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“The Las Vegas of Virtual Weddings”: Utah Sen. Weiler works with County Clerk and others to clarify guidelines for virtual marriages

Published Friday, Jan. 19th, 2024


Two brides sit in front of a laptop showing off their wedding rings during an online virtual marriage ceremony. They are smiling and happy, wearing casual clothes.

Proposed legislation addresses potential legal issues with Utah's 'remote appearance' marriage ceremonies, while keeping virtual option available to most couples 

 

 

Utah Senators gathered yesterday afternoon to consider a substitute bill introduced by Sen. Todd Weiler that clarifies and strengthens the state’s guidelines for virtual marriage ceremonies.  

 

Senate Bill 81 1st Substitute was favorably recommended to the full Senate by a unanimous vote. As it’s currently written, the bill allows couples anywhere in the world to get married in an online wedding ceremony using a Utah marriage license, as long as their officiant is in Utah and certain guidelines are followed carefully. 

 

(A previous version of the marriage bill would have required at least one of the individuals getting married to be physically located in Utah during the ceremony. Read about the earlier version here: Will Utah Legislators Put Limits on Virtual Weddings in 2024?

 

During the Senate hearing, Sen. Weiler emphasized that he was appreciative of input he’d received from the Utah County Clerk’s office, his constituents, and others about how to improve the legislation.

 

“I want to get this right,” he said, adding that he’s “fine with Utah being the Las Vegas of virtual weddings,” as long as certain “guard rails” are in place to prevent unlawful marriages. 

 

This legislation is expected to put those ‘guard rails’ in place, while keeping most current practices the same.

 

The Senator said that legal issues involving Utah’s remote marriage ceremonies have “crept up” in the past few years, including a plural marriage between parties in the Middle East that he’d been hired to dissolve. He also stressed the need to revise the law in a way that protects the safety of underage parties.

 

To prevent these types of issues and others from occurring in the future, Weiler’s bill includes several meaningful provisions: 

 

  • creates a criminal penalty for an officiant who knowingly makes a false statement on a marriage certificate
  • prohibits the use of a power of attorney to secure a marriage license for another person
  • and strengthens guidelines for confirming an individual's age, legal name, and identity when they apply for a marriage license

 

 

 

After the hearing, Utah County Deputy Clerk and Digital Services Supervisor Russ J. Rampton told AMM: 

 

“We are grateful for the work of Senator Weiler in sponsoring a version of this marriage bill that strikes the correct balance in protecting people and processes while allowing remote appearance ceremonies to continue. 

 

The current proposed legislation will require the officiant to be physically present in Utah, while the parties to the marriage can be anywhere in the world. It is based on the best practices of Utah County and addresses the major issues concerning remote appearance marriages. 

 

With necessary guardrails to prevent abuse, clear language in Utah law legitimizing digital marriage licenses and remote appearance ceremonies will validate previous marriages and keep this option available to many couples.”

 

 


There are more steps ahead in the legislative process, and further amendments to the bill can be made.

 

Find the most up to date information by visiting the Utah State Legislature’s website.

 

In the meantime, we’re keeping a close eye on this bill and will keep you up to date as the session continues.

 

Visit the AMM News page for updates: 

 

AMM News: Marriage Laws

 

 


 

Browse more Utah Wedding Ideas & Inspiration

 



What’s so important about Utah County’s remote wedding services? 

 


With the use of audio-video technology like Zoom or Skype, Utah County’s online wedding services are just as legal as a traditional marriage ceremony, and just as meaningful. 

 

Couples apply for their Utah marriage license electronically, meet with an authorized Utah officiant virtually to take their vows, and have their documents signed and filed without ever leaving home. 

 

 

It’s been a valuable and life-changing service for couples all over the country and around the world. Same-sex couples and interfaith couples who are unable to marry in their home countries due to strict religious laws have especially benefited, as well as deployed members of the U.S. armed forces, disabled and vulnerable adults who cannot travel for a wedding, long-distance couples on a budget, and many others who simply appreciate the ease and comfort of getting married online.

 

 

It’s a unique service. In fact, this type of fully-remote marriage license and ceremony is only available in Utah, with a Utah County marriage license! While a few other states do offer limited remote marriage services, all of these require that the couple and their officiant be physically located within the state while the ceremony takes place. 

 

 

Virtual remote marriage services became popular in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when travel restrictions and safety precautions made it difficult for couples to get married in traditional ways. At that time, several states issued temporary executive orders that suspended requirements for in-person participation and allowed marriages to be solemnized remotely. 

 

Since then, remote weddings have become less common. But they continue to be recognized as a useful and valuable alternative to traditional weddings – allowing couples to get married in a simple and hassle-free way, offering officiants an additional business opportunity, and giving families the chance to gather and celebrate in an affordable and safe way.

 

Currently, lawmakers in New Jersey and New York are considering legislation to bring back virtual marriage ceremonies and expand their online marriage license services, to make it possible for couples and officiants to once again meet remotely over Zoom or Skype to solemnize a marriage or apply for a marriage license. 

 

For more information and inspiration about virtual wedding ceremonies, click the link below:

 

Browse all Virtual Weddings Ideas & Inspiration 

 

 

Close up of a laptop keypad with a woman's hand, and two paper dolls in the shape of wedding clothes, sitting beside two gold wedding rings

 

 


 


Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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