Couple getting married online
Can you bypass coronavirus restrictions by getting married online or performing weddings via the internet?

Update: 4/20/2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced over the weekend that New York state will now allow weddings to take place via videochat:


All the plans were made, guests were invited, and venues were booked. Then the coronavirus outbreak hit. Now, most of the country is mandated to stay indoors and group gatherings have been completely banned. Couples who have been dreaming of their wedding day for years are now facing the unimaginable: postponing the ceremony entirely.

For some, that means a new wedding date later this year or in 2021. But others don’t want to wait until restrictions are lifted to tie the knot.

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, brides, grooms, and ministers alike have been asking about harnessing the power of the internet for marriage. Can you bypass coronavirus restrictions by getting married online or performing weddings via the internet?

We did some digging to look for answers. Here’s what we found.

Getting Married on Zoom or Skype

Services like Facebook Live, Skype and Zoom all provide platforms for people to meet virtually. Many of ULC ministers who can no longer get to the same physical space as the bride and groom are now exploring the option of officiating a virtual wedding from afar.

Unfortunately, this remains a legal grey area. If you research the marriage laws in your area, you likely won’t find a section addressing virtual weddings specifically. What you will often find is language mandating that both members of the couple and the minister need to be physically present to sign the marriage documents. In almost all states, that is a requirement.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule – primarily through a little-known legal provision known as proxy marriage. 

Marriage by Proxy

By proxy wedding or by proxy marriage is a type of marriage ceremony whereby one (or both) members of the couple are not physically present for the wedding. In certain states, the law allows someone to stand in the place of a bride or groom, and using power of attorney, sign the marriage documents on their behalf.

This workaround is typically reserved for members of the military who are stationed overseas, or in other circumstances of physical limitation. It’s unclear how coronavirus restrictions would be treated under this law.

The list of states that allow wedding by proxy is a short one: California, Colorado, Texas and Montana. Montana is unique – it’s the only state that allows both members of the couple to have a proxy stand in.

Unfortunately, it does not appear any state law addresses the concept of a by proxy minister.

Why Online Marriage May Not be Legal

Not having a minister physically present for a wedding ceremony could potentially create a number of legal issues. First, the law in each state – usually in the portion that addresses the solemnization – lists the requirement that the minister sign the marriage license. If the minister is not present, then they obviously cannot take this important legal step.

The second problem is that a marriage license is typically valid only in the county where it is issued. Therefore, a minister using a video app like Zoom or Skype to perform vows from somewhere else in the country (or even the state) may not actually be allowed to perform a legally binding ceremony. Even if the minister is within the same county, issue #1 remains.

So here’s the frustrating conclusion: as far as we can tell, in almost all places in the United States, it is most likely not possible to have a legally binding marriage online, or without the minister and both members of the couple physically present in the same space. Until this particular situation is addressed directly with new legislation or relaxation of the physical requirements, it appears getting married online legally will have to wait.   

19 comments

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    My Pagan wedding was on a secluded cove on a private beach in Maui. There was just me, my bride, and the officiater. We literally Tied the Knot, and jumped the broomstick, both of which my wife made. It doesn’t have to be a huge affair. Have a post wedding party, if you need one, when this virus issue has died down.

    🦁❤️

    1. Reverend Cory's Avatar Reverend Cory

      Maui, what a beautiful location for a ceremony. Haven't been there since 2013, absolutely loved it. Congratulations by the way!

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Before I started reading these comments I was about to write practically the same things as Lionheart, except for the part about having jumped the broom, yet. I think I'm destined to remain a bachelor. The only thing I can think of adding is that the couple and minister could all wear face masks and rubber gloves, stay six feet away from each other, and rub elbows when it's time to kiss the bride.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      There couldn't be a law requiring people to get married in a church. I'm sure couples can have the ceremony in any setting they choose, or don't have one at all. They could even do it on a three way party line on a phone. All they have to do is get a marriage license from a courthouse, and by law they are legally married.

  1. Kathy Jo Palmer's Avatar Kathy Jo Palmer

    I don't see why signing documents digitally should be a problem for marriage, all sorts of legally binding documents are signed digitally on a daily basis these days. Most of the documents I signed when preparing to purchase my house were all completed through email and online documents. I feel that part, at the very least, should only be a matter of creating the right documents with a way to sign them that the government would find acceptable.

