Hawaii’s State Department of Health has issued a notice reminding wedding officiants that state law prohibits virtual marriage ceremonies.
In a letter sent to American Marriage Ministries and other wedding officiants, Alvin T. Onaka, of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics wrote that “For a marriage to be valid, section 572-1(7), Hawaii Revised Statutes, requires that the marriage ceremony be performed in the State by a person or society with a valid license to solemnize marriages and the parties to be married and the person performing the marriage ceremony all be physically present at the same place and time for the marriage ceremony.”
In other words, the couple and their wedding officiant need to be physically present.
While the COVID-19 shutdown has made it complicated, or even temporarily impossible for officiants and couples to perform wedding ceremonies, the rules prohibiting virtual ceremonies have not been suspended by any of the Governor’s executive orders effective during the disaster emergency relief period.
Furthermore, Onaka warned that marriages solemnized without the required parties present will face legal challenge. He wrote that:
“A virtual marriage ceremony done by an individual with a license to solemnize marriages does not meet the legal requirements for a valid marriage. If a marriage conducted in violation of the law gets registered in our system, the validity of such a marriage will always be subject to a legal challenge.”
There's also a clear warning to wedding officiants in the letter: "The Department of Health pursuant to section 572-13.5 Hawaii Revised Statutes could revoke the license of any marriage officiant who misleads couples to attempt to marry in this invalid manner."
Here at AMM, we have been warning couples and officiants to check local regulations. This latest message from Hawaii’s Department of Health underscores the importance of understanding and complying with local regulations. While Hawaii is the first state to issue a clear directive like this, other states are likely to take a similar view of virtual weddings.
While many wedding ceremonies will have to be postponed or altered, it is important to remember that the wedding ceremony is a binding legal contract, and must be undertaken in full accordance with the law. Obviously, we're huge fans of technology - as we offer online ordination right here on this website. That said, we want to ensure that our ministers are in compliance with local regulations, which is why we're bringing you news like this.
As always, we're here to chat if you have further questions. As couples become more flexible in their wedding planning, we are proud of how our ministers have stepped up and officiated with innovative, small, distanced, and safe weddings across the country.