From elegant dinners to chocolates and proposals, February 14 is a day for grand gestures and “I Love You’s”. The Denver Office of the Clerk & Recorder is no stranger to love and marriage. 2016 was a record-setting year for the office, with 8,024 marriage licenses issued, and 65 alone were handed out on the Friday before Valentine’s Day.
In keeping with the season of love, the Clerk and Recorder’s office is set to celebrate their 10th annual Valentine’s Celebration, offering free marriage ceremonies for couples looking to make it official. “The number one description I have is big smiles. They’ll see a very welcoming atmosphere, and we have streamlined the process so it’s fun to get to the counter,” says Debra Johnson, Denver’s Clerk & Recorder, of the event’s joyous atmosphere.
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Johnson’s predecessor started the event as a way to make marriage licensing more enjoyable on and around Valentine’s Day, one of their busiest times of the year. So rather than have people leave frustrated after a long wait, they are entertained along the way with movies and events set up in conference areas to pass the time.
Retired Denver Judge Herb Galchinsky, more widely known as Herbie the Love Judge, has been officiating at the event for the past five years. Judge Galchinsky earned his nickname by presiding at a large number of weddings both during his time on the bench and now into retirement. According to Johnson, “he’s kind of an institution here.”
“It keeps me young and motivated, and now that I’m supposed to be a retired judge, it keeps me busy,” says Galchinsky. “It’s just a fun day. They really do it up right.” Alongside the Love Judge, a number of other volunteer judges, ministers, and priests will be on hand to perform marriage ceremonies, free of charge. (While cost varies by officiant, an after-hours or weekend marriage by a Colorado judge is usually $150.)
Participants can take part in drawings for gifts provided by local businesses, such as the Brown Palace, and donated by elected officials and other city agencies. In past years, couples have left with Southwest plane tickets and other certificates and goodies to commemorate the special day.
“Denver is a happy place and with all the people moving here and all the growth in city, more people are getting married,” says Johnson. Couples can now register online for their marriage license, further expediting their time spent at the office. The license costs $30, but on February 14, the marriage itself is free.