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'Marriage Hut' earns national recognition for saving weddings during COVID-19 pandemic


Last updated 7/9/2021 at 8:16pm

Village News/Jordan Marks photo

The "Marriage Hut" issued 17,286 marriage licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego County Clerk's Office has been recognized by the National Association of Counties with a 2021 NACo Achievement Award for innovative excellence in County Administration of Management. The Clerk's office was recognized for transforming a vacant snack shop into the "Marriage Hut" in order to continue issuing marriage licenses and perform ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With over 1,600 couples with appointments to be married, on March 19, 2020 Governor Newsom issued a "Stay at Home" executive order effectively closing all county buildings across the State of California. Within 24 hours of the shutdown order, the County Clerk staff transformed a vacant snack shop outside San Diego County's waterfront office into the "Marriage Hut," a COVID-19 safe marriage service facility.

The NACo award recognized the innovation of the San Diego Clerk's Office to continue operations and honor their commitment to the couples that already had appointments. In addition, it recognized that their leadership inspired the other county offices across California to find a pathway to reopen and continue serving the public.

San Diego County Clerk Ernie Dronenburg said, "The pandemic shut down everything, but in San Diego we didn't let it shut down love." Dronenburg concluded, "My staff rose to the challenge and within 24 hours of being issued a statewide shutdown order, found an innovative way to keep love alive by converting an empty snack shop into a "marriage hut" to safely provide marriage services."

The San Diego County Clerk's office in a normal year issues around 25,000 marriage licenses. During 2020, under COVID-19 restrictions, the office issued 17,286 marriage licenses. The award‑winning "Marriage Hut" continues in operation today and is now a requested venue for couples to tie the knot in San Diego County.

NACo President Gary Moore said, "Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership." Moore continued, "This year's Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America."

A new "Walk-Up Wednesday" marriage service is now offered at the "Marriage Hut," 1600 Pacific Highway in downtown San Diego on the north side of the County Administration Center in the Waterfront Park. Services will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a first-come-first-serve basis. Marriage ceremonies will be performed in the Waterfront Park and guests are welcome.

Marriage licenses, under State of California law, are valid only for 90 days from the date issued. Couples are encouraged to complete their marriage license application online for faster service at http://www.SDARCC.COM.

Except for "Walk-Up Wednesdays" at the Marriage Hut, license and ceremony appointments are still required for Downtown, Chula Vista, San Marcos, and Santee locations. Make appointments online at The cost of a non-confidential marriage license is $70 and an additional $88 for a civil ceremony performed by County staff in English or Spanish.

Submitted by the San Diego County Clerk.


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