Paula Cantos and David Damon got engaged in June and are aiming to be married Jan. 18 in Washington. It will be an outdoor ceremony near the Capitol Building. Odds are good the union will be legal, but as of today no one is willing to guarantee that.
Ms. Cantos, 34, and Mr. Damon, 35, are among the many couples whose plans to marry in our nation’s capital have been complicated by the partial government shutdown. When the shutdown began Dec. 22, Washington’s Marriage Bureau was one of the nonessential services that closed, leaving couples unable to obtain marriage licenses. Some have postponed their weddings. Others are holding a second, legal ceremony in nearby Maryland or Virginia, said Maggie Gaudaen, a co-founder of Pop! Wed Co., a local wedding planning service that specializes in what it calls “flash” weddings at sites throughout the city, like the steps of the Supreme Court.
Ms. Cantos and Mr. Damon started planning their wedding months ago. Location, as with most of Ms. Gaudaen’s clients, has been their top priority.
“David and I met almost two years ago during the women’s rally, right outside the Capitol Building near the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool,” said Ms. Cantos, who works as a chemist in the government’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which deals with currency; she and Mr. Damon, who installs solar panels, live in New Carrolton, Md. “That’s why we picked the spot. It has meaning for us.”
Until Tuesday, when the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved emergency legislation allowing the city to grant marriage licenses during the shutdown through the Let Our Vows Endure Act, known as the LOVE Act, Ms. Cantos, Mr. Damon and Ms. Gaudaen were planning to go through with a nonlegal Jan. 18 ceremony, if necessary.
“It’s not ideal, but we decided we’d just go ahead with it and then get the legal license once the Marriage Bureau reopens,” Ms. Gaudaen said. Now, it looks as though they won’t have to.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has not yet signed the legislation that would allow her to issue marriage licenses while the courthouse is partially closed, said LaToya Foster, her press secretary. But she is expected to by Friday. The law would take effect immediately for 90 days, bypassing the typical congressional review period.
While the emergency legislation may spare couples like Ms. Canton and Mr. Damon the hassle of conducting a second wedding or moving their ceremonies to Maryland or Virginia to be legally married, it hasn’t prevented D.C. wedding bells from continuing to strike some discordant notes.
Tabitha Roberts, owner of Roberts & Co. Events, a local event planning service that specializes in weddings and private events, said 20 percent of her clients have paused their planning or scaled back their budgets by $10,000 or more because of the shutdown.
“Many of our clients are government employees who unfortunately have uncertainty about what the year will bring,” Ms. Roberts said. “Couples are scaling back on more luxury-based items like florals or rentals, and waiting to see how the shutdown will effect their long-term pay.”
The shutdown may even be affecting whether nonlocal guests will accept Washington wedding invitations, she said: “We have concerns over the lack of amenities that our city brings to out-of-town guests.” Those amenities include attractions like the Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo, which she said may be inclined to shorten their hours because fewer people are in the city buying tickets.
Another side effect of the shutdown could ripple farther, affecting weddings nationally. “Potential flight delays from less personnel at the airports are making people want to travel less over all,” she said.
Still, Ms. Roberts is maintaining the sunny attitude that’s a necessary part of the wedding-planning tool kit while she can. “The effects of the shutdown won’t trickle into the wedding industry as hard until the spring, in my opinion,” she said. “For now, we’ll continue to plan our clients’ dream days with a smile.”