MERCED — Valentine's Day will be remembered as a wedding anniversary for the 15 Merced County couples who tied the knot during the holiday this year.
Couples such as Agustin Davalos, 29, and Margarita Garcia, 26, of Atwater, exchanged wedding vows Thursday in front of family and friends.
Together for 13 years, the couple are proud parents to three kids -- a boy and two girls. They soon will welcome another baby girl to the family.
Garcia said she made the suggestion to get married on Valentine's Day, saying it's a "special day," adding that she was thinking about "the one that she loves."
When they met in Sacramento more than a decade ago through Davalos' sister, Garcia said at first she "didn't like him," although she grew to know what a kind, genuine person Davalos is.
"I tried to talk to her, and she avoided me a couple times," he recalled. "I kept insisting, and it went from there. Here we are 13 years later."
Davalos, a forklift driver, was able to take the day off for the wedding. They gathered with family members after the wedding and celebrated.
Things didn't go as smoothly at first for Merced residents Krystle Heinrich, 31, and Jerry Skipworth, 35.
The newlyweds got trapped in an elevator prior to their Valentine's Day wedding ceremony. But the couple laughed it off, saying it was a sign that their marriage is meant to last.
Dressed in matching red and black outfits Thursday, Heinrich said the wedding proposal was not a surprise -- she knew it was coming. The couple had been talking about getting married for about a year.
Jill McCabe, Merced county clerk, said 15 wedding ceremonies were scheduled for Thursday, but the office would still accommodate walk-in couples.
For the first time, couples registered themselves using the computer system prior to the ceremony inside the Merced County administration building.
Tony Perez, deputy commissioner of civil marriages, said Valentine's Day is the busiest day for weddings at the county clerk's office.
After 13 years with the county, this is the first year he's marrying couples, and considers it to be a privilege.
"For me, it's honestly a lot of fun. I get to meet a lot of diverse people and share in their happiness," Perez said. "If I could do this all day long every day, I would."
For Skipworth, choosing Valentine's Day to get married was a simple and smart decision.
"It's a day I won't forget," he said. "I won't ever forget our anniversary."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.