Couples celebrate Valentine’s Day with group wedding at Polk County History Center

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BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – Couples kicked off their Valentine’s Day by tying the knot in the 7th annual group marriage ceremony at the Polk County History Center on Friday. 

While the annual ceremony usually takes place on the picturesque steps of the Polk County History Center, rain drove the couples inside. 

Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Stacy M. Butterfield hosted the event. 

For some of these couples, their vows were years in the making.

“We were high school sweethearts 30 some years ago. And she was in a bad car accident then and we got kind of separated back then. So three years ago, she found me on social media and we reunited,” Bill Ware explained of his relationship. “This has been a long time coming for us. And it’s so much, we should’ve been here years ago. So we’re catching up.” 

The Wares have both been married before and were happy to not have the stress of planning a wedding. They think getting married on Valentine’s Day is special.

Rebekah and Aparicio Mercardo decided to participate in the ceremony just about two or three weeks ago after knowing each other for a year.

They saw an advertisement on the clerk’s desk when applying for their marriage license and decided to go for it.

Rebekah called it “the best day ever, on a Valentine’s Day, at that!”

They enjoyed being around the other couples.

“It was a great experience. Diverse. I mean, I like the diversity. It was awesome. Awesome, awesome experience,” said Aparicio.

Michael and Jessica Negrone also saw the notice to apply to be in the ceremony when speaking to the clerk. They are going to have another ceremony in a few years but decided to make it legal today.

“Well, it was my idea,” Jessica explained. “Technically it was both of ours, but I thought so he wouldn’t forget it! So he wouldn’t forget it.”

About halfway through the ceremony, Michael picked up his 3-month-old son Christian, who was watching in the audience.

“It’s amazing. I love him very much and I’m happy that he got to be a part of it,” he smiled.

What’s in the future for these newlyweds?

“To be with him ‘til death do us part!” Rebekah smiled.

“Just live longer and happier and enjoy each other very much so. And catch up for the years that we’ve missed,” Bill said.

The Negrones said the group ceremony was perfect for them and they highly encourage it for folks thinking about a wedding next year.

“It’s well worth it. Well worth it,” Jessica said.

“Just prepare! Because it is nerve-wracking. I didn’t know if I had to say vows or anything! I was nervous about that one,” Michael laughed. 

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