A proxy marriage is a marriage where someone stands in for the other party to take the vows. One of the two people being married is not physically present for the wedding. During the solemnization of the marriage, based upon a power of attorney, an agent acts on behalf of one of the parties.
A double-proxy marriage is a marriage where neither party is present. In the United States, the only state to allow a double-proxy marriage is Montana, though not all Montana counties will allow the proxy marriages.
Marriage by proxy has been around a long time. One of the more famous proxy marriages was in 1810 when Emperor Napoleon married Archduchess Marie Louise by proxy. During the early 1900s, proxy marriages increased significantly when many Japanese picture brides arrived at Angel Island in San Francisco, California. During wartime, proxy marriages are more common.
Where You Can Get Married By Proxy
Four states in the United States allow proxy marriages in some form. Most of the proxy marriage laws are limited to members of the armed forces who are deployed for conflicts or wars. Some have residency requirements.
- Montana: Proxy marriage is only allowed if one party is a resident of Montana or if one party is a member of the U.S. armed forces. Double-proxy marriages may also be allowed in some jurisdictions.
- Calfornia: Proxy marriage is only allowed for a member of the armed forces of the United States who is deployed overseas and serving in a conflict or war. A power of attorney (POA) can be given using the state's POA form that has been notarized or witnessed by two armed forces officers. The person given the power of attorney must be physically present with the original POA document (not a fax).
- Colorado: Proxy marriage is only allowed for a member of the armed forces or a government contractor stationed in another country or state supporting a combat or military operation. One party to the marriage must be a Colorado resident. You must have a notarized Colorado POA form.
- Texas: Proxy marriage is only allowed for a member of the armed forces stationed in another country and for Texas prisoners.
Paraguay: Because of the current restrictive marriage laws, a number of Israeli couples are getting married by proxy or "mail-in" marriage through the consulate of Paraguay in Tel Aviv. According to Israeli law, the Interior Ministry must recognize and register these marriages.
Whether a state or country will recognize a marriage by proxy is a tricky question that seems to depend on whether or not the law of the locale requires that both parties be present to apply for a license or to give their consent at the ceremony. Some states recognize a proxy marriage that was done in another state. Other states only recognize them as a common-law marriage. Iowa does not recognize proxy marriages.
In Canada, proxy marriage is only recognized if the marriage was performed in a jurisdiction that allows proxy marriage.
In some states, U.S. military personnel may be able to annul a proxy marriage provided there is no consummation, no cohabitation, or no treatment as husband and wife after the marriage ceremony.
Unconsummated proxy marriages are not recognized for immigration purposes in most countries, including the United States.
Legal and Financial Concerns
Marriages by proxy are not cheap and they are not readily available. It is advisable that you contact an attorney before getting married by proxy to make sure your marriage will be considered valid.