Garden Grove

Azteca’s 17-year love story

“REVEREND” J.J. JAUREGUI presided over the wedding of Clarice Drake and Don McGregor at Azteca Mexican Restaurant in Garden Grove last week (Orange County Tribune photos by Jim Tortolano).

By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune

Most people have an idea of a wedding as an event that features a place of worship, a person of the cloth presiding and a regal exit in a shiny car trailing a “Just Married” sign on the back.

But Don McGregor and Clarice Drake are not the kind of people to just do what everyone else does. When these long-time Garden Grove residents tied the knot last week, they did it at the Azteca Mexican Restaurant on Main Street and they did it in an offbeat style.


The ceremony was performed before a standing-room only crowd  of friends and family at the eatery, famous for being a virtual shrine to Elvis Presley. Performing the wedding was J.J. Jauregui, former owner of the Azteca, courtesy of a divinity degree acquired on the internet.

With a statue of The King looking on. they were declared husband and wife, a landmark on a romantic journey that began 17 years before.

“This is the place where Clarice and I met 17 years ago, on this date. That’s why we’re getting married here,” said McGregor. “That night we met I was sitting alone at the bar. She walked in – she had just broken up with her boyfriend. We started talking.”

Then he made his move. Arranging to meet her on the following Sunday, he asked her to write wrote on a bar napkin, “On this Sunday, my life will change.” They did get together at 4 p.m. and “we’ve been together ever since.”

Love at first sight did not lead directly to the altar. What took him so long – 17 years – to propose? “I ran out of reasons not to,” he said. ‘Finally, I said to myself, what am I waiting for”?

There were other obstacles along the road to the chapel, er, restaurant. A week before the wedding, he was in a motor  accident in which he sustained injuries to his ribs and collarbone. And yet he got strapped and taped up and got to the altar on time.

Clarice didn’t find the venue and ceremony anything but fun. “I loved it,” she said. “This is just the way we had it planned. We’re a different kind of people. This is what our friends expected of us.”

She had praise for the hosts, Jennifer Stewart and Larry Vance, operators of the Azteca. “They went above and beyond for us to make it perfect.”

And what better way to conclude an offbeat wedding than with an offbeat form of transportation. “Then we rode away on a scooter,” she said, referring to the repaired vehicle that Don was riding when injured earlier. “It was like we had Main Street all to ourselves.” Sigh. “It was perfect.”

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