Are virtual weddings legal? Plus a virtual wedding ceremony outline!

Guest post by Emily Lund
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All photos courtesy of Wedfuly.com

At this point in the pandemic, you’ve most likely heard of the term virtual wedding. These are weddings that happen remotely, with the couple livestreaming their event for guests who attend via video platforms like Zoom. Sometimes there are a few guests in attendance with the couple, but sometimes it’s just the couple and an officiant livestreaming to all-remote guests.

Maybe you’ve even attended a virtual wedding ceremony yourself. Best case scenario, it was heartwarming and well-executed. Worst case scenario, it felt awkward and confusing, and you couldn’t hear anything over the unmuted grandmas chit-chatting about their cats.

Virtual weddings are for introverts, ex-pats, and more!

This rainbow INTROVERT tshirt is from Etsy seller FemFetti

Here’s the thing about virtual weddings: they’re not just for pandemic times. Are you an introvert? Virtual wedding. All your friends and family are abroad? Virtual wedding. Is your budget small, but your community large? Virtual wedding.

Even if you are familiar with Zoom weddings, you might still have some lingering questions. Is a Zoom wedding even considered a legally binding marriage? Can I do this all myself or do I need to hire someone to help? How many people can I invite to my virtual wedding anyways? In this blog post, we will hear from the experts at Wedfuly. They’ve successfully executed over 600+ virtual weddings. They will walk you through the ups and downs and the need-to-knows before you embark on your own virtual wedding journey. 

First, is a Zoom wedding legal? 

First things first, let’s take a look at all of the steps that need to be in place beforehand to ensure that your Zoom wedding is legally binding. 

  • Step 1: Set up an appointment with your county clerk to obtain a marriage license. Make sure to check beforehand to see if your county’s offices are still open or if you will need to set up a virtual appointment.
  • Step 2: Visit the county clerk (whether in person or virtually) and bring required documents.
    Here’s what you’ll need to bring along:

    • Proof of identity (check state requirement, typically a license or passport)
    • Witness (Not all states require)
    • Parental information (DOB, full names, birth state, dates of passing, if applicable)
    • Certificate of the previous divorce or partner death (if applicable)
    • If you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent present
    • Marriage license fee money
  • Step 3: Get your signatures. This varies state by state, but you will most likely need signatures from your officiant and witnesses. **Note, some states require the officiant to be present to sign the marriage license in person, some allow it to be mailed back and forth. We will visit this later in the article.
  • Step 4: GET MARRIED! Pop the champagne and then pop on over to the county clerk’s office (or mail) to return the signed marriage license.

Virtual wedding legality varies by state

So, in short, the key piece in ensuring that your Zoom wedding is legal lies in the marriage license. The next piece of the puzzle varies state by state. Before the global pandemic, laws were fairly strict surrounding the legality of weddings and officiants. For a marriage to be considered legal, the couple and the officiant had to be physically present together. They also had to obtain a marriage license in person from the county clerk’s office. However, this posed a major issue as the virus began to spread and social distancing went into effect and many county clerk offices were closed. 

On April 18 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order  in regards to virtual weddings. This order would allow New Yorkers to obtain marriage licenses virtually and officiants to perform ceremonies via video conference. *And all the COVID brides said AMEN!!* However, if you and your partner are not New Yorkers–fear not. This order from Cuomo seemed to have a domino effect as other states began making similar shifts to allow couples to get married virtually. Let’s take a look at some different states and see where they fall.

  • Are virtual weddings legal in California?
    According to the L.A. Times, on April 30, Governor Gavin Newsome signed a similar executive order allowing couples to get married virtually. This makes it legal for officiants to wed couples virtually. However, obtaining a marriage license varies county by county.
  • Are virtual weddings legal in Illinois?
    According to American Marriage Ministries, couples CAN apply for a marriage license via videoconference and officiants can perform weddings via videoconference. The only disclaimer here is that the couple and the officiant must interact on the Zoom call in “real time”…meaning there cannot be any pre recorded “I Dos”.
  • Are virtual weddings legal in Florida?
    In Florida, it is NOT considered legal to have a virtual officiant that is not present on site with the couple, according to American Marriage Ministries. However, if couples want to have a smaller “micro wedding” they can still stream the ceremony and reception to guests, but will need to have the officiant there to perform the ceremony and sign the license.

