South Siders had waited eight hours outside Clerk’s office to be No. 1
Jasmin Blackman and Damarco Johnson have known each other for more than half their lives, but they waited for the right time to get married.
For the South Side couple, who have six children and who got engaged five years ago, that time was Thursday morning, as they were first in line to get a marriage license at the Cook County Clerk’s office, and soon after became the first couple to be married in Cook County for 2020.
Blackman, 26, and Johnson, 28, got engaged at the Horseshoe Casino on her 21st birthday. When they made the decision to tie the knot, they wanted to guarantee it would be memorable, and got to Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough’s downtown office about 12 a.m. Thursday to ensure theirs was the coveted “first marriage” of the year in Cook County. The two spent about six hours waiting outside the Clerk’s Bureau of Vital Records and the nearby CTA Red Line subway station until the pedway under the Daley Center opened and they could take their place until the doors opened at 8:30am.
The couple was married by Yarbrough in a Clerk’s Office tradition which dates back three decades. Such a New Year’s tradition is only available in Cook County, as by statute, the Clerk of Cook County, is the only county clerk in Illinois authorized to perform marriages by virtue of the elected position. Once the office opened at 8:30am, and the couple – who started their marriage license application online – completed their paperwork, Yarbrough officiated their ceremony, then joined them in a toast with sparking white grape juice in the marriage corner of the Bureau of Vital Records office.
After being engaged for five years, Blackman and Johnson knew that the time was right to get married. Jasmin’s advice to any other couples considering marriage is to do it on their timetables, and no one else’s. “If you really love each other, don’t wait on anyone. Do it for yourselves,” she said.
After declaring Damarco and Jasmin husband and wife, Clerk Yarbrough presented the lucky couple with an array of gifts donated by several local businesses. The Cook County Clerk’s 2020 “first couple to be married” gift package included the following:
- A $100 hotels.com gift card
- A dinner for two – donated by Remington’s Restaurant
- Tickets to a comedy show – donated by the Laugh Factory
- A $100 gift card – donated by Eli’s Cheesecake
- A fruit bouquet – donated by Edible Arrangements; and
- A beautiful bouquet of wedding flowers – donated by Robert Daniels Florist.
In addition to the several gracious and generous gifts of these businesses, Clerk Yarbrough also waived the $60 marriage license fee, and provided the couple with a free Commemorative Certificate compliments of the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
After the ceremony and being presented with the gifts while an array of media recorded the event, Jasmin said, “We need to celebrate! It’s like we won the Super Bowl or something.”
The Clerk’s Bureau of Vital Records issues all marriage licenses in Chicago and suburban Cook County. The office issued 31,843 marriage licenses in 2019, 33,006 marriage licenses in 2018, and 35,802 in 2017. For more information regarding how to apply for a marriage license, or order commemorative marriage certificates and other vital records, please visit cookcountyclerk.com/vitalrecords.