Is Your Quarantine Wedding Legal?

A bride and groom kissing in front of a vine-covered wall.

Although the rest of life is momentarily on pause, love must go on. Right?

Well, for many couples who had their weddings planned for 2020, this is turning out to be a challenge. And while plenty of them are OK with delaying their nuptials until a later date, others just can’t wait to tie the knot. So, what might be your options? Can you still get married in the midst of a pandemic? Well, that depends—largely on your local laws. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get away with a small wedding or a virtual one.

But before you decide to jump on the coronavirus marriage bandwagon, there are a few things you should consider. Namely, whether your wedding will be deemed legal or not.

The Latest Word on Virtual Weddings

You may have heard that some people are getting married via Zoom. However, the American Marriage Ministries warns that this method has to be approached with caution. While you can celebrate with a live stream, you may not be able to tie the knot with one.

There’s good reason for this. The officiant (not to mention the witnesses) are there as proof that your identity and your marriage license is real. In many states, a wedding is not deemed legal unless the officiant is physically present, as is the case in Hawaii. But if you’re lucky, you might be able to get away with it. Just recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York declared video-officiated weddings as legitimate. And other areas like Colorado; Washington, DC; and Cuyahoga County of Ohio, have followed suit.

It’s always best to check with a legal professional or your local marriage bureau about what options are available to you.

Know Your Social Distancing Restrictions

A bride and groom kissing in a church with a few guests around them.

Depending on where you live, going outside may be a problem. Unless you’re heading out for essentials (and marriage, unfortunately, isn’t one of them) you’re kind of out of luck. And if you don’t live with your significant other, getting together may be a problem as well.

If you have a wedding planned and decide to go through with it, double-check local restrictions. Some places have banned all weddings and funerals. Other cities/states have limited gatherings to 10 or even two people at a time.

Should your area limit gatherings to 10 people, you might still be able to hold a wedding provided that you dramatically cut down your guest list. Oh, and keep in mind the staff that may be present. In which case, you might have an even smaller celebration.

About Officiants

You obviously need an officiant to “officiate” your wedding, which should not be a problem in most cases. The only exception is if you live in a state that allows for self-unity (aka self-solemnizing) weddings. In which case, either you or your partner could officiate the wedding yourself.

Another alternative is to get creative about how to get an officiant without breaking social distancing rules. For example, one couple in New York had their officiant declare them husband and wife out of his fourth-floor apartment window. Keep in mind that social distancing rules also do not apply to people with whom you live, be it family or roommates. In which case, why not ask them to get an officiant license? In many places, this can be done either by mail or online.

You Still Need a Marriage License

A close-up image of a marriage license.

Of course, no matter the circumstances, you still need a marriage license before you tie the knot. Again, this might not be a problem, especially if you can apply online—but it may not be easy. After all, many government offices are either closed or have reduced hours. However, you might be able to get a license via a different office. If you don’t know a spot off the top of your head, you can contact any nearby marriage bureau to see where you can apply for one.

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