    • Other states with similar policies to Florida
      • Ohio
      • Tennessee
      • Texas
  • Are virtual weddings legal in the UK?
    At this point, virtual weddings are not considered legally binding in the UK. However, the same philosophy applies as within the states. It is possible to have a micro wedding with your officiant present on site and the rest of the guests joining via Zoom.

What if I don’t see my state on this list?

If you need more information regarding where you live, this site has extensive information to help guide you. Additionally, if you reside in an area that doesn’t allow for you to get married virtually, don’t worry! You could always opt for a micro wedding where your officiant is present on site with you. This way, you will completely avoid any of the issues around legality.

How does a virtual wedding ceremony work?

Here’s where we’re going to get some help from our folks at Wedfuly, a virtual wedding concierge service. They’ve provided a virtual wedding outline.

When you work with Wedfuly on your virtual wedding, you will be assigned a wedding coordinator. They will be your henchman — helping you through the ups and downs of wedding planning. You will work with your coordinator in crafting the vision and vibe of your wedding. The music, the media, the toasts… no detail is too small. Throughout the process of planning there will be two planning meetings, one AV call to test out all of the tech, and a virtual rehearsal the night beforehand.

The best part of all of it is that you can be as creative and wacky as you want to be! Wedfuly has seen magic shows, trivia, DIY bartending during intermission–you name, they can do it! While the structure, order and traditions are completely up to you, listed below is a common format for American virtual weddings.

Virtual wedding ceremony outline:

Prelude + Welcome: 

  • Zoom guests are logging on
  • Customized welcome slide welcomes them to the wedding
  • A picture slideshow is looping in the background with a curated playlist 

Wedfuly Welcome + Tech Talk:

  • Your Wedfuly virtual coordinator welcomes all of the guests
  • She then goes through a brief tech talk that explains the functionality of Zoom and how to access help throughout the wedding

Processional + Ceremony:

  • Phones on tripods are carefully angled throughout the space so that the Wedfuly coordinator can “spotlight” different angles. This creates the illusion of a moving camera and perfectly captures your walk down the aisle.
  • During the ceremony you can choose anybody (even a virtual attendee) to participate. The Wedfuly host will simply spotlight their Zoom screen and they can speak.
  • For both the processional and recessional you will get to select the songs you want played and they will be shared via Zoom

Brief Intermission 

  • Generally a 10-15 minute intermission between the ceremony and reception to give you time to move things around. During this time we can have a static slide, picture slideshow or content of your choice.

Dancing

  • First dance, father/daughter, mother/son (completely up to you if you want to include any/all of these)
  • Group Dance. A Wedfuly FAVORITE. Pick 1-3 songs that are irresistible to dance to and we will get your people up off their couches and dancing. The host will scan the Zoom screens for the people that are dancing and will showcase them to everyone else.

Cake Cutting/Cupcake Smashing…whatever!

  • Pick some background music, grab your favorite sweet and watch as all of your virtual guests are super jealous of you.

Toasts

  • Choose from both in person/virtual toasters to share some special words on your behalf.
  • Occasionally people opt for open floor toasting by having people drop their name in the chat box. While this is a super fun option, you just need to be mindful of time. You have 2 hours allotted to your virtual wedding.

Breakout Rooms + Closing Remarks 

  • Breakout rooms are essentially smaller Zoom rooms. You divide your virtual guest list up into “virtual reception tables” the way you would at a traditional wedding. Then you are able to hop from room to room and say hi to all of your guests. Breakout rooms provide a more intimate way to chat with your guests and ensure that they feel special.
  • Say some final remarks and then the official Zoom wedding festivities are over! 

Virtual weddings are just so damn cool.  They allow you to invite your closest 1,000 friends (yes, you really can have 1,000 devices logged into the wedding!) at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, you don’t have to deal with the overwhelm that would inevitably come from having that many guests at your wedding — perfect for introverts, and folks with social anxiety or chronic fatigue conditions. You get to craft a wedding that truly fits your taste, vision, and budget, and are able to share it with those you love most.

Your family and friends will log off and wonder, how in the world was that Zoom wedding so much fun?!

Get $100 off a Wedfuly virtual wedding package with code OFFBEATBRIDE. Book today!

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