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Published: Monday, Feb. 22nd, 2021

Can I Officiate a Virtual Wedding Ceremony In My State?

Answers to common questions about performing and planning virtual weddings over Zoom, Skype, and livestreaming platforms.

 

 

 

Wedding officiants in every state are asking the same five questions about virtual weddings right now:


1. Can I officiate a virtual wedding ceremony in my state? 
2. Are there special rules for officiating virtual weddings? 
3. How do I sign a marriage license for a virtual wedding ceremony? 
4. Do I need to be physically located in the same state as the couple I’m marrying? 
5. How is all of this different from weddings where only guests join remotely? 

 

 

The confusion makes sense! The laws outlining virtual marriage ceremonies are new and changing quickly (some are temporary), and they vary from state to state.

 

 

Heck, even the term ‘virtual wedding’ means something different at different times! 

 

For the purposes of this article, we’ll define ‘virtual wedding ceremony’ as one where brides or grooms are not in the same physical location as their wedding officiant, and are interacting over Zoom, Skype, or another video-conferencing platform.

 

This is different from a wedding where the officiant is standing next to the couple in person, with guests joining over livestream or video-conference (Which, confusingly, is also called a virtual wedding… We know, it’s confusing.)

 

 

image of a computer keyboard with wedding rings to represent online marriage, virtual wedding ceremony, or zoom wedding

Not sure how to perform an online wedding? Read on! 

 

 

Let's tackle each of these questions one at a time, and hopefully shed a little light on the online wedding situation. 

 

 

1. Can I officiate a virtual wedding ceremony in my state? 

 

During the first year and a half of the pandemic, several states suspended their in-person requirements for marriage ceremonies through emergency Executive Orders, allowing couples to hold their ceremonies online. However, most of those orders -- including those in Hawaii, New York, and New Jersey -- have expired.

 

Currently, Utah is the only state that has updated their laws to allow ministers and officiants to perform fully virtual wedding ceremonies -- with the wedding officiant and the wedding party in different physical locations. Illinois is allowing online weddings temporarily, under executive orders, but these orders are scheduled to expire on Jan 8, 2022. Updated Dec 21, 2021 

 

For detailed information, read These states are where you can - and can't - get married online to see which states currently allow couples to apply for a marriage license online. 

 


2. Are there special rules for officiating virtual weddings? 

 

Yes. First, officiants need to meet the legal requirements for performing marriage in the state where the marriage will be registered. (Ordination with American Marriage Ministries prepares you to perform marriage in every state and can be completed in only a minute or two.)

 

Next, officiants should contact their local county clerk's office to learn the most up-to-date guidance on online wedding requirements. 

 

To learn more about officiating a virtual wedding in Utah, visit: 

A Guide to Virtual Wedding Ceremonies in Utah: For Officiants & Couples

 


3. How do I sign a marriage license for a virtual wedding ceremony? 

 

In Utah, officiants can sign a license electronically through an encrypted email link, making the entire process fully remote. 

 

In Illinois, couples must mail a legible copy of the signed document directly to their officiant no later than one day after the document is signed.The officiat must sign and return the same copy to the clerk. (Virtual weddings are allowed in Illinois under executive order; these orders are set to expire Jan 8, 2022.)

 


4. Do I need to be physically located in the same state as the couple I’m marrying? 

 

In Utah, the officiant must be physically located in Utah at the time of the ceremony, but the bride or groom can be located in any state, or any country! Check your local policies as soon as you begin planning your virtual ceremony to ensure the marriage is legally binding. 

 

Couples in Illinois must be physically located in the state, and in the jurisdiction (county) where the marriage is legally allowed to occur. (Virtual weddings are allowed in Illinois under executive order; these orders are set to expire Jan 8, 2022.)

 

 

5. How is all of this different from weddings where only guests join remotely? 

 

Terms like ‘virtual wedding’ and ‘online wedding’ are used loosely and the meanings can become muddled! Often, when people talk about virtual weddings, they’re talking about weddings with an in-person officiant but with guests attending over Zoom, Skype, or livestream.

 

It’s important to understand that in most states, this is the only kind of virtual wedding that’s allowed. These are incredibly popular, and for good reason! It’s much easier to plan a small wedding with only 3 or 5 people in a room right now (with the world all topsy turvy during Covid), and couples can (safely!) supplement the guest list of these microweddings and minimonies and elopements with virtual guests. 

 

 

If you hear someone talking about planning a virtual wedding but aren’t sure about which way they’re using the term, just ask for clarification so that you know which steps to take next! 

 

 


 

For more insight on how to plan or perform a wedding during COVID, read: 

 


 

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