Every Kind Of Valentine

Thai mahouts ride atop newly married elephants, Phlai Buaban, 24, left, and his bride Phlai Oi-Jai, 24, right, following Valentine's Day ceremonies Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2001, in Ayutthaya, Thailand. The couples were chosen from the Ayutthaya Elephant Shelter in Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of Bangkok.
It's Valentine's Day, and everybody everywhere seems to be getting into the act, even those who steadfastly oppose what is generally a celebration of love and romance.

In Times Square, couples lined up for the second annual "Marry Me" Day, with several surprise marriage proposals and an actual wedding featured on the giant video screen for any passersby to see, just in case they hadn't noticed the whiff of romance in the air.

In Washington, D.C., local celebrity couples and other famous faces - but not including President Bush and the First Lady - will gather to read their favorite poems and other expressions of love, to benefit the Washington Literacy Council.

No event in the nation's capital is truly complete without a member of Congress and they've got one: Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank.

In Lovejoy, Georgia, just south of Atlanta, it's unveiling day for the new 34-cent Love Letters stamp, a 55-cent Love Letters stamp, and a stamped envelope featuring lovebirds.

Sending a Valentine this late in the game is bound to have dubious results, but stamp collectors know Lovejoy is the place to be to get the new items before they go on sale nationwide on Thursday.

In Bismark, North Dakota, June Veit will have an ear trained on the door, listening for the arrival of flowers from her sweetheart, a ritual millions of others around the globe will be observing.

But it's a little different for Veit. She's been getting a bouquet of posies from her husband, Allen, once a week - on which day, she never knows in advance - for over eight years. He thinks it's a good idea - she thinks it's a great reminder of how rich her life is because of the wonderful man she married.

In Dallas, florist Michael Todora is just keeping his fingers crossed to make it through another marathon as Cupid's messenger. Tuesday night, hours after his shop normally closes, he was still preparing hundreds of orders for the big day.

Don't try to buy anything from him on Friday or Saturday. He'll be closed, trying to recover.

And don't try to tell anyone in the candy business about how rough things are at this time of year. Dallas confectioner Brian McCallister, just one of the millions working the chocolate beat this year, says the crowds have been so large, the lines have gone all the way out the door of his store, as husbands and boyfriends scramble to make last minute purchases.

Odon Salas of Watsonville,
California, demonstrates
the fast fingerwork which
is the secret for personal
and commercial survival
for florists soldiering
through Valentine's Day.

In Philadelphia, trolley operator Crystal McDowell launched her own version of the Love Boat - decorating trolley number 9015 into a Valentine's visin of hearts and red lights.

Residents of the city of Brotherly Love seem determined not to be outdone when it comes to public celebrations: a group of senior citizens who collectively have been married for a combined total of over 2,000 years will mark their achievement with a luncheon at the Golden Slipper Uptown Home; a dozen same-sex couples will say their vows at a City Hall ceremony; and another couple will marry during halftime at the 76ers basketball game, with Newlywed Game host Bob Eubanks as witness.

In Minneapolis, Jon Monroy is living proof that the best Valentine doesn't necessarily have to come from someone who calls herself your sweetheart.

The present to Monroy from his close friend Anne Riehm is a healthy kidney - transplanted from her body to his, on Tuesday. Both are listed in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

To those who have made passionate causes their life's work, Valentine's Day is a day for appeals to the heart.

The relief agency World Vision and the group Amnesty International are calling on lovers and others to demand certificates of origin from jewelers when buying diamonds. The groups say consumers should boycott diamonds from Angola, the Congo and Sierra Leone, where warlords control mines and use diamond profits to finance domestic terrorism.

In Rockville, Maryland, the Montgomery County Commission for Women is marking the day with the beginning of a new public education campaign on domestic violence.

In India, a Hindu group had called for a ban on all Valentine's Day celebrations, as a protest against the growing influence of Western culture on Indian society.

But the scrooging of Valentine's Day was largely a bust, with lovers nonetheless exchanging valentines and enjoying romantic outings, at least one of which was disrupted by Hindu conservatives who stormed a restaurant shouting slogans, throwing chairs, and scaring customers until police arrived on the scene.

Thailand wins the prize this year for the world's largest Valentine's Day symbols: two pairs of elephants, who got married wearing flowing gowns embroidered with red hearts, with wedding rings on their tusks.

Virtual Stamp Club
One of the new Love
Letters stamps, this one
featuring a letter to
Abigail Smith from future
president John Adams,
during their courtship

The ceremony in the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya is seen as a way of giving more prominence to Thailand's national animal, whose numbers have dropped sharply in recent decades, as their use as beasts of burden has declined.

Of course there are always a few party-poopers.

A survey by the Dutch market research agency NIPO and British-based Taylor Nelson Sofres says the Dutch and the Danish are Euroe's least romantic people. Fewer than half of the people aged 15 to 35 said they will do something to observe Valentine's Day.

Finally, a new study is out on adolescents and love. Sociologists Kara Joyner of Cornell University and J. Richard Udry of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that falling in love tends to make adolescents more depressed and more prone to delinquency and alcohol abuse than they'd be if they'd avoided romance.

The study was published in the Journal of Health & Social Behavior but not everyone is convinced.

Wyndol Furman, a psychology professor at the University of Denver who's also done some research on adolescent romance, cautions that the Joyner-Udry study tells just half the story.

Furman says it's not as if romantic relationships hold only danger for teens, with no benefits.

"I don't buy that, any more than that idea that driving a car is only dangerous," says Furman. "There are risks. But are you going to give your car up?"

By Francie Grace © MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report