The current health challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its potential ramifications are beyond what when you envisioned for your wedding day. On this page, I share some science-based information, discuss potential logistic considerations, and ponder possible scenarios and alternative arrangements that might need to be made as the pandemic evolves.
What do we know now?
While preliminary, what we know is that this virus is spreading rapidly across the globe. As of May 28, 2020, these are current statistics
- Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:45 p.m. ET: 5,763,122 — Total deaths: 358,235 — Total recoveries — 2,389,735
- U.S.:Total confirmed cases as of 5:45 p.m. ET: 1,715,811 — Total deaths: 101,337 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,48
- Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.
While preliminary, what we know is that this virus is spreading rapidly across the globe. We have already seen the quarantine of about 60-million people in a few Chinese provinces. In addition, a number of countries, as well as U.S. states, have restricted movement. Both U.S. outbound and incoming flights to specific countries have been curtailed and additional limitations will likely be imposed. The virus has spread to every U.S. state including Metropolitan Washington DC.
Where can we find credible information on the state of the virus?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the country’s premier source of credible, science-based information. A dedicated CDC webpage can be found here. Also, the World Health Organization has excellent information here. I would also recommend a dedicated page on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) News Hour website found here. Google has organized a virus information and resource page here. It is vitally important that you look to these highly-respected public health organizations and resources for accurate information. Be wary of unverified claims; be a wise news consumer.
What can we expect?
As the virus spreads across the U.S., public health leaders will advise and enforce strategies to contain the spread of the disease, treat those impacted and affected, and reduce the opportunity for the spread of the pandemic. Precautions have already resulted in the cancellation of large events in public venues and limiting gather of under ten people. We are seeing cities and states instituting closure, shutdowns, and mandatory stay-in-place directives. Most people, with the exception of vital services, are working from home. Expect these measures to become mandatory within the next few days. Without being an alarmist, expect things to get worse before they get better — but they will get better.
Who do we protect ourselves?
Prevention –Detection – Treatment – and Containment are our watchwords and strategies. Practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, wear a face covering (mask) and follow the necessary safety guidelines. We will get through this.
How might this impact your officiating at our wedding?
For those couples that have selected me to officiate at their wedding, when I met with you during our initial interview, I strongly recommended that you hire a wedding planner. From officiating at hundreds and hundreds of weddings, those with a professional wedding planner always are more successful and less stressful for all involved.
Last-minute changes associated with the coronavirus are a tailor-made example for the need of a planner. As you consider alternative scenarios for your wedding date, your wedding planner is the ideal person to help you manage discussions regarding how the pandemic may impact your wedding and precautions you might need to make.
For my current couples, I am committed to supporting you as we both manage any changes resulting from the pandemic. While my agreement states that if I am unavailable for your ceremony, I would secure an officiant in my place, given what could be a historic “act of God” (Force Majeure) event, I may not be able to provide that alternative. I trust that this will be very unlikely, yet a reality that is, at this point, unknown. Of course, we would dialogue extensively in the weeks and days leading to your wedding. As well, your venue could be forced to close.
So, what do we do? How do we prepare for an unknown?
I recommend that you consider a few what-if scenarios. Such scenarios include:
- What if an important guest(s) is (are) unable to attend?
- What if you (the couple, one or the other) are sick?
- What if the venue is closed?
- What if the vendors you have committed are unable to attend?
- What if there is a national, state or regional quarantine?
If public health officials require venue closure or travel limitations close to your wedding day, we will work together with my wedding calendar for an alternative date. My website’s wedding calendar is always up to date.
We already have our marriage license, how long is it valid?
In short, it depends. Regional marriage license expiration dates are as follows:
- Virginia – In the state of Virginia, you must be married within 60 days of the issuing date on your marriage license. I spoke with state officials on March 18th and this requirement, despite the coronavirus, is not being waved. If you currently have a Virginia marriage license and are rescheduling your marriage beyond the 60 days of the license’s date, you must return to the Courthouse that issued the original license for a new license so that on the day of your wedding, you have a valid marriage license. In Virginia, you can secure a marriage license at any state courthouse irrespective of where you are being married in the state. For more information on weddings in Virginia, check here.
- District of Columbia – In the District, a marriage license does not expire, so you are fine with rescheduling with your current license. All District of Columbia marriage licenses are issued by the Marriage Bureau located at the Moultrie Courthouse, JM 690, 500 Indiana Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001. For more information on weddings in the District, check here.
- Maryland – In the state of Maryland, your marriage license is valid for six months. The marriage license must be issued by the courthouse in the county in which your wedding ceremony will take place. For more information on weddings in Maryland, check here
Keep your eye on the prize – you found each other and are committing to a life together.
The great joy is that you have found each other and are committing, heart-to-heart, to life’s adventures. Ultimately, that is what matters, the rest are details.
In summary, act wisely to minimize the chance of contagion, and reach out to your wedding planner to consider potential scenario alternatives. For those couples that I will marry this year, feel free to contact me, together we can manage whatever lies before us.
Blessings – Rev. Bill