One day last July, Cupid took aim at Danette Ross and Fareed Asim Saleem. Yesterday, Valentine's Day, he reaped his reward, as the law clerk and legal secretary got married at the Arlington County magistrate's office.
The pair chose Valentine's Day to tie the knot "because we have big hearts, and a lot of love," Ross, 28, said after the 10-minute ceremony, as she gazed adoringly at Saleem, 30.
June weddings may be favored by traditionalists, but for many looking for nuptials on the cheap and on the quick, Valentine's Day is the day of choice, according to local courthouse officials.
In Montgomery County, a clerk of the court reported about 50 ceremonies were performed yesterday, compared with the usual 20.
Virginia jurisdictions are often the busiest. The commonwealth's relatively lax prerequisites for marriages have given it a reputation as the Las Vegas of the middle Atlantic region.
"There are no blood tests, no waiting period and no witnesses required," said Gerald Williams, a real estate lawyer who performed the Saleem-Ross ceremony in the conference room of his law office. Williams is one of two magistrates appointed by the Circuit Court in Arlington to perform marriages.
"The bride and the groom just have to show up," he said.
On a normal day, 10 to 15 civil weddings are performed in Arlington. Yesterday, the two magistrates reported 38 between them.
Williams's colleague, Magistrate Joseph Newlin, had spent the last few days in bed with the flu, but dragged himself in for the heavy workload.
"I'm not feeling that much better, but it's the busiest marrying day of the year," Newlin said. "One man can hardly handle the volume. Maybe on a normal day, but not on Valentine's Day."
Linda Wiggin, paralegal for Gordon P. Peyton, a magistrate in Alexandria, said that all other legal work in the office comes to a halt Feb. 14.
"We come in and gear ourselves to do nothing but weddings," she said. "You just roll them in and roll them out."
Most who marry in Virginia are lured by the cheaper fees, which come to $40, and easier terms.
The District requires blood tests for a $12 marriage license, then a five-day waiting period before the ceremony. No witnesses are required. Couples are urged to make a voluntary donation at the service.
In Maryland, there is no blood test requirement but there must be at least one witness. There is a two-day waiting period and a $50 fee for the application and the wedding ceremony.
Like Saleem and Ross, Wesley Donahue and Maria Carrero had a yearlong romance at their office, where he is a building maintenance man and she a receptionist. They also were married in Williams's conference room, surrounded by hundreds of legal tomes, with a box of Kleenex on the side table, which Carrero used liberally.
"We thought it would be more romantic" to marry on Valentine's Day, said Donahue, "something we would remember for the rest of our lives."
Llaguno Dominguez, 36, and Juana Estrada Guzman, 29, had good reason for wanting their ceremony as soon as possible: she is scheduled to bear their first child, she said, in four or five days.
"We happened to be in the area, so we decided to do the wedding now," said Dominguez, an Arlington resident who works in an office furniture factory.
Neither speaks English and they opted for a ceremoney in the "broken Spanish" Williams says he has taught himself for such occasions.
"It's sweetheart day," said Williams as his workday wound down, "and, it's an easy day to remember your wedding anniversary."