Today, Hempstead Town Clerk Kate Murray performed her 500th wedding ceremony since she returned to Town government in January 2020 – 421 of those weddings since the start of the pandemic.
“Wedding ceremonies were always one of my favorite parts of the job of Town Clerk,” said Murray. “Even when I became Supervisor, I continued to perform some weddings because there is nothing more special than joining two people who love each other in matrimony.”
Just 10 weeks after Murray was elected and returned to the Town Clerk’s office, the world shut down due to Covid-19 and in-person weddings became a memory. When the announcement of the shutdown was made, Town Clerk Murray immediately thought of all the couples who were scheduled to be married at Hempstead Town Hall that very week. Murray quickly developed a plan to assist the impacted couples and the Town Clerk’s staff reached out to all those who were scheduled to wed in the coming days and offered them the opportunity to have their marriage ceremony held outside on the steps of Town Hall, in the first “socially distant” ceremonies. On March 18, 2020, as schools, businesses, and governments around the state went silent, more than a dozen couples at Hempstead Town Hall were the last ones to have in-person weddings for quite a while. Murray performed 12 wedding ceremonies herself and her wonderful and dedicated colleagues in the Clerk's office performed additional weddings, making for a grand total of nearly 20 wedding ceremonies performed in a matter of hours.
As soon as the then-governor signed an executive order allowing virtual weddings, Town Clerk Murray began performing hundreds of FaceTime, Zoom and What’sApp weddings.
“While virtual weddings were not quite as personal and intimate as in-person ceremonies, nevertheless, they were very special in unique ways for me and, more importantly, the couples’ and their friends and family. Also, thanks to technology, far-flung beloved family and friends were able to "zoom" in to witness the couples’ happiness in the safety of their own homes,” said Murray. “From the couple who wanted nothing more than to be married before they were parted by death, to the Covid nurse who ran out to her fiancé in the car in the hospital parking lot to be married during her break, we saw some of the most heartwarming and heart-wrenching unions during this period.”
While virtual weddings remained the norm until late June 2021, Murray began socially distant in-person weddings as soon as they were allowed. Dozens of weddings took place outside Hempstead Town Hall while others were held at locales including Point Lookout Beach and the Lido Passive Nature Preserve in Lido Beach.
“Since March 16, 2020, couples have had to alter their perception of a dream wedding and I wanted to do everything I could to help them make their ceremony as perfect as possible,” noted Murray. “It was so fun to see how some of the couples elaborately decorated the backgrounds for their virtual wedding and really made sure that it was still a celebration of their love. Additionally, virtual weddings also allowed family from around the world to witness the ceremony without having to leave their own homes.”
“The Town of Hempstead quickly adapted and pivoted to a socially distanced world in order to continue providing necessary services to our residents even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes the office of the Town Clerk,” said Supervisor Don Clavin. “Hempstead Town Clerk Kate Murray and her staff worked on overdrive to ensure the couples-to-be of America’s largest township were able to tie the knot in a safe, convenient manner that both allowed their families to virtually join them while safeguarding all involved,” concluded Clavin.
In total, more than 1500 weddings have been performed by the Hempstead Town Clerk’s Office since the beginning of the pandemic.
“As the agency that issued death certificates, our office was witness to the grimmest parts of the pandemic but being able to bring happiness to couples who wanted to be married helped us all get through those terrible times,” concluded Murray. “I look forward to my next 500 weddings but the pandemic weddings will always hold a special place in my heart.”