Charity Patricia Graham, 22, and Richard Alphonso Holland Jr., 25, both of Severn, Md., were married at 2 p.m. Aug. 25 in the tiny basement office of Alexandria City Councilman Nicholas Colasanto.
But before the couple could get to, "I, Charity, take thee, Richard," the 73-year-old Colasanto delivered his traditional prewedding lecture, a curious mixture of praise and advice about love, savings accounts, life insurance, education, family planning and preparing oneself for retirement and death.
"Open up a joint savings account where the money can only be withdrawn with both signatures, and then don't touch the money. Save money," Colasanto advised. Pounding on his desk to emphasize his point, he commanded them to force their children to go to school "because education is the great equalizer."
In the background, a radio that Colasanto forgot to turn off quietly played "Masquerade," and a disc jockey perodically announced the weather forecast.
Holland, dressed in black slacks and a dark blue casual jacket, an Afro comb in his back pocket, listened attentively to the advice. Graham, in a jacket and her hands folded primly in her lap, nodded her head occasionally in agreement, sometimes barely suppressing a smile.
Ten minutes later, it was time for Holland to tell Graham that she would be his wife in sickness as in health.
Afterward, Colasanto, who-preformed more than 800 civil wedding ceremonies last year at about $15 each, explained that is is the prewedding lecture that is most important to him.
"I used to go to church weddings all the time. They were nice, but they would never advise the kids on what to do after the wedding. Somebody's got to help the kids. I wanted to marry people and talk to them."
Nicholas Anthony Colasanto, "Marrying Sam" to some, is a legend in Alexandria, a colorful salty-tongued figure who has been involved in Alexandria politics since the late 1940s. He may be one of the last of a dying breed, a politician who kisses all the women and tells audiences, " I love you all."
"I think he must be Alexandria's only old-fashioned politician," says Alexandria Vice Mayor Nora Lamborne. "He makes blood and guts speeches. Everything is extremely personal with Nick. There's no objectivity whatsoever. He's the best campaigner because he can really rouse people."
Colasanto's current post city councilman, is one he has held for 11 of the past 14 years. He is a former vice mayor, has unsucessfully sought city elective posts, and was Alexandria city manager from 1947 to 1949. His appointment to that job angered a large number of Alexandrians who shid he wasn't qualified for it.
Colasanto later was fired from the post, accused of everything from failure to properly prepare and present the city budget to failure to maintain good public relations.
Looking back on that stormy period 28 years later, Colasanto blames his firing on his refusal to accept bribes, adding, "And I didn't have enough sense in those days to know that you had to ask the Council for everything."
He said he never expected to get the job in th first place because he was Catholic, Italian, and a "damn Yankee."
Despite has failure as a city manager, Colasanto has been a popular councilman.
Last year, he and other candidates for city office spoke at a forum Colasanto, a Democrat, began his usual story about being sent by God to Alexandria, a city he came to love. Someone in the audience hissed. Colasanto, outraged, shook his fist in the air, glared in the general direction of the young heckler, and dared him to step outside.
Not only did Colasanto win the election, he came in second in a race with 14 other candicates seeking sex seats.
"People can come in and talk with me anything they want," Colasanto said to explain his popularity. "I've never been just a part-time Councilman." His statement was echoed by political observers, who said Colasanto personally assists people who come to him for help with their small, everyday problems.
One colleague said of Colasanto: "He's an old curmudgeon who has strong friends and strong enemies politically."
Thomasina Jordan, a member of the Alexandria Democratic City Committee and the national vice president of the American Indian Political Caucus, has worked with Colasanto, who is a conservative Democrat, on many issues concerning minorities.
"He used to yell at me, "You're a radical,'" Jordan recalled. "But I've found out that if you go down and lay out the facts to him, and sit there and spell it out and point out to him that he is to speak for his contituents, you'll find that he really does care."
Colasanto is particularly strong in the white, blue-collar sections of Alexandria.
He lost a bid for re-election in 1970; also in that year his brother James, and Alexandria Municipal Court judge, was shot and killed by a man who had brooded five years over a court complaint the judge has dismissed.
Colasanto was born and raised in Waterbury, Conn., the son of "poor Italians who never went to school," he says.
"I never knew I was an Italian until I was 9 years old," he has been heard of say several times. "Up until then, I thought I was a Wop."
He came to the Washington area in 1928 to attend law school and play on professional football teams in Alexandria and Washington for about $10 a game, he recalls. He began Alexandria's first adult education evening program.
Although he sounds like an expert from experience when he performs weddings, the councilman was married for only 32 days, in 1937, to a hometown Connecticut sweetheart. She soon packed and went back home when it became apparent that the marriage was not going to work out as she had wished, Colasanto said.
The councilman performs most of Alexandria's civil wedding ceremonies.
He stopped practicing law in 1963. But he still gives legal advice, much of it free, to persons who call or drop by his Cameron Street office across the street form City Hall in Old Town.
Over the years, he has made so much money investing in real estate and the stock market that the intends to be a millionaire by the time he dies, he says. Real estate records show he owned property valued at about $275,000 at the beginning of this year.
During past years, some of the homes he has owned have been condemned by the city as being unfit for human habitation, but a Health Department spokesman reports there now are no problems with his properties.
By anyone's standards, Colasanto is devoted to the City Council. Last winter, he broke a bone in his thigh trying to answer two phones that were ringing in his office. After an unsucessful operation, a plastic socket was placed in his hip. He spent 50 days in the hospital, with $25,000 in medical expenses.
But he insisted on taking an ambulance from the hospital to City Hall for a January Council meeting he refused to miss.
Even so, he says little at Council meetings, unless it's to move to adjourn or to question some new program to make certain it will exclusively benefit Alexandrians.
Vice Mayor Lamborne noted that Colasanto is well-informed about what's happening in the city and retains information about things that happened years ago.
"I would like to die in the Council chair," Colasanto said recently in an interview. "I love the fact that I'm a member of the City Council. I never wanted to be governor or lieutenant governor or in the State House of Delegates. I've dedicated my life to the city, and the people have been good to me."