When Diana Basner first set eyes on Jeremy Nichols, his chivalry seemed too good to be true. Nichols intervened when a rude bus driver was berating a female passenger.
"I knew then he was something special," said Basner, a 27-year-old preschool teacher.
That was five years ago. Basner stayed that night to make sure Nichols wouldn't get arrested. They started talking and learned they had both just finished the midnight shift at a Comcast call center in Schaumburg. Their first date was a few days later.
"On the second date, I proposed," Nichols said, grinning widely. "Marriage is something I definitely saw in our future. I'm a little disappointed it took so long but glad the time finally came."
Tuesday morning, the happy couple from Chicago's Logan Square community became the first to receive a marriage license in 2012. They were immediately married by Cook County Clerk David Orr.
"This is one of the best parts of my job," Orr said. "Since 1991, I've married the first couple and it's a great way to kick off a new year."
The tradition includes showering the lucky newlyweds with donated gifts. This year's prizes include a complimentary weekend for two at the Palmer House Hilton; two tickets to "Green Day's American Idiot," courtesy of Broadway in Chicago; dinner for two at Scoozi!, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant; and flowers provided by La Salle Flowers. The Clerk's office also paid the couple's marriage license fee of $60.
Nichols, 26, and Basner wanted to be the first couple so much that they arrived at the Daley Center at 2:30 a.m. Basner wore a white dress, a sheer shawl and a lace veil.
Last year, the couple gained full custody of Nichols' two children -- Joaquyn, 7 and Jayla, 5 --and they knew marriage was the next step.
"We wanted to bring in the new year with love by completing our family and making it official," Basner said.
Basner is earning a psychology degree from DePaul University. Nichols owns Nichols Technology Consulting Services.
Their family is planning a special dinner tonight and they hope to have a reception this summer.
"It's happily ever after," Basner said. "I feel like a princess."
A Cook County judge waived the standard 24-hour waiting period so Orr could conduct the ceremony Tuesday.
The Clerk's Bureau of Vital Records issues all marriage licenses in Chicago and suburban Cook County. The office issued: 32,191 marriage licenses in 2011; 32,289 in 2010; 32,369 in 2009; 33,529 in 2008; and 33,853 in 2007.