For 22 years Cupid has visited Huntington Town Hall for Valentine’s Day and spread his love throughout the building — with the help of Town Clerk and Marriage Officer Jo-Ann Raia.
Raia has been serving as marriage officer for the town since 1989, and in 1995 she started a tradition of a “marriage marathon.”
“I normally perform marriage ceremonies year round,” she said. “However in 1995 I thought it would be romantic to begin a Valentine’s Day marriage ceremony marathon. The couples I united over these past years received this idea enthusiastically. It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to unite these couples and to share in their happiness as they embark on their new lives together.”
The free event consists of couples partaking in a small marriage ceremony with Raia presiding, and then the new bride and groom cut a cake and enjoy drinks and snacks with their guests, donated by local vendors, as well as gifts for the couple and the maid of honor and best man. This year 11 couples were wed in town hall.
Local merchants have donated flowers, baked goods, decorations and other gifts throughout the years, and this year Raia said 34 businesses have donated to the event, including Copenhagen Bakery, The Flower Petaler, Rise Above Bakery, Fashion in Flowers and more.
Huntington residents Brian Walling, 42, and Cari Endres, 40, took advantage of this romantic event after finding out about it while paying off a parking ticket.
“It was the last day before I got another $100 charge and I saw the flyers when I was at town hall,” the bride said. “I asked him if he was working Valentine’s Day, and he said no, so I told him ‘we’re getting married on Valentine’s Day.’”
The couple met at a bar while skiing in Vermont two years ago.
“We were basically both watching TV rooting against the Patriots, because we’re both Giants fans and then I don’t think we’ve ever been apart since that night,” Endres said.
Walling said the hug the first night ensured him that Endres was the one for him.
“The conversation was fun and we definitely had a lot in common and we were just having a good time, but what sealed the deal was the hug,” he said. “It was the best hug ever.”
Walling proposed last July while the pair were spending July 4th weekend with family at Endres’ family lake house.
“My father passed away three years ago and he knew how special the lake house was to me,” Endres said. “We were up there with family after a lobster dinner sitting under tiki torches in bathing suits still and that was it.”