Ricca Rivera and Fernando Chaidez had to push their snow-covered car out of their parking spot in Chicago's North Park neighborhood to make their way to Cook County Clerk David Orr's downtown office in time to win the first spot in line for marriage licenses. The couple arrived at 6:15 a.m. to the Clerk's Vital Records office in the lower level of the Daley Center and found themselves the first in line.
"We didn't think when we'd come down this morning that we'd be the first in line," Rivera said. "We just decided to give it a shot, and if someone else was ahead of us we'd go to breakfast and come back later."
They received their marriage license as soon as the clerk's office opened at 8:30 a.m., and Clerk Orr, continuing a tradition dating back to 1991, married them about an hour later in a ceremony in his office.
A judge waived the 24-hour waiting period so Orr could marry them immediately. He is the only clerk in Illinois with the ability to perform marriages.
Chaidez, 42, who does machine maintenance, and Rivera, 40, who works in the city of Chicago's Department of Family and Support Services, are planning a February church ceremony in Chicago, reception in suburban Cook County, and honeymoon in Puerto Rico. Since they both had the day off from work Thursday, they decided to get their license, which is good for 60 days. After Ricca's mother reminded them of the special recognition, not to mention the great prize package donated by local businesses, the couple set their alarm clocks for 4:30 a.m. to try to get 2014's first marriage license.
This year's prizes include a weekend stay at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago; two tickets to the show "Rock of Ages" from Broadway in Chicago, a $150 gift card to Shaw's Crabhouse from Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, and a beautiful red rose bouquet and boutonniere from LaSalle Flowers.
Orr also paid the couple's marriage license fee of $60 and provided them with a colorful Commemorative Certificate.
"It's nice," he said. "People feel good, it's nice to give away some goodies. Beginning of the year, couples are always excited."
It's a special day for the couple and the office supervisor on the other side of the counter. She has issued this first marriage license for 22 years and is retiring soon.
"I usually like to ask how they got to know one another, where did they meet," said Louisa Nicotera. "(Thursday) morning's couple was really cute, they met at a Halloween party."
The couple met at a Halloween party in 2009, where Chaidez caught Rivera's eye with his dancing.
"He did 'the snake,' and it made me laugh," she said. "I just thought he was so cute, and so funny."
Chaidez says his breakdancing days may be over, but when the two are joined by family and friends to celebrate their nuptials next month, "there will be dancing."
The Clerk's Bureau of Vital Records issues all marriage licenses in Chicago and suburban Cook County. The office issued: 31,016 marriage licenses in 2013 and 907 civil union licenses.