First couple ‘wanted to start the year off right’

January 2, 2015
Press Release
Vital Records

Virginia Castro says she has been nagging her son Jose “for years,” to marry his longtime love Brenda Bravo. On Friday morning, with their children Ariel, 14, and Adriel, 8, at their sides, Jose and Brenda took that big step and were married by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

The south suburban couple stayed overnight at a Loop hotel and arrived at the Daley Center at 5 a.m. so that they could be the first couple to get a marriage license in 2015. Bravo, 30, of Oak Lawn, and Castro, 33, of Blue Island, were hours ahead of the next arriving couple to the clerk’s Bureau of Vital Records.

They received their marriage license as soon as the Clerk’s office opened at 8:30 a.m., and Clerk Orr, continuing a tradition of his dating back to 1991, married them about a half-hour later in a ceremony in his office, as a contingent of relatives and media witnessed the morning’s events.

A judge waived the 24-hour waiting period so Orr could marry them immediately. He is the only clerk in Illinois with the ability to perform marriages.

After years of putting it off, Brenda and Jose said this was the time that felt right for them. They originally planned to get married on Jan. 31, but “we decided we wanted to start the year off right,” Brenda said. “It’s a commitment,” she added. “I just felt like now was the time,” Jose said.

While waiting for the doors of the clerk’s office to open Friday morning, Brenda and Jose said they were feeling nervous and excited, but someone who was just as excited if not more so was the mother of the groom.  “This is a very special day for me,” Virginia Castro said. “I’m extremely overwhelmed. I’ve been on them for the longest time (to get married),” she said.

“I’m so happy,” Virginia said. “I officially have a second daughter now.” She said that she has known for years that Brenda was the right woman for her son, and he was the right man for Brenda. “My son is an excellent father, she’s a great mother. She’s the only daughter-in-law I know who loves her mother-in-law!” 

Brenda, who works in customer service for State Farm Insurance, and Jose, who is a lead patient transporter for Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Blue Island, met through family members 14 years ago. They will plan a family gathering in the next few weeks so that more loved ones can celebrate their special day, Brenda said. 

Clerk Orr presented the couple with a package of prizes, which included: a weekend stay at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago; four VIP passes to the iO improv comedy theater, a $100 gift certificate to Wildfire restaurant from Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, and a beautiful white rose bouquet and boutonniere from LaSalle Flowers.

Orr also paid the couple’s marriage license fee of $60 and provided them with a colorful Commemorative Certificate on canvas.

A video of the ceremony and a photo album of the event can be viewed on the Clerk’s website.

“I just feel blessed to have someone like her in my life,” Jose said. He later added that now he has no excuse to forget their anniversary day: “And if I do, it’s my own fault!”

The two now are ready for the next big undertaking in their lives – they are looking to buy a house in Alsip, to stay close to family.

The Clerk's Bureau of Vital Records issues all marriage licenses in Chicago and suburban Cook County. The office issued: 36,738 marriage licenses in 2014; 31,016 in 2013; 32,292 in 2012; and 32,191 in 2011. Additionally, 1,588 marriage license waivers were issued in 2014 to same-sex couples converting their civil unions to marriages, and 216 civil union licenses were issued in 2014.

The clerk’s office will issue a full report on same-sex marriage licenses in February to mark the first anniversary of marriage equality in Illinois.