It is easy to remember 2020 as the year that forced many to postpone life-altering decisions. Brian Craig, Lebanon County Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court, however, saw the opposite. Instead of slowing down, residents from Lebanon — and even other counties — requested their marriage licenses in numbers not seen for almost half a century.

The Lebanon County Register of Wills Office and Marriage Bureau issued more marriage licenses in 2020 than any other year since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. A previous press release in November reported the number to be 1,045, but after December, Craig updated the figure to 1,057.

Craig worked on a large amount of the licenses himself and noticed that many of them were for people who had never been married before.

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“It seems to me that people who were excited about getting married for the first time didn’t want to put that off, they wanted to be quarantined with their spouse, or maybe even things like they needed to make sure they had insurance,” commented Craig.

Safety measures were of course adopted due to the pandemic. Craig even stated that he is the only person in his office to have contracted COVID-19, having been exposed at home. He was, however, able to quarantine effectively.

“Staff in my office has never been sick, so I feel our precautions have been pretty successful,” said Craig.

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Several options to request the licenses are currently available, from in-person appointments that have to be scheduled in advance, to a new virtual process for those who prefer to do it online. It is in part due to this flexibility that Craig saw residents from other counties — and even a handful from other states — choose Lebanon as the better option for timely processing of their license application.

Despite the workload, Craig states that in most cases, “we can schedule your application for the next day.” He also points out the modifications have overall increased efficiency. Craig stated that he would be interested in discussing the possibility of maintaining some of these modifications even after the pandemic.

Coupled with these, the Register of Wills and Orphan’s Court had other plans in motion that were delayed — but not canceled — by the current pandemic. It is Craig’s hope that they can update the databases and reduce the time to get a marriage license by 20 minutes, but it will depend on how the year develops.

Of course, when discussing 2021, Craig also echoed a familiar wish.

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“I am hoping this pandemic comes to an end,” he stated.


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