By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Shannon Haralson and John Steele tied the knot with a twist, starting married life in a Valentine’s Day ceremony officiated for the first time by a sitting Sonoma County supervisor.
The wedding, one of 29 held Thursday on the grounds of the county administrative campus in Santa Rosa, followed established tradition.
Shirlee Zane, the elected county official, led the Santa Rosa couple through their vows to a formal pronouncement, which they sealed with a kiss.
Then Zane let out a sigh and made a confession to the bride and groom.
“You were my first couple,” she said. “I thought I wouldn’t tell you that until I was done.”
Haralson and Steele had met Zane only moments earlier. They hadn’t known she was acting under new authority given to county supervisors this year by the state, which under a revised law added them to the list of religious leaders and legal and elected officials who can marry people.
“You did a great job,” said Steele, 44. “Thank you so much for doing this for us.”
Balloons, bouquets and the billowing folds of bridal gowns set the weddings apart from all other business on the county government campus Thursday.
The clerk’s office handles such duties year-round, but Valentine’s Day almost always brings a star-crossed crowd, requiring some reinforcements.
Zane, decked out in a red dress, performed four weddings. Her presence provoked little notice, with the newlyweds, their relatives and friends providing the main draw. They gathered for ceremonies in several decorated rooms, or in a sun-bathed courtyard outside.
Megan DiGiulio, 19, married her middle-school sweetheart, Kevin, 20, in a cream-colored, knee-length wedding dress, surrounded by family.
“I was really nervous coming here,” DiGiulio said. “But then I said ‘I’m going to do it. So I’m going to do it right.’ ”
The low-key setting was a good alternative to an expensive, extravagant event, some couples said. The county charges $56 for a civil ceremony at the clerk’s office, plus $83 for a standard marriage license.
“I was a lot more relaxed not entertaining 250 guests,” said Chuck Rogers, 53, of Rohnert Park, who tied the knot with his bride, Avarie Rogers, 56. It was the second marriage for both.
“We felt this was the way to do it,” Chuck Rogers said.
The new official role for county supervisors does not affect their pay or change county fees for civil ceremonies. For weddings supervisors perform on their own time, they are prohibited from accepting a fee or tip.
Similar restrictions exist for other elected officials deputized to wed people in California. The list of public officials authorized to oversee weddings includes judges, magistrates, state and federal officers and legislators, and city mayors.
Private citizens can be deputized in Sonoma County and other counties for one day to perform a wedding. The county’s charge for the class and appointment is $133.
Aside from Zane, only Supervisor David Rabbitt has completed the training required to hold the new official role. Supervisors Efren Carrillo and Mike McGuire said they intended to take the class. Supervisor Susan Gorin, who is in Hawaii, couldn’t be reached on Thursday.
But government was far from the minds of most gathered in the clerk’s office.
For Brooke Bianchini and Jay Johnson, even Valentine’s Day was almost an afterthought. The longtime Santa Rosa couple had struggled to find a date to get hitched. Then Feb. 14 just worked out. A big summer reception will follow, they said.
“It’s totally not us to do it on Valentine’s Day,” Bianchini said. “But it’s a good story.”
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or email@example.com