SOUTH?BEND - As newlyweds Tammy and Joshua Petri shook hands with well-wishers, received hugs from family and friends, on the next floor up four uninvited guests gave interested looks down while passing the couple below. The crew of four men who were dressed in orange jumpsuits and fitted with handcuffs took nothing away from the special moment, but did give some context to the occasion and where it was taking place.
The Petris,' who were married on Aug. 29, 2008, chose to do so in the historical Pacific County Courthouse in South Bend, mostly because Tammy was hoping for something low-key.
"I grew up here and its always been very pretty and I figured it'd be a good background for pictures," she said on her wedding day. "Simple, not real extravagant"
And Tammy is certainly not alone in her choice of venue for her memorable day. What was once perhaps thought of as a "lesser ceremony" than a more formal one in a church, getting wed in the courthouse has become a smart financial choice for many. All that is required is $49 for a marriage license - which you can get at the courthouse that day if you wish - and making an appointment with a judge to preside over the ceremony.
And while some choose to make the event more formal, others make their occasion a very small affair, choosing to simple to stand before the judge in his chambers during a break in the court calendar.
"The last seven days I've had butterflies, but this morning I woke up and I actually feel the best I've felt in my entire life," said Charlie Kimmel on the day of his wedding to Crystal Clark on Nov. 7, 2008. "It's like the beginning of a new life."
For the Kimmels, their special date at the courthouse was a long time coming.
"We have been friends all of our lives, and fell in love 16 years ago and it just kind of worked out today," said Charlie.
According to his new bride, the date was preordained by destiny.
"I had a dream about a month ago and I tracked him down and just said 'this is how I've always been feeling' and we agreed," she said.
Over the next three days Crystal made all the arangements for the ceremony and by the time she saw Charlie again she told him, "Well, it's this Friday if you don't freak out ..."
"I was like, 'alright, let's do it. Let's do it this Friday, I'm in,'" he said.
Crystal has a brother and friends who have been married at courthouses and so it wasn't far from her mind when she began thinking of locations.
"The affordability I guess is a factor. We were on our way north. We had been in Wahkiakum County and are heading up to Vashon Island. We just knew it'd be the right spot."
So far in his life, Charlie has pursued a career in music, but he says, "Now I get to pursue a life with a family."
Crystal brings three children to their new life together, something that Charlie says will not be that new for him.
"It's really awesome. We've been so close over the last 16 years that I've really watched these kids grow up. It's not anything unfamiliar I guess," he said.
The couple agree that their ceremony went smoothly, despite the fact that it was delayed by nearly 45 minutes due to an extra long session in court by Judge Mike Sullivan, who would preside over their ceremony. During the wait, Crystal's father walked down to the licensing office and signed over his old truck to the couple, which would be his wedding gift to them.
The couple chose to have the ceremony at the top of the staircase, under the stained glass dome, and only a few feet from the entrance to superior court. Some attorneys leaving the court stopped and watched the proceedings. They were joined by Crystal's children and the couple's parents.
"It wouldn't matter where I got married as long as I could marry the beautiful woman standing next to me," said Charlie afterward. "I could go get married in a ditch and it would be just as special and just as important."
And while the Kimmels were successful in keeping their wedding very casual, the Petri's wedding was almost the opposite.
Tammy wore a beautiful white dress, while Josh - who was recently honorably discharged from the army - wore his service dress uniform. The two were married in the center of the rotunda on the first floor, which Judge Sullivan oversaw.
"There was a lot of people. My dad pretty much invited the whole town," said Tammy. "It was more than maybe I wanted, but, it wasn't like a huge wedding."
For Tammy, the choice of venue also had to do with the ease of use. "I'm a procrastonator," she said. "Doing anything high maintenance just doesn't work.
Said Josh, "She was planning it for 15 months by herself because I was deployed, so it's easier on her if its something simple as opposed to 'gotta get this church,' etc."
Josh was in Afghanistan during that time as a carpentry/masonry specialist.
And now that Josh's service time is at an end and the two are married, what lies ahead for the young couple?
"We're going to live in Vancouver, try to get a house someday," said Tammy.
"Have some kids," Josh interjected.
"Have some kids, typical American dream I guess," said Tammy.