COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Laquia Latimer would have traveled to the moon to hear the man she married say "I do."
Instead, the 30-year-old Austin woman put on a flowing white dress Thursday morning, did her hair and makeup and drove to the Cook County Jail, where the man "with the Brad Pitt smile" has been incarcerated for more than a year.
"I know most women wouldn't consider the jail as a wedding venue," Latimer said, standing outside the courthouse, a bouquet of roses in one hand and a freshly-signed marriage license in the other. "Love makes you do crazy things."
She and Timothy Jackson, who is awaiting trial on a charge of aggravated battery, were among about 40 couples who promised "till death do us part" in ceremonies periodically performed for those inmates wanting to get hitched.
Brides old and young — some clad in ripped jeans, others donning gowns — stepped nervously into a conference room near the chief judge's chamber Thursday.
They waited for jail guards to usher their betrothed out of the courthouse holding cells that are usually occupied by inmates before court hearings.
Judges typically seated at the bench in the county's criminal courtrooms spoke the familiar vows about love "in sickness and in health, good times and bad."
The couples waited, eyes locked, for their cue to say "I do." They kissed quickly, some awkwardly, in front of a collection of court clerks and interns and watched as the men in the jail jump suits were quickly and unceremoniously escorted back to jail.
"I would have gone to the ends of the earth, the moon to marry him," said Latimer, relishing the image of Jackson holding their 2-year-old daughter, Misha, for the first time since she was 4 months old.
Most forgo the traditional exchange of wedding rings, which the inmates would be forced to relinquish before returning to their cells. And, of course, there are no honeymoons.
The next time the newlyweds see each other, they'll be speaking over jail phones and peering through the windows of the jail visiting room.
Security still trumps romance in a jailhouse wedding.
Before the vows, guards checked the conference room, removed potential weapons, including a pair of scissors on a desk and a couple of golf clubs leaning against the wall.
They warned a few inmates not to make trouble and ordered one man with a history of trying to escape to wear flip flops.
Officials said they arranged the marriage ceremonies because it gave inmate serving long sentences hope, and a "hopeful inmate is a more manageable inmate," as one jailer put it.
"Some of these guys are hard core," another said. "But they are human beings, and when they see their families, they turn to mush."