LOVE&DEATH: Courthouse Marriage Leaves Indelible Stamp




I recently got married in Florida. This was a clever strategy in terms of weather, and also in that it fully liberated my future husband and me from the painful Planning stage. We flew in, said our vows and promptly departed, leaving my parents standing dazed and exhausted amid empty champagne bottles and pans of wilted asparagus spears.


Anyone who is contemplating marriage may want to consider this approach. Looking back, I can recall only a few nail-biting moments of my own, and virtually all of them took place at the Alachua County Courthouse, where the license was obtained. The United States, sadly, is not the romance capital of the world, and nobody knows this better than government clerks in the rural south.


The last major crime in Alachua County occurred when the police chief lied about making that legendary game-winning touchdown in the 1960-something Sugar Bowl. (Having confessed, he was promptly fired and run out of town - you don't mess around with college football in Florida.) Nonetheless, the crack security team at the courthouse took no chances when it comes to sniffing out the next big lawbreaker, and we were duly stripped of our Swiss Army knife key chain and various ballpoint pens.


Defenseless and humbled, we proceeded to the wedding cubicle, where we were wordlessly handed a "Brothers Karamazov"-sized tome on Florida Divorce Law and Custody Procedures. Had I still had a pen, I would have taken some notes - "divorce can be a painful process," "many of the state's marital disputes end in violence and bloodshed, leading naturally to incarceration and other punitive measures," etc. - but as it was, we had to laugh in the face of danger, slam the book shut and proceed to the paperwork.


Finally, we got what we came for: one of the few marriage licenses in the world to bear the proud signature of a county clerk who willingly calls himself J. K. "Buddy" Irby. (In the rarefied world of those for whom God is in the details, this is as exciting an icon as a pipe wrench that says Sdelano v CCCP.) To top things off, the grouchy wedding bureaucrat suddenly metamorphosed into Martha Stewart and handed us a gift bag. We collected our weapons at the door and peeked at our subsidized loot. What message of connubial wisdom would the State of Florida, leader in marital homicide rates, leave us with?


Inside the bag gleamed sample-sized household products, illustrating, we now believe, the Seven Sins of Conjugal Existence: perspiration, bad breath, congestion-related sleeplessness, dirty dishes, greasy countertops, post-nasal drip and static. Brilliant! I hold my home state in new esteem. Some couples keep a wedding photo on display; we keep a picture of our products. There's been no violence or bloodshed to date. We're going to name our first child "Buddy."