SCHERERVILLE| Shirley Murphy of Hobart thought Matt, her husband of 29 years, was taking her out for a fancy Valentine’s Day luncheon on Thursday.
He made one surprise stop before they dined — Albert’s Diamond Jewelers to renew their wedding vows.
“We pulled into Albert’s parking lot and I asked ‘Where are we going to eat? At Albert’s? It was a total surprise,” she said following the ceremony performed by Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura.
Matt Murphy, who found out about Albert’s Valentine’s Day wedding online, said the couple’s original wedding was performed by Hobart Mayor Cal Green on Sept. 10, 1983.
“We’re going to count this as 30 years,” he said.
The Murphys were among the 23 couples from Indiana and Illinois who became part of that Valentine’s Day tradition started by Albert’s in 1998 when the store was located in East Chicago. The celebrations honor the Feb. 14, 1968, wedding of Fred and Donna Halpern, said Albert’s owner Josh Halpern about his parent’s anniversary.
“The first year we did this, there were six couples,” he said.
Jen DeBoer, 41, and Steve Farrell, 42, of Lowell were planning a July 20 wedding in St. Joseph, Mich., but opted for Valentine’s Day nuptials at Albert’s, the second marriage for both.
“Truthfully, we couldn’t wait,” said Farrell prior to a ceremony that was truly a family affair, with parents, siblings, children, one grandchild and friends participating.
Jakkira Scott, 19, and Alexzander Smith of Hammond found out about the Valentine’s Day weddings at Albert’s while shopping for an engagement ring at the Albert’s store in Westfield Southlake Mall in Hobart.
“We were picking out a black diamond and a sales associate mentioned the free weddings at Albert’s,” said Jakkira, who wore a strapless wedding dress, a tiara and pink high-heeled platform shoes.
In addition to the wedding cakes donated by Ultra, the couples received other gifts donated by local vendors, including flowers from Monarch Florists of Schererville, a sweet treat from Branya Bakery of St. John and wedding photos by Timeless Images of Highland.
Bonaventura officiated at weddings from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, while Hammond City Judge Jeffrey Harkin performed the ceremonies from 3 to 6 p.m.
The judges have participated in the tradition for a number of years. Both said the opportunity to officiate at the weddings is a welcome contrast to their usual judicial duties.