Philadelphia officials bombarded with marriage license requests after stay-at-home order lifted

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Joesph Pierce and his new wife Sherika said "I do" on a Fishtown rooftop at sunset. Only 12 people were physically there with them, but 200 more were on Zoom.

The couple says their July wedding was the glimmer of hope they needed to make it through 2020.

"It was a really good snapshot of just some good that is happening in the midst of a pandemic," said Pierce.

Joseph and Sherika are two of the lucky few to actually be given a marriage license in Philadelphia during the pandemic.

The Register of Wills says during the lockdown, it received 3,000 inquires about marriage and approved only 585 licenses. It denied 165.

It gave emergency licenses, with preference to people impacted by COVID-19, those with life-threatening health conditions and frontline workers.

"With our stay-at-home orders, we could not accommodate everybody, so this criteria made the most sense," said Caren Berger, the deputy of marriage licenses for the Register of Wills.

The Pierce's got approved because she is a social worker at a hospital, and she was feeling the weight of the pandemic.

"We had it very hard because she's a social worker, she's a caregiver, she has a big heart," said Pierce.

"They needed love, they needed light in their lives, and we were so thrilled to be able to accommodate them," said Berger.

Now, the office says it's open for in-person appointments and is bombarded with calls.

"We're trying to make up for lost time but in the constraints that we have to follow," said Berger.

For people hoping to get married soon, the Register of Wills says to start the application sooner rather than later.

Officials say since the process opened back up, roughly 1,500 appointments have been scheduled through September.
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