On the second floor of the Fulton County Courthouse there's a hallway with a small sign that reads "Marriage Licenses" and has an arrow that points to the right.
If you follow its directions you'll walk past a cashier and come to another set of customer service windows. Across from those widows is a desk covered with leather and metal bound record books that contain the name of every couple that has been married in Fulton County since the beginning of time.
If you flip through them and read the individual names it doesn't really mean too much. Sure, there are probably some famous people in there you could track down, but the real impact hits you when you pull back and look at the totality of that collection.
Those books are a laundry list of the history of Atlanta. They give no specific information, but they do chronicle the upper tiers of many a family tree, and the newer books fill in the lower branches.
The whole collection has a very permanent and timeless feel, as marriage should.
In a few weeks my name will be added to those books.
Felt Robert and Naylene, it will read.
You see the books and think about finality, not the possibility of divorce. Sometimes it seems harder to focus on what marriage is supposed to be and not what it has become.
We see celebrities getting married and divorced as often as they switch characters for movie roles. Marriage is a lifelong commitment that undergoes many changes, and unless you're on board for the change part you'll never make it to the lifelong part.
Comedian Bill Maher once joked that marriage is a fraudulent institution, defined by success only when one of its participants dies. This may be true on a technical level, but that really pulls the important part right out of the equation.
As an only child of divorced parents, I do find it very hard sometimes not to be selfish. I know this going in and Naylene does too. Despite this, I think that not only has being with her, being engaged and planning our wedding and marriage helped me to realize how better to be unselfish, but it's made me realize about how much I need to.
I'm ready for that. My prodding bachelor friends would call that "domestication," but that's fine with me.
Once my name is in that ledger, the rules change and I become part of something much bigger.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org .