Weddings Move Online in the Age of Coronavirus

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Cities and states across the country are allowing couples to obtain marriage licenses online and, in some places, get married via video conference.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the economy, ruined graduation plans, shuttered businesses and thrown the health-care system into turmoil. 

But it can’t stop love. Or, as of recently, marriage.

In counties and cities across the country, engaged couples can now obtain marriage licenses online, a departure from decades-old protocol that required both parties to apply in person. In some locations, like Cook County, Illinois, the online application is only for couples “who have an urgent need to be legally married (e.g., hospice care or legal issues) or those with a wedding quickly approaching within the next 30 calendar days.” But in Washington D.C., New York City, California and dozens of other places, the virtual application process is available for anyone who’s in love and ready to take the next step.

“We need moments of joy now more than ever, and we won’t let a pandemic get in the way of true love,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement announcing the creation of Project Cupid, the city’s online license application portal. “To all of the couples looking forward to tying the knot, know that your city is right here with you, throwing rice from afar.”

Project Cupid, which debuted at the beginning of May, allows couples to video chat with officials from the city clerk’s office in lieu of an in-person appointment. Couples can also use the portal to securely upload their required documents, verify their identities and submit a signed license after their ceremonies. The site is available in 11 languages, with translators available on demand. Fees are submitted through CityPay, the city’s electronic payment system.

The portal, created from scratch by the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, allows couples to retake control of their wedding planning, said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“Coronavirus has changed the world in so many ways but our ability to love and commit to each other hasn’t wavered,” he said in a statement. “Now couples ready to marry don’t have to wait for the pandemic to end to say ‘I do.’ We deserve some good news and this is definitely wonderful news for all of New York City.”

In some places, couples who obtain their marriage license online can also be married by a clerk in a virtual ceremony. In California, couples who obtained a marriage license “can conduct a ceremony to solemnize the marriage via videoconference, as long as both parties are present, and have at least one witness who can join,” according to a release from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. And in New York state, clerks can perform wedding ceremonies on various video conferencing platforms—a warning to brides or grooms with cold feet who were hoping to use the pandemic as a reason to bolt, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“There is now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage,” he said at an April 18 press conference. “You can do it by Zoom. Yes or no.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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