Well, love is in the air and as I say to every couple, “It’s the happy things, and I am honored to be a part of them.”
Many couples have had to change their wedding dates one, two or even three times because of the pandemic, but that hasn’t tainted their love for each other or plans to be married.
Just yesterday a lovely couple called and asked if I could marry them ASAP, because their wedding officiant they had planned for this Saturday in Whitefield came down with COVID. If COVID has taught us anything it has helped us to think outside the box and throw the box away.
When I heard their story, of course I said yes and told them to come on in, so they did. They already had their marriage license. They just wanted to be married so they could move forward with their celebration as planned. Great thinking on their part. You know what I love about the marriage part of a town clerk’s world? Often within a few minutes we three feel as though we have known each other like dear friends do. We have shared in the start of their lives together — a gift to me.
Because I tell you everything, you know we have our first wedding this fall. Meredith and Matt met in high school, and here it is eight years later and so far, they have just had to cancel their wedding once because of our new normal. They decided to marry in Florida because that’s where so many of their happy memories have been shared with their families and with each other.
Well, as much as I hate to fly, and even though the older I get the more I just want to stay put in our own little piece of the world in New Hampshire, we do learn so much by traveling — about people, food and even in this case our positions, too.
Every state has different requirements for couples who need to complete a marriage license. The one thing that is the same is that in order to be legally married in any state by law a marriage license must be completed.
In Massachusetts, for example, there is a three-day waiting period after you complete the paperwork. There a couple can’t do, as I call it, “one stop shopping.” I love and so do many couples that in New Hampshire we can complete their marriage license for a fee of $50, they don’t need witnesses and that right after we all sign the license they can be married immediately. Within minutes I can even issue them a certified copy of their marriage which they need for sharing insurance and other things. So many couples will call and ask if they need witnesses, if we have a waiting period, and even some older couples will ask if they still need a blood test. That used to be a thing, too.
I have had the honor of completing so many of our local children’s marriage licenses, kids I’ve watched grow from toddlers to adulthood. I watched them in Scouts, play groups and our own little neighborhood, and I would be fibbing if I told you that I wasn’t looking forward to someday doing that with Meredith and Mackensie, too. Unfortunately, a marriage license must be issued from the state you are being married in. I didn’t get to create and sign Meredith and Matt’s license, but it was fascinating to watch how another state completes this legal process.
In Florida the couple makes an appointment and only needs to bring their driver’s licenses to prove identity and age. They fill out a brief form together, which is about a quarter of what our marriage worksheet is here. Similar questions, address, parents’ names, birthdays and Social Security numbers too. Quick and to the point; everything completed right at the window. What surprised me was before they sign the license, they were required to take a legal oath together attesting to the fact that the information they gave was true. Basically to prove that they were doing this in good faith and for the right reasons and in some cases are of age.
I’m going to suggest to our state Vital Records Department in Concord that we add a legal oath to our marriage licenses here. Meredith and Matt had to raise their right hand and repeat the oath. I also think it brings a reality and even a little romance to what the couple is starting the process to do. Even though I couldn’t complete the process with them, you can bet I took a bunch of pictures.
Oh something else interesting in Florida is that if you’re a couple from there, they have a three-day waiting period before you can marry. If you’re an out-of-state couple, there is no waiting period at all. Kind of neat to learn these different things.
We also wanted to visit the Trinity Church where they would be married. They picked this church first because they seemed so warm and receptive even on the phone, but they also thought it must be a sign because they met at Trinity High School in Manchester. Together they are also combining two different religious backgrounds and families which I think is very exciting.
The welcome sign they had waiting at the entrance said it all. It was their place; our place and I think that all churches of every denomination should have this sign. I believe God would approve. Here’s a little section of it:
“We extend a WELCOME to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, “yo no habla Ingles… (which means you do not speak English.) If you haven’t been to a church in years, if you gamble, having a tough time, or want to get involved.”
It even has cute parts like if you’re a tree hugger, pierced inked or both… if you had religion “shoved down your throat” like my mom use to always say.
“That won’t happen here,” the sign read. “We WELCOME you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli, or can’t hold a note like our pastor.”
I think the kids found an honest place that truly does welcome all. My kind of place.
A shout-out this week to our local Londonderry Post Office. In the COVID world, our little Canadian flower girl Julia hasn’t been able to visit to pick up her dress. Finally, I decided to put it in the mail, which is very tricky if you’ve mailed anything internationally. I still can’t believe it happened, the package never made it. To make matters worse, I had drenched the tracking paperwork from a spilled water bottle. Everything was floating and soaked.
One call to our Post Office and lots of going above and beyond on their part. The package was located, and one little girl flower girl is very happy.
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry Town Clerk and a longtime resident of New Hampshire.