Gustav Eriksson and Sheila Olsen met downtown at Nick’s restaurant on Feb. 19, 2012. “I was eating dinner alone, and Gustav walked in and sat right next to me,” Olsen said. They struck up a conversation and it was love at first sight.
Next week, they will become the first couple to be married in a civil ceremony performed by City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker at City Hall.
A new state law, effective Jan. 1, gives elected city clerks across the state the authority to perform civil marriage ceremonies. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1525 by Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal into law last September.
Before City Hall had established a protocol for accommodating the new law, Olsen had contacted the city clerk’s office, excited about getting married right here in town, said Chel-Walker, who went to work assembling the necessary documentation, including a special marriage certificate for couples getting hitched here.
Olsen, an artist, said that she and Eriksson, an attorney, had both been drawn to Laguna for years. She had been dividing her time between her home in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Laguna Beach, and Eriksson, who had grown up in Orange County, already lived here when they met. “Now here we are two years later, the first people to get married at City Hall in Laguna Beach,” marveled Olsen. They intend to tie the knot on Thursday, Feb. 19, the anniversary of their fateful first encounter.
Up until her nuptial inquiry, Olsen didn’t know she had another admirer at City Hall. One of her paintings embellishes Chel-Walker’s office. The elected official hadn’t ever met the artist but bought the painting because she liked it, never imagining she would play a role in performing the artist’s wedding.
Couples wishing to be married by civil ceremony in Laguna Beach must first obtain a marriage license from the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s office. They can then contact the city clerk’s office to schedule their wedding, and there will be a small fee associated with the service.
“I am excited to offer this service which will expand social engagement for citizens by giving them another positive reason to come to City Hall and be welcomed during one of the most joyous times of their lives,” said Chel-Walker.