Southland couples get married on a most memorable day

Peter Chen, new to America, found Winnie Liu on Skype as he searched for kindred souls living nearby in Los Angeles.

They texted. They met for a meal at a mall. They fell in love — and somehow 71/2 years slid by.


On Wednesday, 12/12/12, they wed at the bustling county clerk's office in Norwalk, where couple after couple came in to get hitched on the last date this century featuring the same number for the day, the month and the year.

"It's about time," Liu said as she straightened his bow tie. "It's too late," said Chen, by which he meant he shouldn't have taken so long to ask.

Anyway, they agreed that they'd chosen a most memorable day, an idea cribbed from friends who had tied the knot on 11/11/11.

He wore a tux. She wore an ethereal purple dress and sparkling silver pumps. They took turns carrying a shopping bag full of Godiva chocolate bars — specially labeled with their photo, names and the date. They gave bars to friends and strangers alike as they waited nervously for their 9 a.m. civil ceremony.

Inside the chapel, Liu cried as she stood beneath a pink and white arbor of faux flowers. Chen needed cajoling before he shook off his shyness, pursed his lips and gave his bride a quick public kiss.

Chen, 38, came to the United States in 2001. He is an engineer who helped design the 3-D cameras used for "Avatar" and "Titanic." Liu, 27, arrived in 2005 and works for a massive fashion trade show.

Some of their co-workers came to watch them marry Wednesday, but their families were absent. The Lius, who own an Asian fusion restaurant in the City of Industry, and the Chens, who are retired and split their time between Southern California and Taiwan, already had flown overseas to prepare elaborate wedding celebrations.

After the ceremony, in fact, the happy couple had to rush home to Culver City to pack. They were due to spend their wedding night on a flight to Taiwan, where Chen's family will throw a dinner for 30. Then they'll travel to China for the grand Liu family affair.

On Dec. 28 in Guangzhou, Liu said, she'll wear a white wedding dress, followed by a red dress and two evening gowns. A whole pig will be served at each table. Two hundred guests are invited.

Hundreds also came Wednesday to celebrate weddings in Norwalk. Many couples had booked their slots in September. Others jumped on board in the last few days, when the county clerk's office extended hours and opened extra chapels to meet demand.

It seemed fitting that Rosa Villa and Luis Flores, both 45, should get married on a singular date. The Long Beach pair, who met in high school and have been together for a decade, share a birthday: Sept. 14, 1967.

They finally decided this fall that it was time, and walked into the county clerk's office Thursday, 10/11/12, in jeans — planning to get it done fast and then go see a movie. But the day was all booked. And when family members discovered the foiled elopement, they insisted both on being present and in dress-up clothes.


Like Liu and Chen, Villa and Flores were married by John Pulice, 81, who asked them if they had any words they wanted to say to each other.

"Just I love you," said Flores, wearing a crisp black suit. "And I return the love right back," said Villa, dressed in white.

That was the real wedding moment, not the joking ones afterward when Flores declared that a piece of paper was nothing more than that and Villa zinged back: "Now I can say, `Pull the plug.'"

Pulice, a former school superintendent, has been marrying people as a volunteer officiant for the last 14 years. He's been married himself long enough to boast five children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

On Wednesday, in his sky blue chapel, he presided at the wedding of Ariel Serrano, 38, and Maria Ignacio, 42, who have been together eight years.

They hated each other when they first met, working at an alarm company office in Van Nuys, Serrano said. He asked her to do something for him. She said it wasn't her job. They glared back and forth for years — and when she got transferred, he threw a pizza party to celebrate. Then she transferred back, the glaciers melted and time passed.

"Sorry it took so long. I love you," Serrano told Ignacio, to which Pulice replied that those words "cover a lot of territory."

"You know I've been married 61 years," he told the beaming newlyweds, "and we still say, `I love you' every day."

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