Pune: Nikita Mudaliyar from Maval got married to Sunil Choudhary on Friday in a way which, she feels, will be talked about for generations to come. They both had masks on their faces, hands smelled of sanitisers, and only a handful of people were present to see them get hitched at the Marriage Registration Office in Pune.
This is the new normal for obtaining a marriage certificate -- a santised one -- in a world which is learning to live with the Coronavirus.
As the Marriage Registration Office in Agarkar Nagar reopened on May 18 after being shut for almost two months, couples have started trickling in to tie the knot, some of them not wanting to wait for a big fat Indian wedding now.
At the Pune office, masks definitely stole the show, but sanitisers ensured they had their time under the limelight.
"The sanitiser was the most important elements of the wedding -- during the entire procedure we had to sanitise our hands so many times -- we even sanitised our marriage certificate," chuckled Rohit Dhore from Janata Vasahat. He and his new bride Kajal Vairat too revelled in the COVID-19 wedding glow.
B G Pol, Marriage Officer, Pune district said, "The office has started from Monday, however, it wasn't till Thursday that couples actually started coming for marriage registration."
He said that 22 marriages have been registered in two days, six on Thursday while 16 on Friday. The number of couples was more on Friday as the office will be closed for three days so a lot of people whose dates were due chose to come, he informed.
When asked about how the lockdown has affected the wedding registrations, he said, "There were 1700 applications whose deadline or validity got expired as the office was closed due to the lockdown. Now, these people have to apply again for a new date."
THE NEW NORMAL
Pol revealed the new rules and protocols at for those wanting to get their marriage resgitered.
"Only three witnesses along with the couple are allowed inside the premises of the office," he said.
Once a couple completes the procedure and leaves, only then the next marriage 'party' is allowed to enter the gate.
Since the office room is small and maintaining social distancing is important, we are allowing one person at a time -- either the bride and then the groom -- for verification, and only at the time of oath ceremony, couples are allowed to enter together, he said.
"This has increased the time it takes for one wedding, earlier in one hour we used to do seven to eight weddings while now registering one wedding takes at least 20 minutes," Pol said.
Pol also informed that without mask no one is allowed to enter the gate and the entire procedure is done with a mask on everyone's face.
He said, "There are sanitisers everywhere in the office and the people who are coming are only allowed in after using it."
"We have asked everyone to carry their own pen for signature as a precautionary measure."
ACCEPTING THE NEW NORMAL
Do couples really have a choice?
Nikita said, "I understand that the current situation is such that we have to take precautions but it was very weird yet memorable to get married with a mask."
"I had a traditional wedding scheduled for May 2 which got cancelled due to the lockdown and the ongoing pandemic. Now, we have gotten our marriage registered and we have to live with this virus and social distancing as a new normal," she said.
"It is unlikely that we will have a big gathering so we decided to do have a registered marriage only," Nikita said.
Dhore echoed the same sentiment. He said, "We had got the date for marriage registration in April but due to the lockdown the offices were closed so we could not get the marriage registered. We did not want our registration date to expire and a big fat wedding is definitely not possible in the current scenario."
Marriage registration dates are generated online, usually a date is given after 31 days of application. The date is valid for two months.