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It was knot-tying day at the clerk's office

One couple met at a bus stop. One man fell in love with his hair stylist. A young mother met her sweetheart when she bought window tinting from him at an auto shop.

The guys donned blue jeans, sweats and sneakers. The gals wore springy peasant skirts and pink and red dresses, and toted baby strollers and carriers.

Few wore white.

By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, a dozen couples had stopped in at Hillsborough County's downtown Tampa marriage license office, for the privilege of getting hitched on Valentine's Day. By day's end, the number was 34.

And most took their vows while taking an hour or so off work.

"I'm telling everyone," said Madelyne Tirado, 28, waving a new 2-carat diamond ring after marrying Enock Tirado, 34, before both headed off to jobs. She works at a mortgage company and he was off to his auto shop.

Valentine's Day is the biggest day of the year for weddings at the Hillsborough County clerk of the Circuit Court's offices.

For $93, Florida couples can get a marriage license. And for an extra $30, they can get married on the spot - that is, if they've already suffered through the three-day waiting period, which puts a damper on impromptu, Vegas-style notions.

"It's as bad as getting a gun," said a chuckling Dr. K. Paul Boyev, 40, a Tampa ear doctor who tried to marry Nancy Wong, 31, Tuesday, but got turned away because of the waiting period.

Waiting is waived for non-Florida residents and those who undergo marital classes, like Madelyne and Enock Tirado, who had stayed up late Monday night taking an online preparation class.

Their plans were almost stymied when Enock Tirado's brand new credit card was declined while paying for the license. Luckily he had another one.

The No. 1 reason for getting married on Valentine's Day - most often cited by men and never once uttered by a woman - was the future ease in remembering a wedding anniversary.

But many didn't really have a reason, except romance.

"It just felt right," said Jorge Pastrana, who married the future Christina Pastrana on Tuesday in front of his parents. The couple met six months ago at the Net Park Transit Center. He proposed to her over pizza Dec. 14.

"Today is my Christmas, it's my favorite day of the year," said Kim Guyette, 24, before marrying Chris Ellis, 23. "Everybody celebrates how much they love everybody. What could be better?"

The two met on a blind date and found serendipity after discovering they shared much in common, including the date of their previous marriages: July 20, 2002.

The couple's 4-month-old son Memphis witnessed the wedding.

"You're daddy is stuck with me now," Kim Ellis whispered to Memphis on her way out of the fluorescent-lit conference room that served as a chapel.

A trail of silk rose petals covered the ceremony room, which for the remaining 364 days a year serves as a conference room.

The recording clerks dig into their own pockets each year, making trips to the Dollar Store and Wal-Mart, to plaster the room with red stickers and heart-shaped posters. They even offer a table full of silk flower arrangements for brides wanting bouquets.

Fifty-two couples got married at the county clerk's four offices Tuesday, a little below the 61-ceremony average, according to eight years' worth of statistics. The high was in 2003, when Valentine's Day fell on a Friday, and 93 couples tied the knot, 71 of them in the downtown Tampa office.

For Tricia and Walter Lopresto, the Valentine's Day wedding was the culmination of 13 years of friendship and an engagement of several years.

Tricia had been Walter's hair stylist. Both are 40 and had been married before.

But they kept putting off marriage because Walter had been diagnosed with a tumor in his spine. Walter is now on disability and still getting treatment, and Tricia works for a temp agency doing administrative work.

After their ceremony, she turned to Walter and said with a grin, "I think I might call in sick today. I mean, who works on their wedding day?"