Rosemary Perepeliatnikov and new husband Alexi wanted to avoid the pressures of a big wedding. They just wanted something “sweet and simple.” And tying the knot on Valentine’s Day seemed ideal.
So the couple showed up Feb. 14 to the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office, where staff for the past 12 years has offered a special service on Valentine’s to those in love: a wedding license for $30 and a marriage cermony by an officiant or judge.
“Today is represented as the day of love,” Rosemary said. “So, why not?”
This year, the city tied the knot for 87 couples in a small room at the Webb Municipal Building at 201 W. Colfax Ave., where staff city staff had plastered romantic backdrops on the wall, hung inflatable blue planes from the ceiling and posed cutouts of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley along the walls.
“It’s just a joyous time in our office,” said Debra Johnson, the city’s clerk and recorder. Johnson has been part of the event for eight years, and 2019 will be her last in office.
Office staff, such as Sarah Hermer, create a theme each year for decorations. This year’s centered on travel tied to Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me.”
Each year has memorable couples who have gone through different “trials and tribulations” that brought them together, such as the couple who met when they were homeless, Hermer recalled. After finding a permanent home, they came in to get married. The whole room was in tears during the ceremony.
Communications manager Alton Dillard said the event is about providing something for people outside of typical government service: Staff want to make the day memorable.
Spending time with other people celebrating the day of love is part of what made the event special for some couples.
Jean and Constantino Evaristo opted for the city wedding because it was a cheaper option. The couple wanted to save their money for a post-wedding celebration. Jean heard about the Valentine’s event last year and knew that was how she wanted to get married.
“I thought that was the coolest part of it,” she said, of sharing the day with other Colorado couples.
Luke Krajeik and Jamieric Factor arrived wearing matching plaid shirts. They planned to spend the evening of their wedding sharing dinner with just the two of them and their dog, Hazel.
Krajeik said he and Factor didn’t want a large ceremony — and wanted to keep the event between the two of them.
“Even if we are sharing it with a lot of people,” he said of the other couples there, “it feels like just the two of us.”
The day is also special for those leading the services.
Herb Galchinsky, also known as “Herbie the Love Judge,” was 73 and retired when he first started volunteering for the event in 2011. After a career in law and working as a judge, Galchinsky said he had seen some of the worst of humanity. Volunteering for the Valentine’s wedding event has been a sort of therapy for him, he said, a reminder that there are good people.
As someone who’s been married for 58 years himself, he noted that marriage takes compromise.
“You have to make an adjustment because everybody’s a little different,” he said.
Jessie Buchanan was another returning officiant. She did 12 weddings at last year’s Valentine’s event and was hoping to do more this year.
This was longtime wedding officiant Jane Gorman’s first time doing weddings for Denver. She and her husband, also a wedding officiant for her company, Jane’s Personalized Weddings, have been married for 30 years.
For Gorman, weddings are not only her livelihood. She also truly believes, she said, in love and marriage for everyone.
The Valentine’s Day weddings left her “with a full heart” and a possible new tradition.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend my Valentine’s,” she said. “This is just a joyful day for everybody.”
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