If the historic courthouse in downtown Dawsonville had bells, they would have been ringing all day Friday.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Dawson County Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Thurmond and Associate Magistrate Judge Tony Tarnacki performed free marriage and vow renewal ceremonies.
Dawson County Chief of Emergency Services Tim Satterfield and his wife, Cathy, were among eight couples that renewed their vows at Georgia’s oldest working courthouse.
“Lisa (Thurmond) married our son, Christopher, and we both thought it would be neat for her to renew our vows,” Cathy Satterfield said.
The Satterfields, who will celebrate their 28th anniversary on May 8, shared the special ceremony with the groom’s parents, James and Reba Satterfield of Henry County.
“They really love each other and we are so happy for them and proud the couple that they are,” James Satterfield.
Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Dawson County Development Authority, also renewed his wedding vows.
He and wife Bindy, who will mark 28 years of marriage on April 25, were joined at the ceremony by their son, Kelton, and maid of honor, Barbara Shivers.
Shivers was Bindy Auvermann’s maid of honor when the couple married in 1981.
“Barbara and I met in ninth grade, graduated high school together, and we have stayed friends and kept in touch ever since,” Bindy Auvermann said.
Shivers described the bride as her “best friend.”
“I was glad I got to be there for her today and that she wanted to share this special occasion with me,” Shivers said.
Kayla Robertson and Richard Sowash were the first couple to be married during the day-long celebration of love.
The Gainesville residents, both 20 years old, dated for more than three years after meeting in high school.
“We both worked at Ingles while we were in high school, and that’s how we met,” she said.
“We are both happy to now officially share our lives together,” Kayla Robertson said.
After reading about the free ceremonies, John Reid of Dawson County surprised his wife, Sari, by suggesting they renew their vows for Valentine’s Day.
“Not only was this a special thing to do between my wife and I, this also gives people the chance to see the positive side of the court system as opposed to the negative,” Reid said.
Sari Reid said it is hard to surprise someone after 15 years of marriage.
“I thought this was a great idea, especially since he suggested it,” she said. “So I accepted with delight.”
Ronald “Ray” and Linda Whigham of Gainesville renewed their vows after nearly 38 years of marriage.
“I’d marry him every day of the week,” Linda Whigham said. “He is my best friend.”
Ray Whigham, the quieter of the two, was beaming. The Whighams met in high school and were married on the day of their junior/senior prom.
“During the senior walkout, they announced us, ‘For the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Whigham,’” Linda Whigham said.
The couple’s daughter, Gia Eckert, attended the ceremony.
According to Thurmond, the magistrate office plans to offer the services again next year.
“This was a really fun event that was just as enjoyable for us as it was for those getting married or renewing their vows,” Thurmond said.
“And no tax dollars were used for any part of this event.”
E-mail Elizabeth Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.