It’s opening day at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau


Even before the Manhattan Marriage Bureau in Lower Manhattan reopened for the first time on Friday since it closed 15 months ago due to the pandemic, team manager Michael McSweeney said he expected to “a noisy crowd of good size”.

“My team has been preparing for this day for months, so I am very excited,” said McSweeney, 53, from the reliever pen inside the town clerk’s office, often referred to as the town hall. city. “As with any opening day, there is always excitement, but there is always also a lot of anxiety.”

Tali Agai and her fiance, Kyle Eisenman, were among the couples eagerly awaiting the doors opening at 8.45am. The couple, who met on dating site Tinder seven years ago when they both lived in Washington DC, have had to change. their marriage plans twice because of the coronavirus.

“We are more than ready to get married,” said Mr. Eisenman, 34. He and Ms. Agai, 35, will celebrate their union at the Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn this weekend.

Since Mr. McSweeney became City Clerk in 2009 (he also holds the title of Clerk of the Council), he has managed a comprehensive roster of union officials who are the lifeline of the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, which due to the pandemic , has closed its doors. doors at 141 Worth Street in Lower Manhattan in March 2020.

These men and women guide thousands of couples each year to and through a process that could, without the proper assistance, be as painful as a trip to the office of a motor vehicle.

“There was talk of the mayor being here,” said Mr Sweeney, whose home in the Woodside section of Queens is only a short flying ball from Citi Field, home of his beloved baseball team. Mets in Flushing, Queens.

“Like many others, the mayor got excited on Monday when we opened up a reservation feature on our website,” Sweeney continued. The move was a signal: finally, “people could go to the site and book a reservation to come here for appointments for marriage licenses or wedding ceremonies from today,” he said. -he declares.

Two of those people were Annie O’Toole and her fiance, Neil Champagne, who met on the Hinge dating app in November 2017, and made it their business to be at the wedding desk on opening day. .

“It’s like we’ve been together for 30 years, but in a good way,” said Mr Champagne, 36, who has been dating Ms O’Toole, 33, for three and a half years.

In the months leading up to a physical opening day, Mr. McSweeney’s team helped perfect a virtual system for distributing marriage licenses and one for virtual weddings. They have also been involved in everything from creating an office cleaning program, to monitoring their ventilation system, and installing Plexiglas in all open areas to protect against germs.

Virtual weddings were a (relatively) short-lived phenomenon: They existed in New York City from April 2020 until June 2021, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lifted the executive order. had issued allowing couples to get married online.

Still, the day-to-day affairs in person at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau have changed.

Before the pandemic, “it was first come, first served, and anyone could walk through the door,” McSweeney said. “But now we keep a list at the front door with the names of 100 couples, and if your name is not on the list, you will not be allowed in.”

One of the most recognizable changes involves the elimination of wedding parties that often accompany couples to their civil ceremonies. (“That rule kind of takes away the whole idea of ​​celebration,” Eisenman said. “They might have to rethink that one.”)

The new rule states that each couple can only bring one witness. “We were getting stretched limos that pulled up in front of the building and dropped off 10 or maybe 12 very well dressed people at a time,” McSweeney said. “It’s hard to accept, but a lot has changed, and there is a very good reason for that.”

He then pointed out some of the things at 141 Worth Street that have remained the same. “Marriage licenses still cost $ 35,” Mr. McSweeney said, “and wedding ceremonies still cost $ 25.”

“And there’s usually a hot dog vendor right outside the door,” he added. “I saw people come in here, sit on a bench and eat their hot dogs while watching the proceedings. It’s almost like they’re at a football game or something.

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