As we enter into the popular wedding season, we’re reminded just how much the coronavirus pandemic has paused so many life celebrations.
Ordinarily, North Carolina magistrates perform about 25,000 marriages a year. With many wedding venues closed, couples have had to rethink lavish wedding ceremonies to abide by the current stay-at-home order that bans groups larger than 10 people.
Some couples exchanged vows in the nick of time before State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley suspended courthouse weddings in March.
Then, there were couples like Quincy and Brenda Kea. They made it official with a courthouse wedding back in January but looked forward to a big celebration on April 4 with family and friends.
“He did not want anything too big, so it was the best of both worlds for us because it was intimate,” Brenda said about their Jan. 7 wedding day. “We still wanted to party, and we wanted to share with our close friends and family.”
Change of course in a pandemic
Quincy and Brenda met two years ago after he “slid into her DMs” on GroupMe.
“We knew of each other, but we didn’t really know each other,” Brenda recalled. “He asked me out, and we went out for sushi.”
On that first date, Brenda learned of the eight-year age difference. She is 37; he is 29. She admits that it was a turnoff initially. The friends still hung out together and gained a genuine connection over time.
After Quincy suffered injuries from a horrible motorcycle accident in October 2017, Brenda took care of him during the six-week recovery. They officially became a couple shortly after and were inseparable. He popped the question last August. Five months later, they were married.
Then, the Covid-19 outbreak made it to Charlotte, dampening plans for a wedding celebration. The newlyweds scrambled to make plenty of phone calls and send numerous emails to their 210 guests.
“The venue called, and they canceled on us—it was hard for us. For two days, I cried every time I thought about it,” Brenda said. “It was more for the fact that my mom was coming here from St. Louis, my father figure was coming, and we were going to have a good time. But I got over it because I realized there is a bigger picture.”
The price tag for their dream wedding? Roughly $10,000 to $12,000. Some vendors, like their wedding cake decorator, didn’t offer refunds. Luckily, other vendors — most importantly, the venue and caterer — worked with the couple for their rescheduled date.
Even though Brenda is disappointed that she didn’t get her big party this year, she said everything happens for a reason. She’s relieved that there won’t be much wedding planning for next year and looks forward to “swag surfing” with her favorite people on next April.
Marriage ceremonies resume
In an emergency order last week, the chief justice allowed magistrates to continue to perform marriage ceremonies statewide with safety guidelines in place.
Beasley says marriages establish several citizen rights and legal obligations that can have implications for military deployments, social security benefits, pensions, worker’s compensation and disability benefits.
In Mecklenburg County, marriage ceremonies have resumed at the county courthouse with some restrictions in place through June 1.
Magistrates will officiate six ceremonies between 9 a.m. and noon on Mondays and Fridays, allocating a 30-minute session per appointment. Due to Covid-19, only four people will be allowed at the ceremony: the couple and their two witnesses.
To schedule an appointment, email Mecklenburg.Magistrate.Weddings@nccourts.org. No phone calls will be accepted.