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What is a Proxy Marriage?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: May 16, 2024

Proxy marriage is a historically traditional but unusual type of marriage. The average marriage ceremony depends on the couple to be physically present, make vows to each other, and then sign any necessary documents. A marriage by proxy eliminates the necessity of at least one member of the couple having to attend the wedding. Instead, someone stands in as proxy or representative of the missing fiancé. This form of marriage isn’t legal in many regions, even with a distinguished historical precedent.

From Napoleon to many of the early 20th century Japanese brides who immigrated to the US, already having been married by proxy to their husbands, the idea of a stand in or representative has been in use for a while. It is not favored in many places because these marriages could abuse immigration laws.

It’s fairly easy to arrange a proxy marriage between two people who have never met and never plan to live together to gain citizenship status. Today, even a hint of a proxy marriage for this purpose is likely to void the marriage. Moreover, only a handful of US states, like California, Montana, and Texas, have laws approving the validity of these marriages, provided they are not immigration abuses.

This doesn’t mean that marriage beginning by proxy is unrecognized in other states, though there can be some debate on this point. Most times, this marriage is viewed as legal. This means people could travel to states or countries where these marriages are allowed, if needed. One of the most obvious uses for proxy marriage is for members of the armed services who literally cannot leave to return home and marry. In these cases, if a couple truly wants a wedding to take place, they might arrange it in a state or country that allows marriage by proxy.

In an even more unusual instance, people can have a double proxy wedding, where both members of the couple have a representative. This variation is usually not legal, though in places like the US, Montana allows the double proxy marriage, and is the only state to do so. Couples should verify such a marriage would be recognized in other states.

Those considering proxy marriage should make sure that the area in which they live will recognize the marriage, even if conducted in a region where it is legal. Consulting with an attorney before arranging one of these weddings is advisable. It’s particularly important to consult the legality of any of these marriages as offered online.

Many argue these marriages should be legal always and technology like the Internet makes requiring a bride and groom to be in the same room an unnecessary obstacle to having a marriage ceremony. Both can say vows and speak with other with a variety of software. With the convenience of a fax machine, the missing spouse’s signature and any witness signatures can arrive within seconds of marital documents being signed. Thus, people question the necessity or requiring the presence of both people to legitimize a wedding ceremony.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a MyLawQuestions contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon341472 — On Jul 12, 2013

My marriage certificate from the Italian consulate in Ghana was denied, because it has no proxy.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a MyLawQuestions contributor, Tricia...
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