Ellese Nickles’ and Blake Bartok’s socially distant backyard wedding ceremony.

Weddings in the Time of COVID

In June 2020, Web Exclusive by Jane PorterLeave a Comment

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WEB EXCLUSIVE From cancelled travel plans to limits on in-person gatherings, the international coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the wedding industry but that doesn’t mean locals haven’t taken the moment in stride. Check out our July/August issue for a story about how local couples have reimagined their big days.

In the meantime, Wake County’s Register of Deeds office implemented a virtual system for obtaining marriage licenses so members of the public don’t have to visit the vital records offices in person. Wake’s was the first Register of Deeds office in the state to implement a virtual marriage license appointment system.

Read this Q and A with Wake County Register of Deeds Charles Gilliam and Wake County IT specialists Chris Peck and Mark Barthelemy to learn more.

How many marriage licenses has the county issued since March, when the governor shut down most workplaces?

CG: Right now, we’re doing about 19 marriage licenses a day. Last year the average per day was 29, so we’re doing fewer than we were. Our first official day of issuing licenses virtually was March 24.

What technology are you using to conduct marriage license application appointments virtually?

CP: We opted to use Google Duo. The thought process was, a majority of constituents have smartphones but may not necessarily have laptops with cameras of high-speed internet. Google Duo doesn’t require an account and provides several layers of security, including end to end encryption. We implemented cameras for our staff so the customers can see the staff in conversation and provided them with headsets to help them communicate with the customers.

How do the appointments go?

CG: It’s just like the customers are physically in the office. We say we need proof of their of ID and social security numbers, please, and they hold their social security cards, drivers license and passports up to the camera on their mobile device, just like they would bring them to the office. They pay on the call by reading us their credit card number and we punch it into the machine and send them the receipt in the mail with their marriage license.

Are the digital appointments secure?

MB: This offered us a way of capturing and validating the necessary information without actually storing it so it reduces liability in ways that it wouldn’t if we had had them send us a photocopy or digital copy that would then be in our system. So we don’t take anything, we don’t store it, we just have them show it to us in real time for visual confirmation. That is a critical component.

Is the service only for Wake residents or can anyone use it?

CG: You don’t have to live in Wake. Wake residents have priority on scheduling appointments but we do it for people from other counties. A marriage license issued by a North Carolina Register of Deeds is valid anywhere in the state, so you can get a license from Wake and get married in Cherokee County.

Your offices closed to the public under the Governor’s shutdown order and you’re still offering services virtually. Is your staff in the office or working from home?

CG: We’ve had two people in vital records working at home, one is scheduling marriage license appointments for customers full-time. But most of the vital records staff, especially for marriages, is in the office making these calls.

CP: Just the fact that we have staff sending out marriage licenses on certified copy paper, it didn’t make sense to send everyone home with reams of copy paper.

CG: Closing to the public has helped to keep our staff well so they can provide services we need to be able to provide to the public. So we don’t want to take any chances on people getting sick and shutting us down but we don’t have to reopen because we’re not closed. We have a stay open plan, not a reopen plan.

Q and A edited for length and clarity.

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