Valentine’s Day normally means wedding sprees at many town halls on Long Island, but the Covid-19 pandemic has forced some officiants and couples to get creative with their municipal ceremonies this year.
While towns have updated their rules to meet coronavirus pandemic restrictions, some have offered workarounds such as Zoom events, house calls, and other options in order to accommodate couples looking to get hitched on the most romantic day of the year. The shift comes as some town clerks and others who perform wedding ceremonies have been busier than ever trying to accommodate couples trying to tie the knot throughout the pandemic.
“There were so many first responders initially, I was marrying heroes basically, how do you say no to those people?” Oyster Bay Town Clerk Richard LaMarca said. “Last year… I personally performed 175 ceremonies and between the rest of my staff I would say we easily doubled that.”
Couples and officiants pivoted their wedding venues nationwide amid restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, including everything from driveway weddings to virtual ceremonies.
LaMarca said at first his office tried to limit the ceremonies to Town of Oyster Bay residents only, but as New York City and other localities limited gatherings gatherings, he had more and more pleas from police officers, firefighters, doctors, and others on the front lines of the pandemic that wanted to get married quickly due to fear of the unknown.
Oyster Bay wasn’t alone. Huntington Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia said that despite closing town hall to wedding ceremonies, he has performed more weddings in the past year than would ever be normally recorded.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, you had doctors and nurses that wanted to get married because they were worried about dying,” he said, noting how he has made multiple house calls to perform weddings. “March, April, I was dressed up in a hazmat suit performing wedding ceremonies… issuing marriage licenses to people in their cars, but we got it all done, we adapted.”
The Town of Southampton issued 347 couples marriage licenses in 2020, up from 324 the year prior, despite the fact that weddings were on hold in March, officials said. The number “would have been higher” if the town didn’t restrict ceremonies to residents only, Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer told Dan’s Papers.
The Town of North Hempstead, which on Friday held a wedding to renew the vows of a couple that survived the virus, also tweaked its annual Valentine’s Day vow plans. Virtual ceremonies aired online and on its TV station will highlight three couples at different stages of marriage at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. Feb. 15 through Feb. 19.
The Town of Islip would normally extend their Valentine’s Day wedding hours, but because Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend this year, ceremonies were held on Friday. Some smaller towns on the East End saw no major difference this year, while the Town of Brookhaven canceled town hall weddings until further notice.
The Town of Hempstead, which in years past sent wedding invitations to the media, hoping for coverage of its annual Feb. 14 town hall wedding ceremonies, did not respond to requests for comment on how the pandemic affected its Valentine’s Day plans this year.