Gerry had investigated marriage licenses in Rutherford County, Tennessee, months before. The website is pretty clear:
The Groom (male) and Bride (female) must be at least eighteen (18) years of age to obtain a marriage license. The Groom (male) and the Bride (female) are required to apply for the marriage license together in person and submit one of the following forms of identification:
- Valid Driver’s License
- Valid State Identification Card
- Military Identification Card
- Passport And
- Social Security Number
And look at this:
A Civil Ceremony is available in the Clerk’s Office. There is no additional cost for this service and no appointment is required.
Score! It’s a one-stop shop.
We called my brother and his wife, told them our plans and asked them to come with. Done.
Then Gerry suggested to his mother—who would have loved to be here except for that arduous trip across the Pond—that he could Skype her in. She was all over it. We “practiced” for weeks. She learned how to sign on and wait for my call.
And then Gerry began to worry. What if they only do the weddings at certain times of the day? What if they only do them in the morning? What if they take off for lunch?
So I walked in to the court clerk’s office to ask a few questions. The week before my computer had died and I was still in a bit of a daze. I was behind on work, had a hundred things to do to prepare for Gerry’s arrival, and my stress level was through the roof.
The gentleman who spoke to me that day was Rick Spence. I asked him all the What If questions, and we had nothing to worry about. It would all be fine.
One more question though: Where, exactly, do they marry you? Is it private? I’d heard stories about folks who got married with inmates of the county jail as witnesses (because it all happened in the same room: arraignments, weddings, hey!), who got married next to people buying car tags (making smart-ass remarks), who got married with the county sheriff’s deputy looking on (who might or might not roll his eyes), and so on. They are funny stories but … I wasn’t so sure about it. So I asked. I started to ask. Where—?
“No, let me back up,” I said. “Would it be possible for us to walk down to the courthouse? Get married on the steps?” You can see the historic Rutherford County courthouse from the clerk’s office; it’s about a block away. I’ve lived in Murfreesboro for a long time and I love our downtown with the courthouse square and the antebellum courthouse. It’s beautiful.
Rick was leaning on the counter. When I asked that last question, he sighed audibly, lowered his head and closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Seconds ticked by. “We get asked that a lot,” he said, eyes still closed.
I knew immediately the answer was no. And that was OK. It never hurts to ask, right? That’s what I said: “I understand—you can’t leave this office. No problem. Just thought I’d ask.”
And then he did something extraordinary and unexpected. (I don’t know why. I am a chubby middle-aged woman, not a sweet-faced twentysomething who’d look good in white.) “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “Our office closes at four o’clock. I’m out of here around four-fifteen. If you’ll come buy your license at three-thirty, I’ll meet you at the courthouse when I’m off work.”
I teared up, thanked him profusely. We looked at my daybook calendar and I wrote his name on the day. “I won’t forget,” he said.