Romance in the air at City Hall

WARREN – Jesse Rhine, 29, and Ashley Murphy, 26, decided to get married on Valentine’s Day not because of the traditional romantic sentiment of the holiday, but to honor his grandmother, Claudia Suverison.

Suverison, 72, and her husband, Lyle, were married on Valentine’s Day 1993. Lyle passed away in 2008.

“Jesse and I became engaged last Easter, but did not decide on a wedding date,” Ashley described. “One day, when I was talking to his grandmother, she told me she married her husband on Valentine’s Day.”

In January, the young couple asked Suverison if it was OK with her if they married on Valentine’s Day in honor of her and her deceased husband.

“We wanted to make a connection with them,” Ashley said.

Suverison agreed.

“I think my husband, Lyle, would have been honored they decided to do this on our wedding day,” Suverison said. “The suggestion really touched me. They are such a nice couple.”

So on Friday, with about 30 of their friends and family, Jesse and Ashley became man and wife. Rhine’s two children, Ecko Rhine, 8, and Mya Rhine, 5, stood beside them as they exchanged their vows.

“I would not have had it any other way,” Rhine said. “I wanted them to be a part of the wedding.”

He carried a picture of his grandfather with him in his pocket.

Jesse and Ashley, of Warren, have known one another for about four years. During that time, they’ve become one another’s best friends, they said.

Mayor Doug Franklin performed about nine weddings on Friday.

“I think that’s a record for the number of weddings that I’ve done on a single day,” Franklin said. “We generally do wedding ceremonies on Fridays, and this year’s Valentine’s Day happens to have fallen on Friday.”

Because of the onslaught of weddings, Franklin provided each couple 15 to 30 minutes for the ceremonies.

“Depending on the size of the wedding, we have done them in my office and, in the case of larger wedding parties, we’ve done them in City Hall’s hallway to provide more space.”

On warmer days, many weddings are performed outside on the lawn, so Warren’s City Hall can serve as the backdrop for photographs.

Franklin says he has averaged 150 to 200 weddings a year in City Hall.

“This is one of the best parts of my job,” Franklin said. “We are helping couples on the happiest days of their lives.”

The city accepts donations as payments for the wedding ceremony.

Elmer Hanshaw, 32, and Melissa Brown, 33, said they have been talking about getting married for a year or two. They set a date for July 4 last year, but something got in their way. So, about a week ago, the couple decided it was time.

“We just got our marriage license yesterday,” Hanshaw said. “We were told they had a time available for us today (Valentine’s Day), so we decided to do it.”

Hanshaw and Brown have known one another for almost 20 years. Brown was one of Hanshaw’s best friends when they were in school.

“We went our separate ways,” he said. “We came back together about three years ago.”

Brown described her wedding day as perfect.

“It could not have worked out better,” she said.