If you’re tying the knot online, you’ll definitely want to check out our guide to online marriage licenses and virtual wedding officiants. We’ll cover everything you need to know, and then some! We have a lot to cover, so let’s just dive right in.
Everything You Need to Know About Virtual Wedding Officiants & Marriage Licenses
A virtual wedding is a wedding ceremony where the officiant, the guests, and the couple join together virtually by video chat platforms such as Facebook Live, FaceTime, Google Meet and Zoom.
While state laws vary, for the most part you’ll need two very important things- a license and an officiant. Let’s start with the license, then we’ll go over virtual wedding officiants.
One note- per Obergefell, same-sex marriages are legal nationwide. So, all of these laws apply whether you’re planning a gay or lesbian wedding or one with opposite-sex partners.
What is a Virtual Marriage License?
A virtual marriage license is a legal document that gives you the authorization to get married. State laws vary in terms of expiration dates, fees and waiting periods.
This license, a must-have in order for a marriage to occur, is obtained on the county clerk or registrar’s website in the state that the couple resides in or plan to be married in.
What is a Virtual Marriage Certificate?
A virtual marriage certificate is a legal document that shows proof that a marriage has taken place. Immediately after the wedding ceremony, the couple, the wedding officiant and one or two witnesses will sign the document.
The officiant then files the marriage certificate with the county clerk or registrar’s office. Once the clerk processes that certificate, the couple receives a certified copy.
Are Virtual or Online Weddings Legal?
Online weddings are only legal in a handful of states (and in some cases, just certain counties) right now. That could change in the future.
We’ll try to keep this list updated for you, but you’ll want to check with your own county clerk to make sure the laws haven’t changed before you make plans to move ahead with a virtual ceremony.
Executive Order N-58-20, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, states that adult applicants can appear before a county clerk, via video conference, to get a marriage license as long as both adults are located in California, both are present during the video conference and both must be able to present a valid ID during the video conference.
Also, couples can hold a virtual ceremony for their wedding “as long as both parties are present and have at least one witness who can join the live video conference.”
Executive Order 2020-36, signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, states that couples may appear before the county clerk using two-way audio-video communication technology, as long as it allows for direct interaction between the couple and the county clerk.
“The couple must present valid photo identification to verify identity whenever required by law and the couple must attest to being physically situated in the jurisdiction where the marriage is legally allowed to occur within the State of Illinois.”
In addition, couples can wed utilizing two-way audio-video communication technology. “During the ceremony, couples must interact with their officiant in real time (no pre-recorded “I do’s”) and they must also show photo identification and attest to being physically present in the state.”
Executive Order No. 135, signed by Governor Phil Murphy, states that couples may use audio-visual technology to apply for their marriage license with a local registrar.
There are certain conditions listed on the website that couples need to meet. Also, couples can have their marriage solemnized via video conference in the physical presence of an officiant and 2 witnesses.
As with the marriage license, couples must meet certain conditions first. Those are also on the website.
Executive Order No. 202.20, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, states that “Any issuance of a marriage license application, marriage license, or witnessing or solemnizing of the marriage ceremony, that is required under New York State law is authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology provided that the listed 6 conditions are met first.”
UTAH COUNTY, UTAH-
The Utah County Clerk’s Office does issue marriage licenses completely online. To apply, “Complete your marriage license application online, verify your identity online, and pay online by credit card or debit card.”
The office can also perform marriage ceremonies via web conferencing. A Deputy Clerk with “a standard script that fulfills the legal requirements of the State of Utah” performs the ceremony.
The Marriage Bureau is processing marriage license applications remotely. Couples must show proof of age by presenting either a valid driver’s license, a government-issued non-driver’s ID or a passport.
Currently, couples can wed via video conferencing. “All parties — both the parties to the wedding and the person performing the wedding — must be physically present in the District of Columbia at the time of the ceremony.”
Besides the 6 states/districts listed above, some areas allow online marriage license applications. However, virtual weddings aren’t legal in these states quite yet.
BOULDER COUNTY, COLORADO-
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Office offers marriage licenses to couples via video call. Applicants must first complete the online application and then schedule a video call appointment for ID verification, prior to a marriage license being issued.
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA-
The Clerk of the Circuit Court will prepare and issue marriage licenses online via virtual appointments. To obtain a marriage license, a couple “must appear on the virtual appointment together and be 18 years of age or older.
During the appointment, couples must have access to the following:
- valid photo identification (a valid driver’s license with picture, passport or military identification);
- a credit card for the $30 fee (MasterCard and Visa only with a 4% transaction fee);
- social security number or Virginia driver’s license number (you do not need to provide their social security card);
- the full names of both applicant’s parents (including full middle names) as they appear on the their birth certificates.
FRANKLIN COUNTY, OHIO-
The Franklin County Probate Court offers the option of obtaining marriage licenses via video conferencing. The applicants must first complete the online marriage license application and then schedule a video conferencing session with the Marriage Department.
WAKE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA-
The Wake County Register of Deeds issues marriage licenses virtually, via video conference, by appointment only. To apply, applicants must first install the free Google Duo App, a high-quality video calling app.
Next, they need to complete the online application for a marriage license and once submitted, the office will contact them to move on to the next step in the process, the video conference.
How to Choose a Virtual Wedding Officiant
According to the Officiant Guy, a wedding officiant is “a civil officer who performs acts of marriage or civil union. Their main responsibility is to receive and witness the consent of the intended spouses and to ensure the legal formalities, and hence the validity of the marriage or civil union, observed.”
An officiant that is virtual is one that mainly provides his or her services solely online.
There are a few choices available to you when choosing a wedding officiant.
- Celebrants- A celebrant performs religious or secular ceremonies and are usually ordained clergy members or legal officials, like judges.
- Civil officiants- Civil wedding officiants are legally registered by the local city clerk’s office.
- Religious leaders- Religious officiants are normally priests, ministers or rabbis.
- Secular officiants- A secular wedding officiant is a non-religious celebrant that often performs interfaith and same-sex ceremonies.
Another option is to have a friend or family member officiate your wedding. It’s easy and very inexpensive for them to get ordained online.
The best places to search for wedding officiants are large-scale wedding sites like Perfect Wedding Guide, The Knot and Wedding Wire, as well as vendor-specific directories such as Wedding Officiants.
Bottom line- finding virtual wedding officiants isn’t terribly challenging. Finding a state or county that allows you to tie the knot on Zoom is a whole different story. Hopefully, that will change in the future, as virtual ceremonies are one of the hottest 2021 wedding trends.