said they came mainly to throw popcorn.

After Roth Theaters put out their casting call, Cheplick phoned in and offered herself and Dillon. "You're from Transylvania," her future husband said, "so you got the inside track."

When they met two years ago, the professor was impressed. "In fact, she was better read even than I was," said the groom, who has been at Maryland for the last five years.

"Our relationship is very much based on play, and playing roles," said the bride, who graduated from the University of Bucharest and is going for her doctorate at Maryland. "And this just appealed to our sense of play. We just thought that getting married in a movie theater would help us blur the boundaries between art and life."

The romance blossomed as they lent each other books -- V. Voloshinov's "Marxism and the Philosophy of Language" was particularly inflaming -- and sent each other messages. He wrote her a poem that began:

I, not so old as to disbelieve in love,

You, not so young as to think it easily had.

To prepare for last night's ceremony, they read Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and discussed the interrelationships between themselves and the stars of "The Bride."

"Unlike Sting," said Dillon, "I have a bride that came already made."

And Cheplick said that unlike Jennifer Beals, she will do her own nude scenes. After honeymooning in Delaware, the newlyweds will make their home in a gray Victorian in Takoma Park.

The Frankenstein myth is, as every grad student knows, a variation on the Old Testament book of Genesis. But, said one of the wedding guests, Maryland Associate Professor of Jewish Studies Susie Handelman, it may also be related to the 16th-century legend of the Golem.

"The Golem," said Handelman, "was a human creature made on earth, out of the clay on the river banks, by the great mystic, Rabbi Judah Loewe, the Maharal of Prague, to protect the Jews of the city. But the Golem was uncontrollable and had to be put back to sleep. The remains of this creature are supposedly in the attic of the Prague synagogue."

It is not known if Rabbi Loewe was an ancestor of the famous movie-theater-chain family.

As for Dillon and Cheplick, "Any relationship that's strong enough to begin this way ought to be able to sustain itself," said Handelman. Anyhow, if they ever do want a divorce, "they'll have to wait for the second release of 'Kramer vs. Kramer.' "