ARDMORE, Okla. A surprise awaits every couple that applies for a marriage license in the Carter County Clerk's Office on the second floor of the courthouse.
Once they have filled out the necessary paperwork and handed over their $50 (only $5, if they can show they had premarital counseling), one of the deputy court clerks gives them a pink and white plastic bag with the words "Newlywed Kit" printed at the top.
The kits are nothing new.
"I've worked here for almost 20 years, and we've always had them," deputy clerk Bonnie Scott said.
Each bag contains samples of items such as laundry detergent, Pepto Bismol, bar soap, deodorant, mouthwash, lipstick, health bars, candy and coupons. While a sample of Tide detergent hardly evokes romantic feelings, the free kits perform a function.
The marketing departments of the companies that provide the samples know that young newlyweds together make a variety of consumer decisions, which may last a lifetime. Conde Nast, which publishes Bride's magazine, estimates American newlyweds spend $70 billion in the first year after marriage for their households.
First Moments, which prepares and distributes the kits to courthouses all over the country, works with Parenting magazine and the donating companies.
"We're the only company that provides this type of kit," said Daniela Perez, professional relations coordinator for First Moments.
Perez said the contents of the kit vary by location. For example, Albertson's supermarkets will only offer coupons in areas where they have stores.
The types of samples and other offerings also vary during the year. January newlyweds may get more in their kits than couples who marry in December. Perez said couples who wed in February may get kits chock-full of goodies.
"We try to make a nice pack for Valentine's Day," she said.
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