Couples file in for new no-wait marriage licenses

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – 25-year-old Surframe Gilleylen said Monday he’s feeling “really good” about his upcoming marriage to Jachrista Madison.
Gilleylen of Amory and Madison, 23, of Tupelo were first in line Monday to take advantage of the new no-wait marriage license, which took effect July 1.
Business was mostly brisk, a random check of circuit clerks’ offices showed, as nuptials-bound couples used the new law that eliminates the three-day waiting period and premarital blood test for syphilis.
“We’re swamped!” said Gail Jaggers, a Pontotoc County deputy clerk, noting the downtown office saw eight couples Monday, which she characterized as “a lot in one day.”
Everybody was waiting on the new law, she said.
It’s also taking the office staff longer to process because now, instead of just taking personal information, they’re issuing the licenses in the same day.
Lee County’s office, where Gilleylen and Madison got their license, reported “very heavy” activity for engaged couples the law’s first working day.
“I just finished number 18 and she’s working on 19,” said Deputy Clerk Carol Horton about herself and a colleague by Monday’s end.
“This is very unusual – if we do eight in a day, we think we’ve really done something.”
Not so busy were clerks’ offices in Lafayette and Monroe counties.
“I’m a little surprised,” said Gay Guin, Monroe deputy clerk with few takers. “I thought we’d have more.”
It’s all about Senate Bill 2851, sponsored by freshman lawmaker Melanie Sojourner of Adams County.
Sojourner, a 43-year-old cattle farmer, said Natchez tourism officials first sought her help for the change as a way to invite couples to their antebellum attractions as destination weddings.
“This change was not on my priority list,” Sojourner admitted Monday, but said that after the social and economic issues were brought to her attention, she set out to convince the rest of the Legislature it was time to adjust to the 21st Century despite at least 10 years of similar bills’ introductions and failure.
Legislative support was complete on both sides of the Capitol as it sailed through votes to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature April 18.
She said lawmakers from the Gulf Coast and other scenic spots like Tupelo saw the merit of what she proposed.
Stephanie Coomer, deputy director of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau, sees its merit, too.
“For years, we’ve thought the Elvis Presley birthplace and chapel would be a great destination for a wedding, but it just wasn’t feasible,” she noted.
Under the old law and its three-day waiting period, it could take up to five days to get a Mississippi marriage license.
She said Tupelo CVB will wait on new policies by the birthplace leadership for its nearly complete expansion and adjust wedding marketing accordingly.
As for Gilleylen and Madison, they say they’re looking forward to a big church wedding Saturday in Amory.
Monday on their way to work, they were happy to pay the $21 for the license and save the $50 the blood tests would have cost them.
“We came in last month to ask about the license,” Madison noted. “When they told us about the new law, it just made sense for us to wait until today.”
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com