Weddings can be difficult to plan when one or both partners are in the military. Deployments and geographical separation can slow things down. But, if you need to get married faster to add your partner to your insurance plan or another military benefit, a proxy marriage may be a good option.
Proxy marriages allow military service members to exchange their vows when one partner is absent. However, they’re only legal in certain states. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Proxy Marriage?
A proxy marriage is a wedding ceremony performed without the presence of both parties, according to Boyd Law Firm, which specializes in marriage and family law, among other areas. Instead, another person takes the place of the individual who can’t physically be there and may even say their vows.
You might consider a proxy marriage if you’re experiencing geographical separation due to military orders, immigration status problems, imprisonment or other general travel restrictions.
What Is a Double Proxy Marriage?
A double proxy wedding is just like a regular proxy wedding, but neither individual is able to be physically present to exchange vows. In this case, the officiant or person legally authorized to perform marriage ceremonies is the only one that needs to be there. However, double proxy marriages are only legal in Montana. Single proxy marriages are more common.
How a Marriage by Proxy Works
Marriage by proxy allows people to get married and have a ceremony later.
Rules and regulations around marriage by proxy vary by state. To get married by proxy, one person normally needs to be present. A substitute can stand in for the party who isn’t able to be there to exchange vows.
The absent party can join the ceremony by video teleconference. Ceremonies can be traditional and include guests, or a couple may opt for a simpler ceremony followed by a larger celebration when they’re no longer separated. These unions are not very common if the couple both live in the U.S. unless they are in the armed forces.
Is Marriage by Proxy Legal in the US?
Marriage by proxy is legal in five states, but that does not mean every state will recognize your marriage, according to family lawyer Miles Goldrick. But, he said, some states that don’t recognize proxy marriages as traditional marriages may recognize them as common-law marriages.
However, within the state the marriage was completed in, your proxy marriage is just as legal and binding as exchanging vows in person.
There are seven marriage by proxy states; each state has its own requirements you must meet to move forward with the proxy wedding ceremony:
States Where Marriage By Proxy Is Legal
Here are some of the differences between what each state allows:
- California: Military personnel stationed overseas or in combat zones can have a single proxy marriage, according to state law. The stand-in must have the service member’s power of attorney.
- Colorado: A couple can have a single proxy marriage when one person is in jail or out of state, according to Colorado’s revised statutes. One person must also be Colorado resident. Colorado does not practice double proxy marriages.
- Kansas: Single proxy marriages are permitted, according to the Kansas Judicial branch.
- Montana: Single and double proxy marriages are practiced and legal in Montana, according to Montana state law. To have a double proxy marriage, one partner must be a Montana resident or a United States military member. Military members may have a double proxy marriage in Montana regardless of their state of residence.
- New Jersey: Single proxy marriages are allowed for military members, according to The New Jersey Revised Statutes.
- Texas: Single proxy marriages are allowed, according to chapter two of the Texas Family Code.
- Utah: Virtual weddings are allowed with no residency requirement, according to the Utah County Clerk’s Office.
Small details will differ between counties as well. So, it is best to contact the local government to get more information about proxy marriage requirements.
Does the Military Recognize Proxy Marriage?
Military personnel seeking to get married can use a proxy marriage to tie the knot while deployed or otherwise geographically separated. The United States military recognizes proxy marriages as legal, binding marriages.
The same rules that apply to service members who wed traditionally also apply to those who marry by proxy. For example, enlisted military members can not have relationships with officers, per the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
States that practice military proxy marriages can require that service members have finished basic training. They may also require proof that the service member and his or her partner have a relationship and are geographically separated at the time of the ceremony.
Rules and Limitations for Proxy Marriage
While marriage by proxy can make a wedding possible for geographically separated military couples, some rules and limitations apply. Couples must abide by the laws in the jurisdiction they plan to get married.
Any marriage by proxy intended solely for immigration purposes is not valid under federal law.
Proxy marriage does not validate polygamous, underage or incestuous marriages or any other marriage that violates state or federal laws.
Federal and state governments require couples to consummate proxy marriages to validate them. Couples can prove consummation with an affidavit, airline tickets, hotel bills or other documentation that shows they were in the same location at the same time. (It doesn’t have to get any more graphic than that).
Why Military Members Opt for Marriage by Proxy
Getting married by proxy while deployed can provide your partner and family with benefits like Tricare insurance, housing, subsidized child care, SGLI payment and other survivor benefits if you die overseas. Married couples also receive separation pay and a higher housing allowance than single service members, and geographically-separated dual-military couples who get married can get assigned to the same base.
How to Get Married by Proxy
To become a proxy bride or groom, you have to go through a few steps.
First, you’ll have to apply for a marriage license. You’ll need your birth certificate and social security number. You might also need to pay a processing fee.
Further requirements may vary by state, but proxy marriage applications usually require more documentation than traditional marriages.
What You Need to Prepare for a Proxy Marriage
Here’s what you’ll need to obtain a proxy marriage license, according to Boyd Law Firm and proxy wedding service Marriage by Proxy.
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security number
- Information about the bride and groom and their parents
After your marriage ceremony, you’ll need the following documents to validate your marriage, according to Boyd Law Firm.
- Affidavits or personal statements from the couple saying the marriage was consummated
- Hotel reservations or/and plane tickets
Each of these helps verify that the couple is in a relationship and that it is valid.
Once your application has been approved, you can schedule your proxy marriage ceremony with an officiant in a state where proxy marriages are legal. The absent partner can join the ceremony by video call while their stand-in exchanges their vows.
Where to Get a Proxy Marriage
You can find proxy marriage services in any state that allows them or speak with a family law attorney about your options.
As discussed, you must have someone officiate your proxy wedding in person for a single proxy marriage. Your officiant must be licensed in the state to perform the service.
However, virtual weddings have become more common since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to American Marriage Ministries. Licensed officiants can facilitate ceremonies on a video call in states that allow double or virtual proxy marriages.
Military Proxy Marriage Fees
A quick online search of proxy marriage services turns up fees ranging from $600 to $1,000, including legal fees and postage.
Most online double proxy marriage services cost around $750.
How Long Does the Proxy Marriage Process Take?
Obtaining a marriage license and completing the proxy marriage process takes one to two weeks, according to SimpleProxyMarriage.com. An attorney might be able to speed up the process, but it could cost more.