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Is it the End of the Virtual Wedding Era? A Look at What’s Left and What’s Next

Published Friday, Nov. 19th, 2021

Illustration by Jessica Levey

A look at what’s next for online marriage license applications and appointments, virtual wedding ceremonies, and more, as the digital wedding dust settles. 



Not that long ago, states scrambled to help stranded couples make their wedding dreams come true, despite the pandemic, by issuing a series of unique executive orders. 


From New York to California, governors and county clerks quickly changed the rules of marriage, allowing virtual wedding ceremonies and online marriage license appointments for the first time. This temporary fix proved incredibly valuable for couples and their officiants as necessary restrictions on gathering became widespread, and thousands of wedding venues closed their doors indefinitely.


But as the pandemic enters its next phase, and many of these emergency orders expire, is the Era of Virtual Weddings coming to an unceremonious end?


Maybe! With one notable exception: Utah. 


Utah County is *the* virtual wedding destination 


Utah was the first state to make the marriage process fully accessible online, and it’s the last remaining state to allow private virtual ceremonies, as executive orders expire and the digital wedding dust settles. 


Utah’s system has always been unique, because it doesn’t require couples to be physically located within the state to marry there, independent officiants and ordained ministers can perform the ceremony, and there are no residency or citizenship requirements to apply for a Utah marriage license. Under the guidance of an authorized Utah wedding officiant, couples located in any state -- or any country -- can have their marriage solemnized and registered in Utah County.  


Utah's online system is designed to be long-lasting; it’s not contingent on any temporary orders. In fact, the fully remote system was launched in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic started. 



A few states are still offering virtual civil ceremonies, which can only be performed by clerks or justices through the state’s court systems (not by independent wedding officiants or clergy). For example, California, Arizona, and Illinois currently have temporary provisions in place to use on an as-needed basis.


Will a need for online ceremonies return in the future? Is there enough demand for these special ceremonies to make states change their laws for good? It’s possible. The future of the pandemic is still uncertain, and although a growing percentage of the US population is vaccinated, with children 5 and up now eligible and booster shots available to most adults, scientists speculate that cases of COVID-19 will likely rise in all states throughout the winter months. 


This means that new emergency orders could be put in place, and virtual weddings might once again become a popular choice for cautious couples and their families.




Online marriage license applications and appointments


Several counties and states continue to offer online marriage license appointments, even if virtual weddings are off the table for now. 


States like Arizona, California, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, all have at least one county providing virtual appointments and online applications. And Texas created a new statute this year, making the availability of virtual appointments permanent! Find useful links and details in the article below. 


We expect online appointment offerings to continue over the coming year, especially as the projected 2022 wedding boom takes hold and a record number of couples head to the altar.




What’s next? 


If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that wedding professionals can adapt to any challenge. Despite incredible odds, wedding officiants and other vendors continue to make wedding dreams come true for couples everywhere. 


With this kind of imagination and creativity driving the industry in exciting new directions, and an industry landscape that looks a lot different than it did two years ago, it’s hard to know exactly which new trend will take the place of the Virtual Wedding. 


Will couples elope in even larger numbers? Will 2022 be the year of the mass wedding? Or will it bring something else entirely? A destination wedding in space, perhaps? 


All we can say for sure is that love always wins, and we’ll be right beside you, to celebrate your love in whatever wonderful way you choose. 


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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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