At 4:15 p.m. Friday, with his red bow tie and cummerbund contrasting sharply with his black tuxedo, Jeffrey J. Schlesinger said, "I do." Rosemary Haeuptle said she did, too, and the couple joined the Orange County record books.
On St. Valentine's Day, the county clerk's office in Santa Ana traditionally is as busy as a Friday-night freeway, but this year broke the record for the number of marriages performed, a mark that had been set only last Feb. 14.
Eighty-six couples handed over their blood test results and marriage-license applications, plus $35 for the license and $15 for the ceremony, and walked away husband and wife. Last year's total was 50, and the normal day's nuptials vary from three or so to about a dozen, County Clerk Gary Granville said.
The clerk's office stayed open half an hour past the normal 4:30 p.m. closing time to handle the crowd, whose garb ranged from gowns and tuxedos to jeans and slacks.
"I hadn't expected it to be this significant," said Haeuptle, 26, after getting married, brushing away her tears and kissing her husband. "But it was."
She and Schlesinger, 23, met on a blind date in Dallas, moved to Tustin last year, becoming engaged in June. They said they were surprised by the solemnity and warmth brought to the ceremony by Chris White, the deputy marriage commissioner who married them.
"She (White) made it very personal," Haeuptle said before heading for the Balboa Bay Club to "party like mad."
Paul Daugherty, 24, and Eloisa Worell, 26, also tied the knot in the clerk's office Friday, picking St. Valentine's Day "because it's a special day of love," Worell said. The San Clemente couple set the date a week ago, after dating for six months.
White, who has been looking couples in the eye and intoning "I now pronounce you husband and wife" for three years, said couples were waiting when the clerk's office opened at 8 a.m.
"On Valentine's Day, there's a lot of romantic people out there," she said. "I love it. Doing ceremonies is always fun. You get a variety of people here. Some are calm. Some are so nervous they can hardly put on the ring."
Granville said another popular day for marriages is New Year's Eve, giving people the chance to file a joint income tax return the following April 15.