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My question is very simple: are marriages arranged through Web Wed legal? Specifically:

  • Are such marriages fully recognized in the United States?
  • With the apostille service, are such licences fully recognized in all countries? For this part of the question, I am particularly interested in the case where neither spouse is a United States resident or citizen. If there are some countries that are known to or expected o not recognize Web Wed marriages, I would appreciate the clarification.

EDIT:

  • I am aware of the new laws (sometimes temporary) put in place because of Covid-19 restrictions, but I am not asking about that. Web Wed claims that they have been arranging weddings since 2015, so apparently their legal framework has nothing to do with the temporary Covid-19 provisions. My question is about if Web Wed as a specific company provides legally recognized services (with or without Covid-19 allowances).
  • Web Wed explicitly claims that their arrangements are NOT proxy marriages, so my question is about the legality of the alternative approach that they take.
  • I am hoping for answers more specific than generic "this is not possible" responses without knowing Web Wed's specific approach (such as the answers offered to Quora's question on the same topic, not posted by me).
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  • The word "arranged though" makes it sound like a matchmaking service, rather than a service that facilitates weddings between people who are physically in different places at the same time (which, whatever WebWed may choose to call it, is the legal definition of a proxy wedding).
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 6 '21 at 20:19
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According to an article in Bride's "Zoom Weddings Are Now Legal!" dated April 2021,several states including California, New York, Ohio, and Colorado have made temporary arrangements to make it legal for weddings to take place over video conference in response to the pandemic. Several also permit remote applications for marriage licenses.

According to the June 2021 article "Is it legal to have a virtual wedding?" from Wedfuly states permitting such weddings include New York, California, and Illinois. However, in Florida, Hawaii, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas the article says that both parties to the wedding, and the officiant must all be physically present in the same place, although the wedding may be displayed on video for people at other locations.

According to the New York Times article "Why Virtual Weddings Are No Longer Legal in New York" dated July 16, 2021, on June 25, 2021 Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ended the executive order he originally issued in April 2020 allowing couples to be married online.

According to that NYT article new legislation would be required for such weddings to be legal in New York again.

Other states might cancel or change their temporary rules allowing "virtual" weddings at any time. The New York decision apparently came as a surprise, causing a number of scheduled weddings to be canceled or changed to in-person events. One planning such a wedding would do well to check current rules in the state involved.

Citizenship or permanent residence should not matter to the validity of such weddings, as it does not matter for in-person weddings. However, it seems that both parties and the officiant must all be physically present within the same US state or other jurisdiction for the marriage to be valid.

Not all countries recognize the validity of such "virtual" marriages. It is specifically mentioned that the UK does not.

Also, it seems that while such weddings were lawful in New York, the temporary rules required that both members of the couple, and the officiant, be physically within the state of New York for the wedding to be legal. Other states seem to have similar rules.

If the members of the couple are not in the same state, it seems that the wedding becomes a "proxy wedding". This is a process where one person is not present at all, but is represented by a "proxy". Proxy weddings have been lawful far back in history, at least as far as the middle ages in Europe, and perhaps farther. They are currently lawful in only a few US states. According to the Wikipedia article linked above these are: Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana. Such weddings are invalid in all other states. Some of those states limit proxy marriages to active members of the US Military on deployment.

The service Web Wed seems to claim that members of a couple may be located anywhere or the virtual wedding, but this appears incorrect. They also claim a patent on some forms of this process, and seem to say that they are the only legitimate provider of virtual weddings, but the articles linked above quote various officiants and services that have performed hundreds of such marriages.

Under the "full faith and credit" clause of the US Constitution, marriages that are legal under the laws of any US state must be recognized by all other US states. Other countries may or may not recognize such marriages, depending on their own laws.

I do not find any court case in which such a wedding was challenged and a court ruled on its validity, one way or the other.

Additional info

An answer by user Roberto says that Web Wed does this by having an officiant in Utah County, Utah. The Utah County Clerk's office page on Web Ceremonies does say that the counter permits weddings by video conference as long as the "host location" is in the state of Utah. However, it does not mention WebWed specifically, and some of the information does not match. WebWed's site says:

Once you have the license, there is no rush to perform the ceremony. Once issued thru the courts the marriage licenses never expire, so once you have it you can get legally married whenever you wish. However, please note that each state expiration is different. You must adhere to that specific state policy. In most states, you have 30 days to get married after the license is issued.

Utah marriage licenses are valid for only 30 days and are not issued by a court, so that does not seem to be what WebWed is talking about. The public pages of their site do not seem to mention Utah specifically.

The WebWed site also says:

A state issued marriage license is required to use this service. Please note that it is the registers/users responsibility to verify and abide by state, county, and armed forces marriage laws prior to using this service.

WebWed's site advises government officials to reject any online marriage not preformed through their service. If such marriages are lawful and valid, they will be available to anyone that follows the proper rules. US states do not grant exclusive rights to specific commercial services in such cases.

