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Santa Clara County

Valentine’s Day at County Building

Clerk-Recorder’s civil marriage still popular

County wedding chapel
Bernice Mestaz presides over a civil marriage in the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder’s Office Wedding Chapel on Valentine’s Day 2019.

The most popular service the County of Santa Clara’ Clerk-Recorder’s Office offers is marrying people at the County Government Center in San Jose. So Valentine’s Day is rather busy for the clerks who perform civil marriage.

But it used to be more popular than it is now, says Louis Chiaramonte, the operations manager at the Clerk-Recorder’s Office. Couples used to line up out the door on Valentine’s Day.

Nowadays, more couples select dates that hold significance to them as a couple or they hope portend good things for them. “Like, Nov. 9 might be popular this year — 9-9-9,” he says. Perhaps that will be a strong day for weddings, but not at the county building. It’s closed Saturdays.

In recent years, Valentine’s Day has seen roughly double the average daily county of about 20 weddings at the government center.

Couples may choose either an express wedding, which takes place right at one of the many service windows, or exchange their vows in the small wedding chapel on the bottom floor. Last year, the County issued about 10,400 marriage licenses. About 1,400 couples tied the knot at the government building. Most of those chose the no-frills express service, Chiaramonte says.

‘I now pronounce you’

Bernice Mestaz, a deputy commissioner of marriage, presided over some of the minimal-frills chapel services this year. Mestaz donned a blue robe in the bright, tastefully decorated chapel with white plastic chairs.

Civil Marriage
Newlyweds Yu-Ren Huang and Jeff Kuo pose with Beatrice Mestaz, a deputy commissioner of marriage after their wedding in the Clerk-Recorder’s Office’s Wedding Chapel.

Couples pay the Clerk-Recorder’s Office an additional fee for the chapel option. The whole matter is over in 10 minutes, including registration and a few minutes for hugs, congratulations and pictures with the gathered few.

Mestaz’s four-and-a-half minute pronouncement ceremony includes not only the vows and the exchange of rings and the kiss but even a few words about the solemnity of those vows. She ends with a warm smile and good wishes.

Clerk-Recorder’s Office ‘formal enough’

Yu-Ren Huang and Jeff Kuo, 38 and 36, chose the wedding chapel option. They concede that marrying at the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office wasn’t exactly their dream scenario. Ideally, Kuo says, they would have preferred a more lavish affair back in Taiwan, where both were born and their closest relatives live. “That would have been so much more complicated,” Kuo says.

It turns out they recently bought a house in Union City — he’s a hardware engineer and she’s between jobs. So they desperately wanted to wed and get on with their lives. There will be time for a memorable gathering in Taiwan late this year.

A seated clerk helps manage the paperwork for a civil marriage at the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder’s Office Wedding Chapel.

This is not to say their wedding at the government building was a desultory affair. It was, Kuo says, “formal enough” for the occasion and very convenient. Happily, they were able to celebrate with a few relatives and friends — including the mutual friend who introduced them to each other on a badminton court in Taipei a little over two years ago.

Originally, they planned to wed in late January. But a close friend of Huang’s couldn’t make her schedule work. That friend made a suggestion: Valentine’s Day. And so it was, an extra tinge of romance in the decidedly unromantic Clerk-Recorder’s Office.


More information on civil marriage: Santa Clara County marriage services

What else does the Clerk-Recorder do? It doesn’t just issue marriage certificates and marry people. Its overall job is to “secure, preserve and make accessible” all sorts of important public records. These include as birth and death certificates, maps, fictitious business filings, military discharge records and more. The office also offers passport services and document recording.

February 15, 2019

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