Courthouse romances

Margaret Palmer and Steven Mauney got married Tuesday for about $80.

Dressed to impress in a flowing blue dress and the finest Sunday suit, Palmer and Mauney walked into the Catawba County Courthouse on Valentine’s Day to finally tie the knot.

To the couple, their friends and their family, “finally” was the key word. The two have been together for 15 years.

“Fifteen years is a long, long time,” Palmer said. “We thought it was finally time.”

Palmer and Mauney were one of more than 25 couples who married Tuesday at the Register of Deeds’ Weddings, an annual event in Catawba County.

For the past six years, hundreds of couples have said “I do” at the courthouse during short, 15-minute ceremonies.

The marriages not only give couples a quick and efficient tie, but also help them save money. In addition to a $60 marriage license, couples only have to pay a $20 fee to formally get hitched.

For their money and time, the couples get an expedited or simpler version of any regular wedding. There’s a formal reading of the vows, a ceremony under a rose-filled archway and even a cake-cutting and sparkling cider toast.

Couples can also take pictures with a professional photographer and enter a drawing for several vacations.

“There are not too many places where you can go and have this type of set-up,” said Donna Spencer, Catawba County register of deeds. “A lot of people who come, they don’t have the money or they don’t want to deal with putting on a big wedding.”

Spencer helped start the Deeds’ weddings after realizing how many people were coming in to get married on Valentine’s Day.

She said couples can get married by a Catawba County magistrate any day of the year, but the register of deeds office wanted to make Valentine’s Day special.

“This gives it more of a romantic setting,” she said. “It’s more of what most brides would want.”

Senior Minister Don W. Bledsoe has been leading couples through the Valentine’s Day weddings for nearly four years at the courthouse. He said the event creates special memories.

“It’s very positive because it gives the couple a very good service and good memory,” Bledsoe said. “The setting gives them something to look back on.”

Bledsoe said the service is basically the same as any other wedding, down to the famous words, “You may kiss the bride.”

Now, with their marriage formally in place, there’s one thing Palmer and Mauney said they can’t forget.

“We can’t forget our anniversary. There’s no excuse,” she said. “We can’t forget Valentine’s Day."