Love in the air as couples tie the knot or renew vows the modern or medieval way
There was a whole lot of smoochin' going on Friday.
On a greeting card holiday designed to celebrate love, couples gathered to tie the knot in a modern setting at the DuPage County Judicial Center in Wheaton and to renew their vows in a not-so-modern setting at Medieval Times in Schaumburg.
Every Friday is wedding day at the courthouse, but with Valentine's Day falling on this one, it was an extra-busy -- and romantic -- session.
Officials were expecting as many as 75 couples -- about twice the usual number -- to say their "I dos" in three courtrooms and three multipurpose rooms on the first floor of the courthouse in Wheaton. Extra judges, sheriff's department volunteers and Spanish-language interpreters were on hand.
Many of the brides wore fancy party dresses and some men and women wore red in honor of Valentine's Day. But there were also couples in jeans and sweatshirts.
Among the earliest to be married were Roberto Jose Rodriguez, 22, and Melanie Dziabula, 20, of Bensenville, in a ceremony officiated by Associate Judge Beth Sexton. The duo dressed for the occasion, with Rodriquez in a suit and Dziabula in a sleeveless, floor-length ivory gown.
Dziabula carefully wiped a few tears away while taking her vows.
The two met at the Downers Delight restaurant in Downers Grove, where she was working as a table busser and he was a customer, being served by her mother. She noticed that, first, he was cute, and second, he ordered what she usually orders, a chicken-and-mozzarella panini.
"I kept cleaning tables around him," she said, before giving him her phone number on a napkin.
Eight months later, she is now Mrs. Rodriguez.
Al Rago, 56, and Renee Mitchell, 51, of Lombard met years ago, when their respective children were friends in first grade. They were married to other people then.
They began dating about three years ago.
Rago's face beamed as he took his vows; Mitchell started crying about halfway through.
Afterward, Rago exclaimed, "We did it!"
Associate Judge Bryan Chapman asked if they had plans to celebrate. When Rago said they were going out for a nice lunch, Chapman quipped, "I'm married, so I know: You let her pick (the place)."
Why Valentine's Day?
The Rodriguezes wanted a special day but did not want to wait for the time it takes to plan a big wedding, Melanie said.
For Rago and Mitchell, it was practicality. They have five adult children between them, with at least one living out of state. "We just could not get them all to agree on a date," Mitchell said with a laugh.
But both were serious when they talked about their marriage. Rago said he knew he loved her by the time of their first big date.
"We really found our soul mates," Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, 47 couples renewed their vows in an afternoon ceremony at Medieval Times.
Lilly and Bill Berlett of Hoffman Estates, who have been married for 30 years, participated along with two other couples who are friends.
"It was something new, something fun," Lilly said. "It was a memorable day." Lilly wore a red dress for the occasion.
Allyssa O'Donnell, playing Queen Maria Isabella, led the ceremony and a champagne toast afterward.
"I love when all the different couples come and share their love in a public way, and get to reaffirm the love that they have and share together," she said.
O'Donnell said she also liked that many of the couples brought their children to the ceremony. "It's exciting to have families come together in a festive environment."
• Daily Herald photographer Joe Lewnard contributed to this report.