Magdiel Villegas and Leandrae Doward’s courtship started the way many modern romances do — on the Internet.
It was 2011, the land before “Instagram and Snapchat were hot,” as Villegas put it, and Facebook was the platform of choice.
“I think social media did that for us,” Villegas said. “The DMs [direct messages],” Doward added with a chuckle.
The men e-met and kept in touch through Facebook and their mutual friends for years, developing their friendship. But it wasn’t until a chance in-person meeting at a club about a year ago here in New Haven that their fate was sealed. They said it was love at first sight that night and love since then.
On Tuesday, dressed fashionably in all black, including complimentary leather jackets, Villegas sporting a smoothly shaved head to Doward’s waist length locs, the couple joined other liked minded people at City Hall to take the plunge into matrimony on Valentine’s Day.
Villegas and Doward were among the 10 couples who took up a special offer from the city Tuesday morning: The city waived the fee for the justice of the peace to marry them. The city also threw in free wedding bouquets, gifts, and cake.
Though people often get married at City Hall throughout the week, the brainchild behind doing a little something extra for the special day of love was Vital Statistics Director Lisa Wilson. And business was brisk Tuesday.
Justices of the Peace like Bianca Bowles were busy escorting couples and talking them through the process of the ceremony, which lasts not much more than 10 minutes. Bowles said she likes to put her own spin on the vows that the couples take, often getting chuckles out of couples like Anthony Reed and Quionna Edwards when she asks them to love each other through the more mundane aspects of marriage such as bad hair days and taking out the trash.
Reed and Edwards, both of New Haven, said they met seven years ago when Reed was on a dirt bike, disturbing Edwards’ peace. She came out of her home to tell him about himself. He claims he put the moves on her, and eventually charmed her into being his friend. They’ve been together since and getting married has been on the list of things they wanted to do.
On Tuesday, Reed said he finally had a day off, so they chose to come to City Hall on Valentine’s Day, not knowing that there would be big doings on their special day. While some couples brought an army of friends and family, Reed and Edwards tied the knot with just the two of them, Bowles and surprise to them, a few members of the press.
Mayor Toni Harp even stopped by to congratulate a few of the couples and wish the newlyweds good luck in the future.