Live Blog: Valentine's Day Weddings in Lenoir

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

Today, 17 couples will get married in the City-County Chambers of the Alden E. Starnes Office Plaza in downtown Lenoir.

This is the annual Valentine's Day Wedding Extravaganza, hosted by the Caldwell County Register of Deeds Office, a marathon of nuptials based on a long-standing reality of American life: When the day of chocolates and Cupid rolls around, couples will get married at City Hall (or, in this case, the city-county chambers).

Couples who sign up for the wedding extravaganza pay very little, just the $20 fee required by the state (the magistrates who perform the marriages volunteer their time) and $60 for a marriage license, but they get the works: Donated gifts, decorations, live music and a modest reception spread. 

We'll be providing live updates of the festivities, which start at 1 p.m. Check back here -- updates are below, in chronological order.

11 a.m. update: 

Want a primer on what these Valentine's Day festivities are all about? Read our story from 2013.

Last year, we met Alma Reid, who watched two of her grandchildren get married in the same day; Richard Brookshire and Bonnie Sourbeer, who had met 50 years earlier as teenagers in Kings Creek; and Wayne and Elaine Bolick, who got married in the Valentine's Day ceremony in 2008 and return each year to serve punch.

“To be honest with you,” Elaine Bolick joked that day, “we didn’t like the punch they had that year.”

1:20 p.m. update: 

The Valentine's Day weddings are underway and, with 17 couples set to get married (some of them from the waiting list), the office is at capacity and ready for one of its largest events ever. So far, two couples have taken their vows: Dawn Martin and Make Loftin, and Candice Reece and David Sumpter. The venue is fully set up with a white aisle, plenty of tulle and foil, votives, and a table of gifts. Every guest will go home with a gift certificate for a dinner out, along with other prizes. See the second picture on the right for a look at the setup 

1:28 p.m. update 

We just talked with the first couple to get married today, Dawn Martin and Mike Loftin. They've known each other for 20 years and always wanted to get married -- but, Dawn told us, never wanted a big ceremony. After learning Catawba County wouldn't be offering Valentine's Day weddings this year, Dawn called surrounding counties and found the Caldwell celebration, which was appealing because it was "kind of like a church wedding." Dawn and Mike just left the building, cake in hand. 

1:35 p.m. update: 

If you've never been, here's a look at how all this works. Couples enter the city-county chambers in Lenoir (the place where the Lenoir City Council and Caldwell County Commissioners hold their meetings). It's decorated like a church on a wedding day. The couple stop briefly to fill out a marriage license, then they take their vows with the magistrate. Some couples stand alone, others enlist a best man and maid of honor. Rows of chairs are set up for wedding guests. After the vows, the couple walks down the aisle and into a miniature reception. There are refreshments, a small cake for them to take with them, and gifts. All in all, the wedding itself takes about five minutes. 

1:46 p.m. update:

Another fun aspect of watching these weddings is slipping out to see the short receptions afterward. After Yvonne Ingle and Reggie Propst got married  they stepped outside to exchange cupcakes (instead of bites of cake) then take a few more professional shots. (Couples can buy a CD of those photos for $30 the day of or $40 after.) This couple's wedding itself was fun to watch, too -- before Reggie kissed the bride, he gave her a big bear hug. See a photo of Yvonne and Reggie's cake toast on the right. . 

1:55 p.m update: 

Meet the students who provide music for the Valentine's Day weddings -- they're the fourth picture on the right. They're from the Harper School in Lenoir, and they provide a constant flow of string music while the weddings take place. 

2:15 p.m. update: 

We've got a bit of a gap between weddings so, here's a full list of the couples getting married today -- in case someone you know is in need of congratulations.

1:00: Dawn Martin and Mike Loftin

1:15: Candice Reece and David Sumpter

1:30: Yvonne Ingle and Reginald Propst

1:45: William Faulkner and Betty Earp

2:00: Crystal Christian and James Auton

2:15: Jacob Hickman and Crystal Scragg

2:30: Allison McGuinness and Jordan Anderson

2:45: Teresa Danielle Keyes and Michael Jean Schwartz

3:00: Melissa Romero and Jimmy Newsome

3:15: Gretchen Carpenter and Landon Haynes

3:30: Beth Kistler and Larry McQueen

3:45: William Hickein and Alexa Frank 

4:00: Lisa Marie O'Conner and Alex Wayne Nelson

4:15: Katie Jett and Nick Hanek

4:30: Melissa Haas and Nathan Bowen

4:45 Richard Lail and Lisa Adkins

5:00: Rachel Powell and Michael Riddle 

3:30 p.m. update: 

In the fifth picture on the right, meet Mercedes and Victoria Romero, who served as flower girls for Melissa Romero and Jimmy Newsome. In the sixth picture are Beth Kistler and Larry McQueen. The pair don't like getting dressed up or doing anything fancy, but that didn't mean they didn't want a wedding -- "We love each other and we wanted to make it official," Beth told us. Beth and Larry chose not to have the bride walk down the aisle and meet her groom -- they wanted to walk together.

3:58 p.m. update: 

In the seventh picture on the right, you'll see William Hickein and Alexa Frank taking their vows. The two just exited the building as Mr. and Mrs. William Hickein. 

Another note of interest, which you'll see in the eighth picture on the right: This year's Valentine's weddings had the largest roster of community sponsors so far. These weddings are entirely funded and fueled by donations -- donated time, donated cakes, donated decorations -- and no taxpayer money is used.

4:12 p.m. update: 

Our staff photographer got some shots of the weddings, which you can view on Facebook here, and a video of the music provided by students from the Harper School, which you can watch here. One of our favorite shots is the ninth photo on the right.

4:36 p.m. update: 

In the tenth picture on the right you'll find a moment that, while blurry and iPhone quality, we think really sums up the atmosphere here. It's Lisa Marie O'Conner and Alex Wayne Nelson; Alex is lifting Lisa's veil to give her a kiss, moments after they were named man and wife. In the eleventh picture, you'll see Katie Jett and Nick Hanek, who were married by a priest alongside a full wedding party. Things are winding down here; with three couples left to be married, this Valentine's Day extravaganza is about to come to an end. 

5:11 p.m. update: 

Four hours and seventeen weddings later, it's all over. In the twelfth photo on the right, you'll see Rachel Powell and Michael Riddle (now Mr. and Mrs. Michael Riddle), the last couple to get married today. Until next year, this Lenoir tradition is done. Thanks for sticking around for the ride with us!