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Valentine’s Day a busy one for volunteer judges in ABQ

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Raven Lucero, 20, wore a navy blue dress with light pink flats as she joined hands with her groom, Michael Couch, 24, at Justice Judith Nakamura’s instruction.

Maid of Honor Kimberly Been, left, attaches a wrist corsage on bride Andisheh Dadashi before her Valentine's Day wedding to Derek Martinez at Metro Court on Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Maid of Honor Kimberly Been, left, attaches a wrist corsage on bride Andisheh Dadashi before her Valentine’s Day wedding to Derek Martinez at Metro Court on Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Lucero and Couch were one of 81 couples who tied the knot at Metropolitan Court during Wedding Central on Sunday. A who’s who of judges and court staff volunteered their time to accommodate love birds who celebrated Valentine’s Day 2016 by saying “I do.”

The two originally planned an October wedding, but when Valentine’s Day came around, they decided to move their wedding date up. Sunday found them standing in a Downtown courtroom.

“Let’s do it. What are we waiting for?” Lucero said of their decision.

They were pleased with that choice, particularly after Nakamura calmed their pre-ceremony nerves.

Guests take photos of groom Derek Martinez and his bride Andisheh Dadashi before their Valentine's Day wedding at Metro Court. Posing with the couple are Brooke Been, 5, and her brother Kade Been, 6.

Guests take photos of groom Derek Martinez and his bride Andisheh Dadashi before their Valentine’s Day wedding at Metro Court. Posing with the couple are Brooke Been, 5, and her brother Kade Been, 6.

“It was pretty stress free,” Lucero said after the brief ceremony. “It’s nice to not have that big wedding worry. It’s not about that to us.”

Nakamura said that’s the charm of the courthouse wedding: It achieves the same purpose as a much larger ceremony but eliminates much of the expense and stress. She said couples can dress up or down, they can invite dozens of family members and friends or come armed with just two witnesses.

“And it’s all free,” she said.

To the judges involved, the day offers a much needed break from the day-to-day heartbreak, crime and dysfunction that a courthouse is witness to.

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura, center, presides over the Valentine's Day wedding of Raven Lucero, left, and Michael Couch at Metro Court on Sunday.

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura, center, presides over the Valentine’s Day wedding of Raven Lucero, left, and Michael Couch at Metro Court on Sunday.

“You’re hard pressed to find days that are full of joy,” she said.

But Valentine’s Day is different from every other day of the year.

“I haven’t seen anyone looking depressed,” she said.

Nakamura, who recently took a seat on the state Supreme Court, said judges always see an uptick in ceremonies on Valentine’s Day, but Metropolitan Court officially started catering to couples about 14 years ago. They took a year off in 2009 when a budget shortfall meant they couldn’t afford to staff the courthouse on the weekend. But even with the building locked up, judges showed up and performed weddings outside.

Justice Charles Daniels said he expected to officiate more weddings on Sunday than he had in his entire career. He said he’d never taken part in a mass wedding celebration like the one that happens at Metro Court each Valentine’s Day. He said he was “vaguely aware” of the annual event, but didn’t realize that they take volunteer judges from all over the state.

“Who doesn’t like love?” he said in the hallway in between ceremonies.

Daniels and Nakamura joined six Metropolitan court judges in performing Sunday’s ceremonies.

“There’s an all-star cast here,” Robert Padilla, chief executive officer said, standing in an atrium buzzing with happy couples joined by their friends and family. Court staff left heart-shaped candy on tables in the courtrooms, they brought tissues to brides who teared up during their weddings and they decorated the first floor with paper hearts.

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