    1. Michael Paul Mykita's Avatar Michael Paul Mykita

      Exactly! Furthermore, here in Pennsylvania most of the issues addressed in the article do not apply. Specifically, you can get a license in any county and get married in any county - they don't have to be the same one. The documents go back to the county that issued the license. And the only signature is the officiant's, so the couple could simply mail the license to the minister, who will physically sign it and mail copies to the couple and the county clerk. This doesn't seem to be a problem in PA.

      Also, Pennsylvania has another type of marriage license which originated with the Quakers, a religious sect that doesn't have priests in their worship ceremonies. Consequently the marriage certificate only requires the signatures of any two witnesses. Granted, that's one more than having the minister sign it, but a remote minister is possible as long as the couple has two other people there to physically witness the vows.

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    I know a wedding is an personal event.However most people are aware we're going through a dire life and death situation. Don't risk your life?

    1. the People's Project 5's Avatar the People's Project 5

      Not online.

  1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

    Marriage is already a life and death issue, and Life dependfs on not having your honeymoon by proxy. The relations should attend Witness on line, due to travel restrictions, and the reception can wait until the travel restrictions have been taken care of by the honeymoon. Second Life has some excellent venues on line, if they're still in business, and everybody can enjoy what someone decided was the very best view.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I once had a friend who was a former Baptist minister who told his fiance that because of it he could marry them. That's the only way he could get her to move in with him, in the back of his 1966 Mustang. [ They were fairly small people.] It was just the two of them, and a stack of U.F.O. magazines. He was also a former Greyhound bus driver.

  1. Diana Poindexter-Huseby's Avatar Diana Poindexter-Huseby

    I am performing a Wedding Ceremony on Monday at my home. While the couple has been unable to get a marriage license I have a Certificate and we will use it. We can gather up to 10 people therefore we are keeping it small. Myself, my husband, bride, groom, best man and maid of honor. It is possible if you are willing to do the Ceremony. When the Coronavirus is over they will renew their vows and make it legal. I don't believe that God cares whether or not they have a legal marriage license. Their Certificate will still have the true date they took their vows. If you can work in a fast food restaurant, the grocery store, work at a factory, etc. and not be afraid you should be able to go to your Ministers home and not be afraid. Come on people we are here to serve...

  1. Terry L. Bishop's Avatar Terry L. Bishop

    Here in MN I have held several over the phone because the man was behind bars and the woman was either barred from visiting or as one bride's father wasn't able to attend a prison ceremony because he had a warrant out for his arrest in MN.. She had him sign the license and he sent it back to her, then we meet at a coffee shop or one time an A&W the prison calls, and we do the vows, of course he has to identify himself and I do confirm he wants to go through with this. of course there are witnesses to the wedding who also identify the voice on the other end as the man.. and I do the vows, we all sign the certificate and it gets sent in.. Per the Attorney General this is legal..

    1. Jaime Hernandez's Avatar Jaime Hernandez

      That's an interesting thought, Terry, however that is legally a different situation. The states usually make concessions for a couple where one or more in incarcerated that, to the best of knowledge, they are not willing to make in these circumstances. Marriage by proxy is only valid in a tiny few states, and means there still has to be a physical ceremony, but one member of the couple is replaced in person by their pre-established power of attorney.

  1. Jesse Leffler's Avatar Jesse Leffler

    It is similar to performing a notarial act, in that as a Notary Public in my state, I understand that when I notarize a signature, it must be live and in person, indicating that the signer(s) signed a document in my presence. I certainly understand that, and I understand why.

  1. David Lee Valdina's Avatar David Lee Valdina

    Consummation of the marriage is a requirement if the marriage is to resist annulment. I suppose there could be a form of digital consummation and of course if the marriage is by proxy, then consummation could also be by proxy. Interesting times we live in.

  1. Martin Johnson's Avatar Martin Johnson

    Just a question, seeing if this will work: why not have the bride and groom mail the wedding license to the minister, he signs and pre dates it for the actual wedding day ?

    1. Jaime Hernandez's Avatar Jaime Hernandez

      That's not legally binding. The couple, the minister, and any witnesses required by the marriage license must all be physically present for it to count. You also cannot provide false information as to when any signatures occurred.

  1. Deborah Vaughan's Avatar Deborah Vaughan

    Here in Ontario Canada, it is illegal to do a wedding online. Everyone has to be in the same space according to the Marriage Act, which is the law. With all the restrictions in place we are not doing ceremonies at all. Too risky for health and our families. Why would a couple not want to wait and celebrate with their friends and families when they can have a great celebration together.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Maybe they don't believe in sex before marriage. That would be a real bummer.

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