More than five couples celebrated matrimony at the Dallas County Courthouse on Valentine’s Day. Above, Joanne and Auther Dulaney kiss in the courthouse after their marriage was officiated. -- Katie Wood

Courthouse turns into a loving place on Valentine’s Day

Published 10:04pm Thursday, February 14, 2013

“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today in the presence of God and in the presence of this witness to join together this man and this woman in the bonds of matrimony,” was a phrase said by Dallas County Probate Judge multiple times Thursday, Feb. 14, and understandably so.

Valentine’s Day is often considered the most romantic holiday, which could be an encouraging factor for couples eager to tie the knot.

According to Census data, approximately 2.1 million weddings were counted in 2009, which breaks down to nearly 5,800 weddings each day. Ballard said he expected six couples to join in marriage at the Dallas County Courthouse by the end of the day Thursday.

“It was three, maybe four years ago when I did nine weddings on Valentine’s Day,” Ballard said. “The fact that it is a romantic, all-about-hearts holiday is probably the reason, but we have had, since I’ve been probate judge some other very notable days. People try to have their wedding on an anniversary date they can remember.”

From filling out the paperwork for a marriage license to the reciting of the vows, Ballard said the whole process takes less than 30 minutes, and can take as few as 10. Ballard said he has seen it all, in his seven years as an elected judge, noting that on a normal week he performs four or five marriage ceremonies.

“And I’ve had people take it from the extremes. I’ve actually married couples that were on their [work] break from Walmart, and I’ve married couples who had the full on bridesmaids, groomsman, cake, candelabras and the whole nine yards — tuxedo, wedding dress and everything,” he said. “So I’ve gone the full gamut. From a 15 minute Walmart break to some weddings with picture taking and all probably took over an hour.”

Ballard said performing marriage ceremonies is definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of his job.

Walter and Cassandra Smith of Selma, were one of the couples who’s ceremony Ballard officiated Thursday. The couple met 14 years ago at Cassandra’s birthday party.

“He asked another friend about me, and we’ve been together ever since — off and on,” Cassandra said.

The couple noted they were actually married five years ago on Valentine’s Day at a church, but the certificate was never turned in, so the marriage wasn’t recorded, they said.

Walter said he felt good about doing it again in the courthouse and said he thought a wedding on Valentine’s Day was a good idea.

“I try to do the best I can, because I really love my girl a lot. I don’t feel that way about any other woman,” he said. “We always find our way back to each other.”

Another couple that found their way back to each other was Auther and Joanne Dulaney of Camden.

The couple has known each other for more than 30 years. They attended grade school together, but were never in a relationship.

“We were just school mates,” Auther said.

When Joanne moved back to Camden from North Carolina, she moved into a neighborhood just a few houses down from Auther.

“We were friends and neighbors,” she said.

The couple smiled at each other and said that getting married on Valentine’s Day was something special and noted they believed the romantic day will help set the tone for their marriage.

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