The joy on their faces told it all as they stepped out of Sheria House, Nairobi, as the newest couple in town.
For Wilson and Salome Kufuna, the cloud sweeping across the world in the name of Covid-19 came with a silver lining that saw them finally become man and wife, yesterday.
While the ceremony, including their smart casual attire, was not what is typically seen at weddings, the couple appeared overjoyed to have finally sealed their union.
Theirs was a unique experience, with views of hand-washing stations, empty offices, masks and social distancing serving as a reminder of the ongoing pandemic.
It was among the first ceremonies successfully conducted, following the launch of online marriage services that began on trial-basis two weeks ago.
“We used the online platform, and it was efficient. It was a simple process, and the forms only took us a few minutes to fill. We made the first application on June 17th and by yesterday we got the notification. We then booked our wedding date and were married by today. We were happy to have our marriage certificate within 20 minutes,” said an elated Salome.
To combat the spread of Covid-19, the government suspended marriage services. By this time the ministry had 2,551 applications.
"Since resuming marriage services, the couples whose ceremonies were pending were notified. About 700 declined to continue due to the pandemic and chose to wait. The 1,841 couples left were notified of resumption of services, out of whom we have only received 824 couples by this morning,” said State Law Office Chief Administrative Secretary Winnie Guchu.
Before the pandemic, Sheria House received around 400 clients during the low season and 600 during the peak seasons in August and December.
Missed marriage appointments or those in which the couple arrive late mean the two would have to reapply online and make payment a second time.
Couples opting for civil marriages can now apply for their marriage certificate online on the platform, which will provide them with access to all services offered by the Registrar of Marriage.
The system is aimed at restoring the services, suspended on May 20 after couples flocked to the registrar’s office, seeking the service.
Guchu yesterday said the office’s interaction with masses for provision of marriage services was posing a threat in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
“We got the Ministry of Health to inspect our premises, and they gave us strict guidelines for our operations. We have worked with e-citizen to put up a platform which offers all the services given by the Registrar of Marriage. There will no longer be manual services,” said the CAS.
Matches seeking matrimony must be registered on e-citizen, after which they can access the platform on the website oag.ecitizen.go.ke, where they find application forms along with instructions on how to go about the process.
“After filling the forms, each couple will be notified that their notice has been granted and their application approved. This is the 21-day notice given to every couple that wants to get married so that if there is any objection, it may be raised within that period,” said Guchu.
All payments will be made online and the confirmation triggers the creation of the couple’s marriage certificate.
“Once the notice has run for 21 days and payment approved, the system will notify the couple on their appointment date when they are expected to go to the Registrar of Marriage for an interview and verification of documents that they will have uploaded onto the system,” said Guchu.
Couples are expected to arrive at least 15 minutes before their scheduled time to adhere to the Ministry of Health guidelines including hand-washing and sanitising.
Guchu said they currently conduct only two marriages a day to avoid crowding.