Thanks to Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Gov. Gavin Newsom, love and marriage are winning out in California despite the pandemic.
Normally in California, both members of a couple have to appear in person at the local county clerk-recorder office to obtain a marriage license. For their wedding ceremony, they have to be physically in the presence of the marriage officiant and witnesses.
Then came the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and the County and the State issued shelter-in-place orders. This stopped romance in its tracks as couples were no longer able to apply in person for a license (good for 90 days) and get married.
Until Chavez spoke up for love.
“Marriages have been halted in California. Thankfully, love endures, so we must as a government respond to facilitate these commitments,” she wrote in an April 20 letter to Newsom.
Chavez asked him to consider temporarily suspending the in-person witnessing requirements.
Just 10 days later, on April 30, Newsom signed the Remote Marriage License Executive Order (EO N-58-20). In effect for 60 days, it permits California residents to obtain marriage licenses and be married remotely via Skype or Zoom.
The Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder’s office reports that by mid-May, about 500 marriage license applications had been received. Thirty virtual wedding ceremonies had been completed. Of those, 20 were officiated by the County.
“I’m excited about this. It’s a great opportunity for couples who’ve had to put off their weddings,” said Louis Chiaramonte, Interim Assistant County Clerk-Recorder.
The virtual process was initially challenging. Not all the clerks even had a camera on their computer monitor.
From her county office, Chavez officiated at the first virtual wedding in Santa Clara County — and, it is believed, in all of California. On a Zoom conference call on May 5, she married San Jose residents and Silicon Valley tech workers Love Singhal and Sarita Jayantee Biswal as their families in India watched.
Santa Clara residents Yessalin Islas and Cris Lara met as 12 year olds at a summer camp in California and years later reconnected at Santa Teresa High School, San Jose. They applied for their marriage license from home, using Zoom, on May 29.
They hope to be married traditionally at Santa Clara First Baptist Church on July 11. The wedding guests — limited in number by government regulations — are on standby for the third time.
The couple got engaged in August of 2019 on a hike in Pinnacles National Park and originally planned a May wedding and reception that had to be cancelled. Then a June date had to be cancelled.
“Making wedding arrangements was stressful before the pandemic, but this made me realize that things are out of our hands,” said Islas. “It made me feel okay with not having full control. My priorities changed.”
The couple is resolved to “stay optimistic and look forward to the special moments we can create, even though a lot is out of our hands.”
“It’s great being part of the process to help these couples having their ceremonies. It could be the wave of the future, so long as the law permits,” said Chiaramonte.
For information on obtaining a wedding license using Zoom or Skype or setting up a virtual wedding ceremony at the Santa Clara County Government Center, visit www.sccgov.org.