When I posted about the role of videoconferencing in custody matters it had not occurred to me that videoconferencing might also play a role in marriages as well. Yet, people all over the world have been utilizing services such as Skype to get married.
The trend is called “Marriage by Proxy” and is legal in only four states in the country: California, Colorado, Texas and Montana. A double proxy wedding, where neither party is present, is only legal in Montana. Generally, in a state where Marriage by Proxy is legal, only one party will be at the wedding and someone else will either stand-in for the absent party or the absent party will appear via video conference.
Members of the armed forces have taken advantage of videoconferencing when they can not be present in the same place on the date of their wedding. In 2010, an Air Force Captain deployed to Afghanistan wed his fiancée who lived in Texas. The couple had met on the internet and spent countless hours communicating through e-mail and videoconference, but had never actually met in-person when they were married. For them, getting married on Skype made perfect sense.
Same sex couples have tried to use videoconferencing to conduct their wedding ceremonies in states that allows same sex unions when their state of residence does not. Mark Reed and Dante Walkup tried to marry while in Texas using an officiant who was in the District of Columbia. The ceremony, which was attended by family and friends and included all the usual wedding pomp, was conducted over Skype. The couple traveled to Washington D.C. prior to the ceremony and obtained a valid marriage license. Yet following the ceremony, the couple was contacted by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and told that the marriage was invalid. In order to validate their marriage, the couple and the officiant must be present within the District at the time of the ceremony.
While it might seem easier to have your groom appear on a television screen via Skype than to patiently await his return from abroad, be careful that you meet all the legal requirements (including who officiates) attendant to a Marriage By Proxy. The last thing you want is to find out, decades later, that you were never legally married.