Kent County’s wedding chapel gets a new look

Kent County Justice Of The Peace Brenda Wootten stands in the newly renovated Wedding Chapel at the Kent County Levy Court Building in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Kent County Clerk of the Peace Brenda Wootten decided shortly after being sworn in to office in December 2016 that it was time to do some redecorating in the county’s chapel.

Completed a few weeks ago, the updates include new chairs and covers, bows, curtains, flowers, decorative mirrors and a chandelier.

“I just wanted our chapel to have an elegant, classy feel for couples getting married,” said Ms. Wootten. “So far, people have been pleasantly surprised when I show them. Lots of people end up just getting married at a desk somewhere — we wanted to do better than that.”

Ms. Wootten said the county administrator made about $900 available for a “one-time” renovation to the existing chapel. She added $700 of her own money to complete the updates.

Last year, the county clerk’s three-person office issued approximated 1,200 marriage licenses and performed about 500 ceremonies, Ms. Wootten said.

“Having the county perform the wedding is an inexpensive way to do it,” she said. “There are a lot of people struggling with finances these days, but with the updated chapel, they can still have a beautiful wedding ceremony inexpensively.”

For in-state residents, the county charges $50 for a marriage license, a $20 recording fee and a $50 ceremony fee which includes the clerk’s services if she has to travel or if the chapel is used.

The chapel has an occupancy limit of eight people, but Ms. Wootten said they “make it work” if more attend.

“We’re happy to travel to wedding sites. I can go anywhere in the counties as long as it remains in the state. I end up on the beach in Sussex County sometimes,” Ms. Wootten said.

The $20 recording fee was added last August. A similar recording fee for all licenses issued through the marriage bureau was instituted in New Castle County in 2015 and Sussex County last July, said Ms. Wootten said at the time. She noted that New Castle County generated an extra $50,000 with its fee in 2016.

“The data input process is time consuming because we have to record marriage licenses accurately and submit them to the state for archiving,” said Ms. Wootten last August. “This fee will compensate the county a tremendous amount of money.

“For example, our statistics from last year show that we did 1,016 marriage licenses — which would have been $20,320 for the county. I feel that the fee is important, and long overdue”

Wootten dynasty

Taking office in late 2016, Ms. Wootten’s predecessor was her mother, Loretta Wootten, who served in the post for three four-year terms.

Brenda earned a B.S. in paralegal studies at Wesley College and had worked 27 years for the state of Delaware in the judicial and executive branches of government. The work included a nine-year stint with Justice of the Peace Court No. 7, two years with the Commissioner of Elections office, two years with the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill and as a judicial case manager with the Court of Chancery for 16 years.

She says she couldn’t be prouder to be in the same office her mother held.

“I love this job, and I love serving the public,” Ms. Wootten said. “I look forward to serving in this position for many years just like my mother. She did a wonderful job and it’s a great honor to be following in her footsteps.”

Ms. Wootten said her mother stopped by recently to observe the chapel renovations and was very pleased with how they’ve turned out.

“She said ‘oh, you’re just trying to outdo me!’” Ms. Wootten joked.

The Clerk of the Peace’s office is located in the county building on 555 Bay Road in Dover.

Ms. Wootten can be reached at (302) 744-2346 or by emailing clerk@co.kent.de.us. The office hours are 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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