By Maria Caspani
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sae Feurtado and Richard Kissi’s long wait to say “Yes, I do” finally ended on Friday, when in-person weddings at the Manhattan Marriage Office resumed after a 16-month shutdown.
Before COVID-19, thousands of people around the world exchanged wedding vows each year in the two chapels located within the late 1920s Art Deco building in lower Manhattan.
After putting off their wedding for nearly two years, it was the New York couple’s turn.
“It was supposed to happen today,” said a nervous and excited 32-year-old Feurtado, dressed in a flowered dress and dazzling headdress, holding a bouquet of purple flowers.
“It was worth the wait,” said Kissi, 34, sporting a blue and gray suit, as the couple exited the building.
Under the new reopening rules, wedding ceremonies are by reservation only, City Clerk Michael McSweeney said, and couples can bring only one witness to respect the four-person limit in the pastel-colored east and west chapel.
Generally, civil ceremonies, which were held at the nearby City Hall until 2009, last about 10 minutes.
Couples must wear a mask. A plexiglass sheet has been mounted on the podiums from where the officiants conduct the ceremonies.
A small shop in the marble hallway leading to the chapels offers flowers, rings, veils, and bow ties for anyone who has forgotten a wedding must-have.
“We are delighted,” McSweeney said of the reopening, which was announced last week by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Pablo Calderón and Fabián Gavilanes said they were able to lower their masks to seal their vows with a kiss on Friday morning.
Calderón, 31, wore a suit and tie to commemorate the big day, while Gavilanes wore a light pink bow tie over a white shirt.
They said they were delighted to finally tie the knot after COVID-19 forced them to postpone their wedding, which was originally scheduled for last August.
A long list of celebrity couples got married at the New York City Marriage Office, including baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth, whose signature appears on a ledger in one of the chapels.
For now, two ceremonies can be held every 15 minutes, McSweeney said.
While the office has been issuing marriage licenses during the pandemic, virtual weddings only took off in May due to security concerns and technical hurdles, McSweeney said. About 300 were held between May and July.
Outside the building, George Taxi set up his flower stand on Friday for the first time since March last year. Bouquets of roses adorned with baby’s breath and purple figurine were displayed in vases alongside ring trays.
“It feels great to be back,” said Taxi. “Just being around happy people … It’s one of the happiest days of his life, so being a little part of that is great.”