A year ago, Kyle Cowan and his fiancee Melissa Rizzo set their wedding date for September 18, 2021, hoping vaccination rates would rise in Toronto and guests could attend in person.
But it wasn’t the pace of the COVID-19 vaccination that slowed their plans – it was getting a marriage license appointment with the city of Toronto. Cowan said when trying to book one at the end of July, he didn’t find any available until the end of September.
“We can’t seem to get a date anywhere,” Cowan told CBC News by email on July 26. “Why aren’t more clerk offices open to meet the demand created by the reopening of the province?
Couples must make appointments to obtain marriage licenses, which officiants then use to legally marry them. In Toronto, appointments can be made online for the North York Civic Center. In an emailed statement, the city said only one office is issuing them at the moment to ensure proper physical distancing, cleaning and security due to the pandemic.
The city also told CBC News it is experiencing high date demand, with more than 100 appointments booked each day. However, due to a “software limitation,” some available appointments are not showing up on the city’s booking site, and staff say they are working to resolve the issue.
Cowan, who lives in Toronto, also tried to find a date in Vaughan, which is seeing higher demand than usual. In a statement, the city of Vaughan said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, available appointments are limited and the city is full for July and August.
Some cities like Oshawa, where the couple are planning to marry, limit marriage license appointments to area residents.
Starting August 9, the city of Toronto announced that it will reopen to the public other civic centers closed since March 2020, resuming in-person services such as property tax and utility payments.
After weeks of searching, Cowan finally heard from town and was able to secure a marriage license appointment for mid-August.
Postponed weddings are also in high demand
With the city reopening, many couples are now looking to organize delayed or canceled pandemic weddings, which is another reason that licensing appointments are harder to find, according to Rebecca Chan, owner and planner. Principal Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events.
“This summer we have 2020 couples looking to get married, but we also have inquiries from newly engaged couples trying to get married,” she said. “Everyone is fully booked, not just the marriage license office, but even the vendors. “
Chan has worked with couples in a similar position to Cowan: soon to be married, but unable to find a marriage license appointment in their town.
And although it has become customary for couples to sign their contracts during the wedding ceremony itself, she said newlyweds can still legally register their marriage with an officiant after a token celebration.
However, some wedding ceremonies held in places of worship such as a church may require couples to present their marriage license to their priest before the marriage is performed.
Carmen Luk, the lead planner and owner of Devoted To You, a wedding planning service in Toronto, has also helped her clients find wedding license appointments by booking as much in advance as possible and sending email requests to the city.
Toronto allows dating for couples who marry within the next three months, while the city of Vaughan says it is making dating a priority for couples with wedding dates within the next 60 days.
Luk says she also responds to more wedding planning requests than usual, which means more and more couples are also trying to book a date before their big day.
“We have weddings almost every week,” she said.
“I encourage people to really plan ahead. “