Brookfield residents Daniel Ferguson and Mandy Fila, accompanied by their two children, were married Jan. 3 by Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough (far right) in a ceremony at the Clerk’s Office in downtown Chicago. The Clerk’s Office received more than 100 entries for the annual first marriage license drawing and Ferguson and Fila were the winners. | Photo by Bryan Docter

UPDATED: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023 at 9:11 a.m.

Getting married was on the to-do list in 2023 for Brookfield couple Dan Ferguson and Mandy Fila. After all, they had been a couple for about 13 years and had a 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

Fila had always seen the news coverage of the first couple to get married each year in Cook County. So, on the Wednesday before Christmas she decided to enter the online raffle for the first marriage license of 2023.

Then she promptly forgot about it.

On Dec. 27 while she was at work as a diabetes educator for the Advocate Medical Group, she got a call from her dad. He was watching the midday news and saw the drawing and was shocked to hear the names of his daughter and Ferguson, who’d won the lottery which had more than 100 entries. Not long after, Fila got the official word from the office of the Cook County Clerk.

On Jan. 3, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarborough presided over Fila and Ferguson’s wedding at the clerk’s office in downtown Chicago during a brief ceremony before a crowd of about 25 friends and relatives, and a host of TV camera operators and reporters.

“There was probably about eight to 10 microphones around where we were standing and then Karen married us, and then the press were asking us questions,” Fila said.

After the interviews were finished, the bride and groom and their friends and family went to Petterino’s for lunch and later watched the coverage of their wedding at home.

“It’s just surreal that it even happened,” Fila said. “We’re not like flashy people, you know, we’re pretty modest. I definitely wasn’t expecting this much coverage for it.”

Fila had only six days to find a wedding dress. Once she found out they won the raffle, she dashed out to Oakbrook Center to hit some stores, but ended up ordering a couple dresses online and found one that was a keeper.

Although they had been together for more than a decade and had two children together, Fila and Ferguson had just never gotten around to getting married.

“Like I was telling the press at the wedding, not every love story is this great Hallmark story,” Fila said. “We’re just two people that love each other very much and we have great kids. We didn’t do things the conventional way. We did things kind of backwards, but who says you’ve got to follow all the rules all the time?”

Ferguson, 47, who is an electrician, and Fila, 42, have known each other for more than 20 years. Fila said that there was no particular reason that they waited so long to get married. They just got busy with life.

“It just didn’t work out that way for us,” Fila said. “I don’t have any other way to describe it. It just wasn’t our plan.

“We never really had plans for a wedding. I didn’t want to have a big wedding.”

A few days before the wedding, Fila dropped by Phillip’s Flowers in LaGrange Park to order a corsage for her daughter and boutonniere for her son. But Cindy at Phillip’s Flowers threw in a bouquet for the bride and another boutonniere for the groom and provided everything free of charge.

The couple had two sets of flowers at the brief ceremony, because free flowers were among the gifts that were provide to the couple by area businesses. In addition to flower arrangements provided by LaSalle Flower group the bride and groom received a gourmet steak and lobster dinner gift box provided by Whittingham Meats, a sparkling wine basket provided by Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, dance lessons provided by Duet Dance Studio, a gift card from Eli’s Cheesecake, a couples cooking lesson provided by The Chopping Block, and two tickets to a comedy show provided by Laugh Factory Chicago.

The marriage license was free, too.