Local judges offer free Valentine’s Day weddings; share stories and reactions from special moments
Published 12:36 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Two Jefferson County judges are providing couples with a Valentine’s Day gift — a free wedding.
On Feb. 14, Justice of the Peace Joseph Guillory will be performing free weddings, with those after through Feb. 28 discounted to $50. Justice of the Peace Ben Collins will be performing free weddings on Feb. 13, 14 and 15.
“We’re going to try to make it a memorable moment,” Guillory said. “We had one this past weekend and we had fun. It was a Sunday after church. You could see all the happiness in the family and the gratitude that they’re sharing.”
The wedding was performed outside the Sub-Courthouse in Port Arthur.
“That’s an amazing feeling that you have the power to bring a family together,” he said. “That’s why I want to call this the Month of Love.”
Guillory, who just entered into his second month in office after being elected to the Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 position last year, officiated eight weddings as of Tuesday. As a minister, he performed weddings in the past, but said this has been different.
“As a judge, man, I am so excited,” he said. “I think I may be more excited than the brides. We want to make this super special on Valentine’s Day.”
Collins is in his third year performing special February weddings, and last week celebrated the 500th he’s officiated in four years.
“I went to one place to give them a speech and went, ‘Dearly beloved…,’” he said. “And I was, like, ‘wait a minute, wrong speech.’”
In 2022, Collins’ office gave free weddings for the entire month. However, due to inner-office training, that wasn’t feasible this year.
They still try to make the event as special as possible, such as giving out candy roses or Ring Pop candy to those that don’t have rings.
“I tell them if you want a boring wedding, you came to the wrong place,” he said.
In order to marry in either courtroom, couples must obtain a marriage license first.
According to information from the office of the Jefferson County Clerk, those wanting to obtain a marriage license must do so at least 72 hours prior to the wedding. The license expires after 90 days.
Both parties must be in attendance to obtain one, and the cost is $82.
“This is a great opportunity to express that love between two people who are bringing two families together,” Guillory said. “It’s a big celebration. We’re giving birth to something new. Let’s fill Judge Cupid’s courtroom with couples wanting to unify.”
Collins said it’s a way of giving back and putting a smile on the face of others.
“We want to make people happy and make it special,” he said. “It’s their day. It’s something they’ll remember.”