One minute and 123 dollars

Published December 10, 2004

TAMPA - To nearly everyone in the maze of drab cubicles, they're just another pair of faces passing through the bureaucracy.

Last year, 2,687 couples got married in this courthouse office, more than a quarter of those who came to pick up marriage licenses in Hillsborough County. This year, thousands more. It's just $93 for the license, another $30 for the ceremony.

So forgive the employees if they don't remember Domingo Fersaca and Adriana Perez. She came to this country a young girl from Mexico City, uprooted to Chicago. He came much later from Venezuela, a grown man looking "for a better life, for the American dream, something like that," he says.

He'd never married. She had - an arranged marriage at age 15 - to a man with whom she later had three children. They divorced in 1998.

"This time I said yes because I wanted to say yes," she says.

Domingo and Adriana met last autumn at a party in Chicago. When he returned to his job in New York, they traded e-mails and instant messages. They smiled at each other through Web cameras.

She came to Manhattan in March, and he proposed to her one evening in Battery Park. He remembers how the moonlight danced across the water that night, how they could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

She moved to Tampa in July. He followed. They bought a house together and, on a recent afternoon, decided to say their vows.

"The life is changed sometimes," Domingo says in his broken English. "You are surprised."

Mary Rosa, the smiling clerk who does this day after day, recites oaths about love and truth and endowing all worldly goods. The wedding takes barely a minute.

And then Domingo and Adriana Fersaca are gone.

Time for another couple, another ceremony.

Editor's note: 300 Words presents glimpses of everyday life that often go unnoticed.