Garrettsville – In the fairytale storytelling world, the number three is a popular and symbolic numeral. There are Goldilocks and her three bears, the three little pigs and their villainous wolf, three billy goats who encounter a troll, a genie who always grants three wishes (no more, no less), and the three good fairies who try to protect the princess Sleeping Beauty. It is appropriate then that at a setting whose main purpose is to house those stories, for the staff and patrons of the Portage County District Library, three played a very important role in the plot of Saturday’s event.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and spotlight the love tales shelved among the library’s stacks, the Garrettsville branch hosted its second annual free wedding event held on what is widely considered the most romantic of weekends. Unlike other usual area experiences which typically feature a day of showcasing local vendors specializing in flowers, invitations, photography and formal wear, the festivities at the library were actual nuptials, legally binding participating couples through simple civil ceremonies. To that end and writing this chapter into their respective romance stories were three brides with their three grooms.

Curtis Brock and Kari McComb from Randolph
Curtis Brock and Kari McComb from Randolph

Taking the first steps down the aisle for the afternoon were Curtis Brock and Kari McComb from Randolph. McComb, lovely in a knee-length dress with a festive red ombre effect, made her way between the stacks of books and smiling party guests escorted by her father to meet Brock patiently waiting for her by the large window overlooking the park. Garrettsville’s branch manager, Greg Trask, a registered officiant, presided over the weddings. In his brief remarks, Trask emphasized that being in a committed relationship means that “now the thought shifts from the ‘me’ to the ‘we’.”

After the vows were said, rings exchanged and the bride and groom officially pronounced “husband and wife” (sealed with a kiss, of course), family and friends were invited to the library’s meeting room which had been temporarily transformed into an enchanted space with refreshments and wintery décor. Though last year’s color scheme was a romantic pink, white and silver, this year’s theme reflected the frozen wonderland outside that is characteristic of a Northeast Ohio winter. And as the good fairies gave baby Aurora presents for her early betrothal, just in time for the weddings, Mother Nature bestowed upon the library’s outdoor landscape decorations fit for the fairytale festivities. Who needs rice to throw when the couples are being doused with flakes of snow?

The weather outside may have been chilly, but inside the library the atmosphere was full of warmth and merriment as the wedding guests enjoyed cupcakes, cookies and cascading chocolate with an assortment of treats for dipping. An ordinary beverage fountain morphed into a magical bubbling waterfall complete with aqua colored punch (thanks to the right flavor of Kool-aid, according to the whisperings of a little birdie) that helped set the scene and handmade accents all around the space gave an extra special touch. The refreshments were generously donated by the Friends of the Garrettsville Library while pretty flower arrangements were provided by City Gardeners of Ravenna. Each bride was given a unique handcrafted bouquet designed by library staff and each couple took home a set of themed toasting flutes as a keepsake of the occasion. And in the main part of the library, a box for notes presented patrons with an opportunity to leave well-wishes for the newlyweds and enjoy a treat to feel a part of the event.

Gregory Balbierz and  Lori Bednar from Ravenna
Gregory Balbierz and Lori Bednar from Ravenna

Following the union of the new Mr. and Mrs. Brock, Trask then conducted a ceremony for Gregory Balbierz and Lori Bednar of Ravenna. Clad in coordinating blue, the second couple looked very much in love as Bednar’s brothers walked her down the aisle to her awaiting groom to exchange vows that have been nearly two decades in the making. The final marriage of this year’s chapter brought together bride Joy Meek and her groom Brent Turnbaugh of Windham. Meek’s “best guy friend” walked her down the aisle and a bridal attendant in a stylish dark blue gown provided caring support as the bride, in elegant black to complement her striking red hair, sweetly teared up just a bit during her heart-felt vows.

Though the ceremonies were all delayed slightly due to waiting for members of the wedding parties to arrive through the treacherous conditions, those family and friends who braved the climate (some from as far away as West Virginia!) were glad they were able to be a part of this distinctive experience. And the reasons for participating in the library’s event were as varied as the couples themselves. Her heart set on being married on Valentine’s Day, Kari (now) Brock’s wedding was already organized, but the plans frustratingly fell through, prompting her and Curtis to take the library up on its out-of-the-ordinary offer. For Gregory and Lori, who have been together for seventeen years, they were intrigued by the unusual venue and the opportunity to be married on Valentine’s Day. “It was time,” they agreed. Joy and Brent have previous marriages behind them and mentioned that this was something a bit simpler but different. “You do the big wedding with all the guests and plan every little detail,” she said. “I just wanted something unusual and unexpected this time.”

 Brent Turnbaugh and Joy Meek from Windham (with Greg Trask at the “altar”)
Brent Turnbaugh and Joy Meek from Windham (with Greg Trask at the “altar”)

As February 14th falls on a Sunday next year, there is no word yet on how the library will handle the third annual weddings day, but patrons can experience some of the lingering excitement in the very near future at an upcoming similarly-decorated popular princess party. A little something old, something new, and one thing’s for sure, there was definitely no shortage of “something blue” as warm hearts successfully kept cold feet away. In true fairytale fashion, although many of the park’s woodland creatures were surely hibernating, one or two could be seen scampering outside that ceremonial window, joining in a congratulatory celebration of another successful chapter in the magical love stories bound by those fairy godmothers at the library.