This image was lost some time after publication.

Get ready to see lots of overdressed couples with stars in their eyes wondering around Lower Manhattan beginning on Monday. Next week the city opens its new, 24,000-square-foot Manhattan Marriage Bureau following $12 million in renovations to the building. (The mayor tapped his personal interior designer, Jamie Drake, to do the job.) Why spend so much money on such a trivial slice of city bureaucracy when New York City is facing a historic budget shortfall? It's all part of Michael Bloomberg's plan to unseat Las Vegas as the nation's "wedding capital" and turn New York into a marriage destination!

The new wedding palace features "lavish" extras like iPod docking stations and an oversized photo of City Hall to use as a backdrop for pictures. And there's plenty of overpriced crap on sale to help pay for it all, like flowers ($4 to $7 for a single stem), hairspray ($4), disposable digital cameras ($16.25), and tissues ($1.75 a pack).

Here's a better idea: If the mayor really wants to inspire people to come to NYC to tie the knot, perhaps instead of picking an anonymous couple from Queens to be the first to marry at the new facility, he should have considered using the occasion to marry his longtime girlfriend Diana Taylor? Or maybe not! We see that the "services" at the new Marriage Bureau does not list a lawyer who will draft pre-nups for couples on the spot.

Eloping to Vegas? Why Not Lower Manhattan? [NYT]