The old adage goes that marriage is work. But for couples who are tying the knot in the coming months, marriage is also paperwork.
For Boston couples, that process starts at windows 24 and 25 in City Hall.
“This is the most unromantic part of it,” Olga Levin said. “So [we're] trying to make it romantic on a Valentine's Day, right next to the death certificates.”
Levin and her fiancé Aaron Ricica are getting married next week with a private ceremony on the Esplanade, where they met, before taking off for a honeymoon in the Maldives. But, on Valentine‘s Day, they took the first legal step toward getting married: applying for a marriage license.
“We’re eloping, so we needed to do it in the next week or two. And so we picked today! Why not today?” Levin said.
For Devon and Karen Richardson, who have been together for six years and are getting married next month, today’s appointment was something to get out of the way.
“We just chose a random date,” Devon Richardson said.
Anne Marie Titcomb has worked at City Hall for nearly 35 years. On Valentine’s Day, she was stationed behind window 24. But in December, she was the one getting married — with a coworker processing the license.
“I got married here,” she said, smiling, from behind her window at City Hall. “My old boss married me.”
The couples who came in today, she emphasized, won’t have Feb. 14 as an anniversary date because there’s a three-day waiting period to get married in most cases in Massachusetts. After pairs get a license, they have 60 days to tie the knot. So, any couples who want to get married on Valentine’s Day — and many do — have to plan in advance.
“Actually, one of us employees got married on Valentine's Day last year,” Titcomb said. “But she’s out today to celebrate her anniversary.”
On Feb. 14, a few couples stepped up to the windows after waiting on the short line. Some held hands, some had their arms around each other, and others were looking at their phones as they went through the bureaucratic machinations. After filling out a form and paying the application fees, each held up their hands at the window to swear the information they’d provided was true.
“A lot of people are happy, they are,” added Steffan Lonergan, another clerk working on Feb. 14. “More than other days, I guess, but they’re excited to be married.”
More Massachusetts residents have gotten married on Valentine’s Day than on any other date over the past 30 years, according to a GBH review of state data.
Nearly 9,000 couples married in Massachusetts have Feb. 14 as their anniversary out of the almost 1.2 million marriages between 1990 and 2019. It’s never been the most popular day in any given year — in fact, it’s only cracked the top 10 once, in 1998. But the tortoise-and-the-hare fable holds true, which had a slow-but-steady stream of marriages bring the date to the top of the list.
A dive through the data unveils a few more fun facts. Another holiday takes the third-most-popular slot: New Year’s Eve. The two holidays are bright spots in what’s generally a marriage drought from December through March. The other dates in the top 10 occur in September and October, perhaps offering the backdrop for a gorgeous New England fall wedding.
And one two-week period in May 2004 was unusually popular for that time of year: in the two weeks after same-sex marriage was legalized, 3,570 couples — of any genders — were married.
For not-yet-married couples, Levin and Ricica had one clear piece of advice.
“Elope!” they said together.