For eight Valentine's Days in a row, Hennepin County judges have married people for free over their lunch break.
Thirty-one couples tied the knot this year in ceremonies held on the 20th and 23rd floor bridges of the Government Center. There were county employees cooing from the offices above. Some of these people found love at first sight. For others, marriage followed years of unrequited longing. There were babies in suits and parents in tears.
Here are some of their stories.
Mina Kongsilharath and Jacobo Valladolid Jacobs (shown above)
What was your first date?
Jacobo: She was a freshman, I was a sophomore. I think I skipped wrestling practice and she skipped her after school event and we just hung out. We went to an outdoor ice rink.
It was in New Hope. It was a park where they iced over a piece of grass, and you had a little ice rink.
What made you ask her out?
Jacobo: I just thought she was really beautiful.
Itzel Ramirez and Hussein Vargas
How long have you known each other?
Itzel: Since we were 10 years old.
Hussein: Through our parents actually. Our parents worked together and we got brought over and we just met each other.
Itzel: We went to the same school.
Hussein: Fair Oaks Elementary School in Brooklyn Park.
When did friendship turn into romance?
Itzel: Senior year. And now we have two kids.
What made you decide to tie the knot?
Hussein: Kids you know. We just put our hopes and dreams to the side, and now that they’re kind of growing up, we just kind of decided to do it.
Chad Goodroad and Carrie Goodroad
Who made the first move?
Chad: I asked Carrie for coffee. She’s just a lovely person. We had a ton in common, and I wanted to get to know her more.
Did you know each other well beforehand?
Chad: It’s kind of a long story. We had the same pediatrician as children.
Carrie: Right. We could just leave it at that. The story starts there.
You met in the doctor’s office?
Carrie: We did!
Chad: Pretty much. We liked puzzles.
Mariam Abdo and Mohamed Mohamed
What does it feel like to be married?
Mohamed: We’ve been married for two and a half years. It’s just that we haven’t gotten the time to get our Minnesota-legal-official-thing done. We already had our two daughters. We finally got the chance to do it, and here we are.
Mariam: We were Islamically married. That’s why we cut out the vows part, the you-may-kiss-the-bride, exchanging rings. We’ve done this before.
Sarrattour Walker and David Walker
How long have you known each other?
Sarrattour: We met 25 years ago. I was sitting on my porch, and I saw David walking and I was like, ‘Woah.’ And I told my friend, I said, ‘I’ve just got to meet this guy.’
Actually he went into a store, and I said I’m going in there. I followed him into the store, and I just kind of brushed up against him a little bit, just a little. He said nothing. I didn’t say anything either.
It was the moment where everything stopped. And I was like, ‘Wow, I need to know him.’ That was it, that was all, and that was the focus for the last 25 years. I needed to know more of him. Now I know all of him, and we’re here.
Elizabeth Klatt and Juan Carlos Ruiz-Gonzalez
How long have you been dating?
Juan Carlos: About four months.
Elizabeth: Our kids go to school together. They were best friends, and now siblings.
Juan Carlos: They’ve known each other since last year …
Elizabeth: … and we got to know each other when the kids were hanging out.
Juan Carlos: We were going to do it a little later on, but then we saw on the page of Hennepin County, the event for February 14. She sent it to me and I said, 'Oh ok, let’s do it, why not?'