Plan B Marriages
April 6, 2020, Fairfield, CT. Despite the fear and uncertainty that comes with the coronavirus pandemic, justices of the peace are supporting loving couples who want – or need – to tie the knot. They are epitomizing what it means to be a professional officiant, providing expertise during the most challenging times. Governor Lamont signed an executive order making marriage license application procedures more flexible. In doing so, he permitted socially distanced nuptials, acknowledging that officiating a marriage can be an essential service.
“While our communities are loaded with angst, love is prevailing. JPs are rising to the occasion and getting creative, meeting couples at a social distance, and officiating their marriages. It takes a little resourcefulness, and a lot of flexibility. But it is working.” says Loretta Jay, managing member of the Justice of the Peace Association. “Through our online resources, we emphasize safety, for the couple, the officiant and the community.”
Today’s current crisis highlights what is so important about a marriage. Not all 200 of the couple’s besties squished into a single room. Not the dancing or the music. Those things are all cherished as part of the celebration. During times of crisis, the focus is about affirming the love between the couple and the act of marrying to become one legal unit.
Sometimes, marriage cannot wait. That is how it was for a Waterbury couple who wed last week. It was raining, so JP Karen Mowad officiated the ceremony in their garage. The garage door remained open, so the air circulated. With a life-threatening virus making everyone feel more vulnerable, it was important to them that, if needed, their spouse would able to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.
Fear of the unknown is a factor, too. In North Haven, JP Lynn Fredricksen married a couple – outdoors, just her, the bride and groom. It was an emergency, the bride said. They didn’t know what was going to happen next. Being married gave them peace.
Bristol JP Laura Minor received a last-minute phone call requesting a lunchtime union. She quickly put together a short ceremony. A few minutes later the couple showed their ID’s from 6 feet away and left the license on a table. Laura explained, “They have plans for a ‘real’ wedding in two years, but the pandemic made it important that they both have health insurance. So, there we were. I spoke of love, the bride cried with joy. Instead of hugs we did jazz hands.” When it was over Laura signed the license put it in an envelope before washing her hands. At City Hall she left the envelope on the counter, keeping her distance from the staff. Laura summarized it best, “Marriage during a pandemic is a little different, but still about love.”
The Justice of the Peace Association connects members with couples and sets professional standards. Its goal is to support secular marriage officiants with the performance of their duties. Its COVID-19 page is available here: JPus.org/COVID. Couples can find professional marriage officiants at findaJP.com.