Milford, the new wedding destination for NYC couples?

MILFORD — The pandemic impacted every facet of life, and that includes marriage.

Those looking to tie the knot need a marriage license. But the pandemic closed city clerk’s offices throughout the Tri-State area for months. One area hard-hit with backlogs was New York City. Due to high demand in mid-2020, many New York couples started making the trek up the interstate to Connecticut.

That’s where Milford’s Bryan Anderson came in.

“There has been a delay because of how long municipal buildings were closed to people in the New York City area,” Anderson, a justice of the peace who has married some 25 couples from the New York City area since the height of the pandemic, said. “Folks found it easier to come to Connecticut because it’s less stressful and faster.”

According to CNN, New York City released “Project Cupid” on May 7, 2020, the city’s online system for marriage licensing, to circumvent the physical closure for most New York marriage bureaus due to the pandemic. CNN reported the city clerk said Project Cupid was in high demand, and appointments were backlogged four months.

Anderson said couples began to reach out to him during the height of the pandemic because they were looking to get married.

“I’ve married couples who live in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, and part of the causation was the fact that New York Courts were closed, clerk’s offices were unavailable to the public,” he said. “Out of a sense of frustration, couples began to turn to Connecticut as a source to be able to be married on a more timely basis.”

These couples choosing to get married in Connecticut still experienced delays, but they could fill out an application in advance and then they were given an appointment.

“I’ve gotten business from those that decided to take their leave of New York City and move to Connecticut,” he said. “The couples who contacted me from Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens came in just for the ceremony and stayed for a meal afterward.”

Anderson said the couples did their research online, and were looking for an idyllic spot.

“Milford certainly meets that criteria,” Anderson added.

The ceremonies took place at scenic areas like the duck pond at City Hall, the gazebo on Milford Green and on the city’s beaches.

Michael McSweeney, the clerk of the Council Office of the City Clerk said there is no backlog for marriage license appointments in New York City. But there are other limitations that could send couples out of state for their nuptials.

“Unfortunately, what people perceive as a backlog is a need to control the number of guests that are permitted in our spaces to comply with COVID-related safety concerns and physical distancing numbers,” he said. “As a result, we currently allow entry to our offices by appointment only. These pandemic protocols also determine the number of new appointments released every week.”

McSweeney said every Monday morning, about 1,000 in-person appointments for marriage licenses, marriage ceremonies, domestic partnership registrations, certificates of non-impediment and copies of marriage records are released.

“In addition, every Thursday morning, we release approximately 500 virtual license appointments,” he said.

Anderson said marriage laws differ slightly from state to state, but with reciprocity between states, gettting married in Connecticut presents no problems for New York couples.

“The requirement is the certificate must be obtained in the community where the (marriage) is being held. Both partners need to come and apply for a license because they have to both show positive proof of who they say they are and they are signing the license,” he said.

The Rev. Orsella Hughes, ordained officiant from Bridgeport, said she has also had couples from the New York area contact her, but her experience is similar, but a little bit different. She has become something of a traveling wedding official.

“I’m in Connecticut, but I’m getting more responses from New York to come marry them in New York,” said Hughes. “Out of the 15 weddings I have booked for 2022, only four of them are from Connecticut.”

Hughes said she’s registered with the City of New York, and she’s shocked she’s had so many weddings in New York.

“I’ve always been registered in New York, but the uptick definitely happened in late summer of 2020 when I started to get requests to do more weddings, in-person in New York,” she said. “A lot of people, for whatever reason, maybe they just weren’t comfortable going back out to large crowds, I was starting to get phone calls from New York. And I don’t even know the reason for it, I just thought, ‘Well this is different.’”

During the past 18 months, Hughes said she has married about 35 couples. “And 75 percent of them were from New York,” she said.

And Connecticut is not just attracting New York couples, Anderson said.

“I received a call in late August from a couple that had started in Seattle, Wash., and they were taking a trip together driving across the states, and they called me from Chicago on a Friday,” he said. “They (asked) me if I could meet then in Norwalk on Monday and perform their ceremony.”

The couple had no particular place in mind, but the Norwalk city clerk recommended a spot on the water with a gazebo.

“It was a beautiful afternoon,” he said.

In another instance he a call from California because the bride was living there and her husband is in the U.S. Navy stationed in Connecticut.

“She called me from California and told me she was going to be in town in two days and wanted to get an appointment with the town clerk,” he said. “She asked me where I was, and I told her I was in Milford. She said she was going to look it up, and she decided to get married in Milford.”

She flew in from California, and two days later, she met her husband, and her husband told his commanding officer that he needed to leave the base and get married, Anderson said.

“The word spread, and his CO and about 11 of his buddies showed up for the wedding. It was really wonderful,” he said.