US Federal Law

8 U.S. Code § 1101 which is the Definitions section for CHAPTER 12— IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY, says that:

(a) As used in this chapter—

...

(a) (35) The term “spouse”, “wife”, or “husband” do not include a spouse, wife, or husband by reason of any marriage ceremony where the contracting parties thereto are not physically present in the presence of each other, unless the marriage shall have been consummated.

"consummated" is not defined in this section, and so presumably has its normal meaning in regard to marriage, that is, that the parties have had sexual relations at least once after the marriage occurred.

This section would apply to proxy marriages as well as to "virtual" marriages, but applies only in the context of immigration law.

Normally US Federal law leaves the issue of marriages to the states, except where there is a claim that Federal constitutional rights are being infringed, such as in the cases of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) which forbade states to prohibit interracial marriage, and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015) which forbade states to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Utah Law

Section 30-1-6 of the Utah Code provides that:

30-1-7. Marriage licenses -- Use within state -- Expiration.
(1) No marriage may be solemnized in this state without a license issued by the county clerk of any county of this state.
(2) A license issued within this state by a county clerk may only be used within this state.
(3) A license that is not used within 32 days after the day on which the licensed is issued is void.

Note that 30-1-6(2) says that any such marriage shall take place "within the state". Nothing in this section, or any other section of chapter 30, specifically authorizes a marriage by video conference where one or both parties are not within the state when the marriage occurs. It is not clear on what basis the Utah County clerk's office considers such marriages valid.

Section 30-1-8 of the Utah Code provides that:

(b) Each applicant and if an applicant is a minor, the minor's consenting parent or legal guardian, shall appear in person before the clerk and provide legal documentation to establish the following information ...

However that may be relevant only when one or both parties to the marriage is a minor.

I can find no other provisions of the Utah code which control applications for a license by web, or specifies where a marriage may or may not be held, or who is or is not required to be physically present at a valid marriage ceremony.

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  • Thank you for your meticulous answer. Unfortunately, your answer seems to be a generic Covid-19 era response, and that's not what I was looking for. (Note that I said nothing about Covid-19 in my question.) Web Wed claims that they have been arranging weddings since 2015, so apparently their legal framework has nothing to do with the temporary Covid-19 provisions. This is what I am asking about--do they actually deliver on what they claim? I hope my question is clearer now. I will post a clarifying edit to make this explicit.
    – Tripartio
    Aug 6 '21 at 16:41
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    @Ochado So far as i can tell, such weddings were not legally valid, at least in most US states, prior to the temporary authorizations based on Covid-19. Before that, it would seem that such marriages would be valid only in those few US states recognizing proxy marriage. As for non-US jurisdictions, some do but most do not recognize proxy marriages. Web Wed says that what they offer is not proxy marriage but something different, but they do not cite and I cannot find any legal basis for that. I find no reported case where such a marriage has been challenged and a court has ruled on it. [...] Aug 6 '21 at 17:20
  • @Ochado [...] Without a legal basis being cited by WebWed, I cannot say if such marriages are valid outside the temporary covid rules. Note that most but noit all countries follow the rule that if a marriage is valid where it occurs, it is treated as valid even if that country's law would not have permitted it. One exception is multiple marriages (polygamy & polyandry) , which many jurisdictions will not recognize even if valid where entered into. Aug 6 '21 at 17:25
  • @Ochado I have added to my answer about the Utah rules. Aug 6 '21 at 18:41
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    For immigration purposes in the US, there's a requirement that if one of the spouses wasn't physically present at the marriage, the marriage must have been consummated (i.e. both members of the couple were in the same place at the same time at some point following the wedding according to CHAPTER 12-IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY)
    – ColleenV
    Aug 6 '21 at 18:55
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It is legal. They do this by having an officiant in Utah County, UT officiate the wedding, as this county allows legal marriage by proxy. You do not need to use Web Wed in order to execute this, you can do it yourself. You can also use a service like Wedfuly to include friends and family in your virtual wedding and make it more fun and festive.

You can read more about the Utah county here: https://www.utahcounty.gov/Dept/ClerkAud/WebCeremonyFAQ.html

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    Thanks, but where did you find the information that Web Wed uses an officiant in Utah County? The information you linked to corresponds closely to what Web Wed offers, but they say they have been doing this since 2015, not since January 2020, when the Utah law apparently came into place. Could you please cite your basis for linking this to Web Wed?
    – Tripartio
    Aug 6 '21 at 17:47
  • I have evaluated their operation from a business perspective, and know that this is what they're doing now. I can't vouch for what they did in 2015.
    – Roberto
    Aug 6 '21 at 19:52
  • Can you cite any reliable source which supports this, please? Aug 6 '21 at 20:47
  • I'm not sure what kind of sources you're expecting. They aren't going to publish info on the inner workings of their business. You'll just have to trust that I have it on good authority.
    – Roberto
    Aug 6 '21 at 21:16
  • Actually, I stand corrected. Here you go: govtech.com/gov-experience/…
    – Roberto
    Aug 6 '21 at 21:28

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