How To Get Married On The Internet (Yes, People Are Doing That Now)

Can you really get married online? Photo: DreamPictures/VStock/Blend Images/CorbisNow this is news: Having a wedding doesn’t have to be a chore after all. In fact, you needn’t even worry about being in the same room as your fiancé, let alone get all angsty about flowers and seating arrangements. That’s thanks to the phenomenon known as proxy marriages, which is on the rise, according to the New York Times.

“In a twist that underscores technology’s ability to upend traditional notions about romance, people are not just finding their match online, but also saying ‘I do’ there,” the article, published Wednesday, notes. It describes the scene at a Queens, New York, mosque, where a bride is marrying her groom—who’s in Bangladesh—via Skype.

Sounds a bit crazy, sure. “But for Ms. Chowdhury, 21, and Mr. Ahmmed, 31, the giggling pair pretending to feed each other wedding dessert by holding forkfuls of cake to their computer screens that day, it felt full of the gravity of any other wedding.”

So how can you go about arranging a proxy marriage? We’ve broken down the basics, and made note of the various pitfalls, in a handy four-point cheat sheet. Mazel tov!

1. Live in one of four states where proxy marriages are legal—or be Muslim and marry someone in another country.
OK so here’s the deal: The Bangladeshi wedding described in the New York Times was a Muslim Shariah wedding—the modern-day version of the age-old “telephone wedding” tradition. Because the bride was in New York, which is not a state that legally allows proxy marriage, the marriage will be considered Bangladeshi. But that’s okay, because comity laws generally recognize legal marriages performed anywhere (see #2 for exceptions).

Non-Muslim proxy weddings work like this: They are only legal in Montana, Colorado, Texas and California. They do not require both parties to be present. If just the bride or the groom is not present, then it’s a single-proxy wedding, and an appointed person must stand in for the absent one. If neither is present, then it’s a double-proxy wedding (legal only in Montana and overseas), and there must be two appointed stand-ins. Both are popular with people in the military, and with international couples. Powers of attorney say the I dos.

2. Don’t marry someone of the same sex (or be under 18).
Comity law in the U.S. might apply to straight marriages, but not gay ones. That’s thanks to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage as something that can only be had between a man and a woman. It’s currently set to be heard before the Supreme Court, though, and a strike-down could change everything. So international gay and lesbian couples: Stay tuned. Also, no couple under the age of 18 can be married by proxy.

3. Know that a proxy marriage doesn’t guarantee U.S. citizenship.
While a proxy marriage of any sort—Shariah, double, you name it—can certainly be used as a legal marriage with which to start down the road of gaining U.S. citizenship, there’s more to getting a visa than being married. For starters, the couple, according to Sam Geller of Marriage by Proxy, based in Pennsylvania (but with outposts in Montana and El Salvador), must “show proof that the marriage has been consummated.” Um, excuse us?

“We’re not talking about having cams in the bedroom,” he explained. But couples must somehow show—through a stamped passport or dated photo, for example—that they’ve at least met. Then they’ll be subject to an investigation by Immigration Services. “They’re looking for something they call sham marriages,” George Andrews, operations manager for the North Carolina–based Proxy Marriage Now, told Shine. 
4. Be prepared to fill out forms and pay several hundred in fees.
For a single-proxy wedding, Geller explained to Shine, you’ll need a paralegal representative. The person who won’t be present will need to fill out three forms, get them notarized and mail them to the bride or groom with an original form of I.D. For a double proxy wedding the paperwork is more extensive.

Then get ready to pay up. At Proxy Marriage Now, a single proxy wedding in Colorado or Texas will run you $765, while a double proxy in Montana (for those in the military only) is $650, and an overseas double in El Salvador is $950—more than a trip to city hall, but a hell of a lot cheaper than a bells-and-whistles wedding where everyone’s in the room.