DADE CITY — Latoria Lawrence waited 10 years to be Mrs. Love. On Valentine’s Day, under a brilliant blue sky, Pasco County Clerk Paula O’Neil made it official, wedding Latoria and Gary Love, along with 18 other couples on the courthouse square.
“It feels incredible,” Latoria Love said. “It’s not just a name — it’s being married to someone I love and care about. We’ve planned our life together.”
Gary Love said he fell in love in with Latoria the moment he saw her. He was on his way to a club, and her car pulled up next to his while he was stopped at a red light. He asked for her phone number.
“She was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on,” he said. He went home and told his mother, “I just saw the woman I’m going to marry.”
They talked about having a big wedding but instead moved to Zephyrhills and focused on raising their family. As their 10th Valentine’s Day approached, Gary popped the question.
“We just decided better now than later,” he said.
He wore a plaid shirt and jeans. She stood out in a bright yellow T-shirt, and rested her head on her beloved’s shoulder while O’Neil read from Corinthians.
“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast,” O’Neil said. “It is not proud, it does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always projects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”
O’Neil started the Valentine’s tradition six years ago, making the public nuptials and celebration for the entire community. It’s a ceremony where a 75-year-old groom stands next to an 18-year-old and they both wait nervously for their brides. Some brides wear gowns, others blue jeans. One couple sported matching red Chuck Taylor high-tops.
Betty Cakes donated a four-tier cake and Kiefer Village Jewels made sure each bride had a strand of pearls.
“There’s always a few couples who come back each year for their anniversary,” O’Neil said.
Bryan and Elizabeth Jakeman were married last year, when rain forced the wedding ceremony indoors. “We wanted to get our picture taken in the gazebo because we couldn’t last year,” Elizabeth Jakeman said.
They were reminiscing about their own wedding when they spotted another couple who married last year. Michele and Edward Potts said their first year of marriage was difficult, but they returned to the courthouse square arm in arm. Michele wore her pearls but no wedding ring - she sold it after Edward lost his job.
“We went through a tough patch,” Edward Potts said. “I surprised her today with a new ring.”