Valentine's Day is usually associated in the public mind with candy and lots of pink hearts. But beneath the fun and frippery lies a core human need - to feel loved, cherished and cared for by one's romantic partner.
Happily-bonded everyday Americans share the things that make their hearts feel full.
Eddy and Victoria
It's winter in New York, but it felt like spring just outside the city clerk's office, where a young Russian immigrant couple were married five minutes before. The bride, flushed and bedecked in white, had just been carried through the building's marble doorway by her new husband. Even amid her excitement, Victoria had no trouble recalling what Eddy does that makes her feel loved.
"He makes me feel like a queen," she beamed. "That's all I know. Not just one day. Every day!"
Pressed to be specific, she said, "He always cooks me breakfast, and he makes it with love."
Eddy was quick to voice his own gratitude: "I come home from work, and she takes care of me, like I'm a kid!"
Greg and Lauren
Inside the marriage bureau, it was easy to find other couples who use food and wine as a means of expressing love.
"When I'm really stressed out, Lauren will have a glass of wine for me when I get home from work, and we can sit and watch a movie and just relax together, and it's very nice," said Greg.
Lauren, Greg's fiancée, then added, "I know he loves me when we go on jogs together and exercise and work out and cook delicious healthy meals together.
"Its not always his favorite thing to put on a pair of running sneakers after a day in the office, and he does it with me because it's important to me that we have healthy lives and get to enjoy many years together."
Steven and Renee
For Renee and Steven, it's the gift of mutual acceptance and respect that underlies their partnership.
"A couple of years ago, I made a mistake and I did something that sent me to prison, and I'm not proud of it" recounted Renee, "and he's the only one I ever shared it with, and he still loves me. He loves me beyond all my faults. He still sees my beauty."
For her, his love is a message to her "that God sent him just for me."
Stanley says he feels cherished because Renee cares about what he's thinking and feeling.
"She never lets me down either. Even when I am a 'bad boy,' she always comes back to me. That's my baby!"
Daniel and Sarah
Babies are quite the point for Daniel and Sarah, who is now five-months pregnant with their child. The soon-to-be-wed couple met over a wild weekend in his native Texas. They have never lived together, but both know that silly humor will be a part of the life they will soon share.
"She does this amazing thing where she takes her lower lip and brings it up and seals off her nostrils," said Daniel, "and I really love the way it makes her look, and it makes me want to kiss her."
Sarah says she realizes this "act" also ends up making her feel loved.
"I guess it's just the way he looks at me when I make that face," she said with a laugh.
Brian and Lays
Non-verbal communication is also essential to the love between Brian and Lays, his girlfriend.
"What I like to do to show her that I love her is to just stare into her eyes and tell her that I love her," says Brian. For Lays, this "stare" needn't last long to thrill her.
"It's the perfect glance," she said with a happy sigh. For her part, Lays loves to send him love letters through the mail.
"Handwritten, of course, because that's more personal," she added.
Steven and Beatrice
Grooming one another is one highly personal way Steven and Beatrice show their love for each other
"My girlfriend cuts my toenails for me after every shower," he said. "If you're touching somebody's feet, that's love!"
"He does my hair," Beatrice said. "He takes the time to do it. Rather than going to a salon, he does it for me. That's love, [too]!"
Marvin and Eleanore
After 55 years of marriage, Eleanore and Marvin Korman have had many ways of caring for each other. Now in his 80s, Marvin is hard of hearing, and Eleanore keeps him tuned in to the conversation in social situations. He, in turn, uses his eyes to help her out by threading her sewing needles, for example.
But Marvin says there have been other ways to show affection
"Well, it used to be with torrid sex. [But] now I take her hand and I feel good. A hug and a look is all I need."
Eleanore says that a couple might want "torrid sex" at any age, "but if you don't have the gentle pat and the reassurance that there is somebody in your corner working for you and with you, you're in trouble!"
Wise words for Valentine's Day, to join with all the slow dancing, the flowers, the chocolates and the intimate gestures people share with each other to say "I love you."