Published: Friday, Apr. 16th, 2021
If you or your soon-to-be-spouse serve in the military, you already know that planning a weekly video call can be difficult -- let alone a wedding!
Long-distance date nights, time-zone headaches, frequent moves, sudden deployments, the list of potential complications goes on… but it’s all worth it, we know!
To help you navigate the planning process and get on to the good stuff -- the adventure of building your life together -- we’ve put together some common definitions and ceremony options to inspire you.
If you’ve been asked to officiate a proxy or double proxy wedding, we’ve got you covered, too!
We’ll talk about any legal issues you should be aware of, which states allow these types of ceremonies, and how to work best with your couple.
In a proxy marriage ceremony, one of the partners getting married isn’t able to physically appear before the officiant -- for example, during deployment -- and has a trusted friend or family member ‘stand in’ for them at the ceremony. Proxy marriages require a power of attorney and other state-specific paperwork to make them legally binding.
Each state has its own laws for marriage by proxy, so you’ll want to check with the rules in your area. Most states restrict proxy marriages to members of the armed forces and individuals with extenuating health issues.
During a proxy marriage, the partner who’s able to be present stands before the officiant, joined by the absent partner’s physical stand-in. The wedding ceremony takes place as planned, with the officiant performing their usual duties, and the proxy saying the ‘I do’s on behalf of the absent partner. The marriage license and any other necessary paperwork is filed as usual, and the marriage is legally valid.
If you’re brand new to officiating (get ordained online now!) and this will be your first wedding of any kind, you can browse our Officiant Registration by State and Wedding Officiant Training pages for a head start on what to expect and how to begin. Keep in mind that if you’re standing in as a proxy for a friend or loved one, you cannot also officiate. You’ll need a third party to perform the marriage.
Other states, like Kansas, may or may not offer proxy marriages on a county by county basis. If they do, additional paperwork or witnesses might be needed, for example a signed affidavit from the absent party. To know what’s possible in your situation, we recommend you call the county where you wish to hold the ceremony, and follow their guidelines.
Double proxy marriages are just like the single proxy option, except both partners are absent. These unique ceremonies are only possible in some counties in Montana, but are available to both civilians and military personnel.
Double proxy marriages performed in Montana are valid in all US states except Iowa. These ceremonies are good options when both parties to the marriage are active duty military personnel, or when both parties are impacted by extenuating circumstances such as poor health.
In some cases, a virtual wedding might be an option! This is not a proxy marriage, but it definitely helps when one partner can’t be physically present at the wedding ceremony with the other partner and their officiant.
During the coronavirus pandemic, virtual weddings have become increasingly popular. But true virtual ceremonies -- those with the parties to the marriage and the wedding officiant in separate physical locations -- are only legal in a few states.
Right now, due to emergency orders issued during the pandemic, virtual weddings are possible in a handful of states: Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Utah.
Read These states are where you can - and can't - get married online for details on each state, which will have its own rules on completing the process. Keep in mind that these options may change as each state’s emergency guidelines update or expire. Check with your county office directly to learn its guidelines for virtual weddings.
For officiants performing virtual ceremonies, it’s important to pay attention to the rules in your state. You may be required to be physically located in the state or county where the marriage license was issued, and you may be required to serve as the ‘host’ of the video conferencing call during the ceremony.
You may also want to read Officiate a Virtual Wedding Like a Pro! for useful suggestions on hosting, staging, lighting, planning, and completing the ceremony.
In some cases, a same-day ceremony or last minute elopement might be your best bet. Spontaneity can be very romantic! If you or your fiancé/e are about to leave the country, and have a limited window to tie the knot, the first thing to do is find out if there’s a marriage license waiting period in your state.
To find out, read State-by-state marriage waiting periods should be part of your wedding plan. Waiting periods range from 24-hours to 8 full days depending on the location. This is the length of time you will be required to wait between applying for the license and receiving or using the license during a ceremony.
So if you want to get married fast, first make sure you’re in a state without a waiting period! Then, have a friend or family member officiate, or find a local professional officiant that enjoys elopements and last minute weddings.
Consider having a loved one get ordained online (this is fast and free with AMM!), apply for your marriage licence at your local courthouse, and have the ceremony later the same day in your home or at a favorite location, such as a local park, backyard, or cafe.
When you’re having a last minute elopement, all the usual traditions and obligations of who to invite and what kind of venue to consider no longer apply, so have fun!
If you have to put a big wedding on hold for now, just remember that you can always have a party (or two) later.
‘Sequel weddings’ are second wedding ceremonies held after the first, smaller, legally binding ceremony. They’re popular when circumstances keep friends and loved ones from attending the first ceremony, or in the case of military marriages, when a partner can’t be there in person to say their vows and kiss their new spouse.
These ceremonies can look just like a conventional wedding if that’s what you want, but the ceremony wording will be altered slightly to reflect that you’re already married.
Similarly, a vow renewal, anniversary ceremony, or wedding ‘after party’ might be the way to go!
All of these options are a lot of fun, and give you the chance to plan a big bash that you can both attend in person, with all your loved ones beside you, when the timing’s right.
In each of these cases (except for the sequel wedding and vow renewal options), you’ll still need to sign and file a valid marriage license with the county office in charge of marriages.
You’ll receive specific instructions for completing and filing the license when you apply for it, based on your unique circumstances and which of the options you’ve chosen.
Share these instructions with your wedding officiant, and follow them carefully. Each state has its own rules on who should return the license (the couple or the officiant), and how long that person has to return it.
This is called the ‘return period’, and you’ll want to make sure your license is filed by the appropriate party within that window to ensure your marriage is legally binding.
Read Marriage License Waiting Period, Expiration, and Return to learn how much time you have to file in your state.
We know that for many military couples, waiting until everyone is in the same place at the same time isn’t practical. Marriage gives military partners access to benefits like insurance and housing, and provides security for families. Sometimes sooner is simply better.
Consider one of the options above, and remember -- unconventional ceremonies can be unexpectedly perfect, especially when you’re marrying the right person!
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!