Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the best days of your life, a celebration of two people coming together as one. However, while the planning process can be stressful, COVID-19 has made this process even more complicated. Thankfully, some states are allowing couples to get their marriage licenses and even host ceremonies in unique ways that encourage social distancing while also making their wedding a memorable occasion.
Here, we answer some of the most common questions that couples have about the potential for getting virtual marriage licenses and having virtual ceremonies. We also address some legal and technical concerns with a few examples.
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Can we apply for a marriage license online?
Normally, couples would visit their local clerk’s office to get a marriage application. They would show the clerk their identifying information and fill out the application on the spot. However, many clerks’ offices are closed, or they are limiting access to the public. As a result, clerks in many states are getting more creative about the process for issuing marriage licenses.
In some states, couples will need to send in their actual identification information or copies of their identification information via mail. Some locations have drop boxes as well. In other areas, you can apply for a marriage license online by uploading digital copies of your identification information and filling out the application online.
Only certain individuals will qualify to complete their application completely online. For example, Palm Beach County, Florida, is allowing online marriage license applications if you meet the following requirements. Each party must:
- Have a Social Security number
- Be U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Have a valid driver’s license or a state-issued identification card
- Be over the age of 18
- Not have a locked credit report
- Have a separate email account
- Have a separate electronic device to use for a video appointment
- Have a credit or debit card that can be used to pay any fees online
- Be getting married within the next 60 days in the state of Florida
States vary about their specific marriage license processes. You should call the county clerk in your area for more information in advance of your big day.
Do states and local authorities allow virtual wedding ceremonies officiated by a clerk?
In some states, couples can get married online through services like Zoom. They are not yet legal in every state. The following states are currently allowing virtual weddings with a clerk.
- New Jersey
- New York
These ceremonies are legal because of the current state of emergency in each state. As COVID-19 subsides, it is unclear whether this practice will continue. States are making various adjustments to deal with the unique challenges of COVID-19 on a regular basis, so check your area for updates.
What documents do we need to show at our online appointment?
Your online appointment for a marriage license will require the same information that you would need to present if it was done in person. These documents often include:
- State-issued identification card (or passport)
- Birth certificate
- Proof of citizenship or legal permanent residence
If you are divorced or widowed, you may also need your prior spouse’s death certificate or your divorce decree. If you are under the age of majority for that state (18 in most jurisdictions), then you will also need a document that sets out parental consent for the marriage.
Keep in mind that you might need to submit these documents (or copies of them) ahead of your online appointment. If you need to locate copies of these documents, you should start planning. Requesting new copies of documents can be a very time-consuming process, especially if you are unable to make in-person visits to government facilities where certain documents are located.
Check with the clerk in your area for the specific documents you need, how they want them submitted, and the timeline in which they need them.
What kind of equipment will we need to get our marriage license online?
The clerk in your area can tell you about specific requirements. However, in most situations, you will need the ability to get on separate devices at the same time to discuss the application with the clerk.
The laptop or other device will need to have a microphone and a camera so you can easily communicate with the clerk. While you can use a cell phone in some circumstances, they have been discouraged because of challenges with the video and microphone quality.
If you must submit documents electronically, you may need a scanner and the ability to send them via email or through an online upload center. You might be able to take photos of the documents with your smartphone, but those may not be acceptable everywhere. You may also need the ability to make copies of the documents to mail them in. If you do not have access to a copy machine at home, your local library or print shop may be a good resource.
Still have questions about your marriage license?
If you still have questions about whether your marriage license is legal or how to go about ensuring that your marriage ceremony is legit, your local clerk is a great resource. You can also ask a lawyer if you have specific legal questions about your planned marriage. You can also create customizable wedding and marriage agreements and event contracts for your ceremony. Rocket Lawyer has you covered with legal documents and professional services so you can live confidently.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.