Online weddings are a brand new thing! They are so new that it’s hard to believe that you can get married this way. Many people, when they first hear about it assume that it is some sort of scam or trick.
Q: So why is a “Utah” wedding so special? Don’t other places offer online weddings?
A: Technically speaking, it’s only the County of Utah in the State of Utah that offers these types of weddings. Even other counties within the state of Utah do not offer online weddings. And yes, there are some other states in the US where you can also get an online wedding, but none of them allow anyone in the world to obtain and use their wedding licenses. For instance, both New York and California require the couple to be residents of, or physically located in, their state to use the online wedding license.
Utah has no residency or citizenship requirements for marriage licenses.Utah County Clerk, Frequently Asked Questions
Anyone from anywhere can apply.
Q: How did this come about? What’s so special about an online marriage license?
As part of a campaign promise to “bring the Clerk/Auditor’s office into the 21st century,” in 2019 the Utah County Marriage License Office and Utah County Information Technology Departments began a year-long effort to create a completely digital end-to-end marriage license issuance and recording process.Utah County Clerk, Getting Married Via Remote Appearance
A: What this means is that every single wedding license issued by Utah County is now a digital marriage license. Even if a couple walks into the Utah County Clerk’s Marriage License office, they are issued the exact same digital marriage license as a couple in China, Australia, or Florida.
Q: Is it only available during the pandemic? Is this a temporary thing that will go away soon?
A: Although the move to the digital marriage license was already underway in 2019, soon after the digital process debuted in January of 2020, it soon became clear that this was going to be a critical new tool in allowing couples to marry during the difficulties of the pandemic. With the great successes shown with the digital marriage license, it is clearly here to stay.
What began with a simple goal to streamline processes and create convenience for residents of Utah County became invaluable as government offices throughout the state and nation were forced to close in response to COVID-19.Utah County Clerk, Getting Married Via Remote Appearance
Q: So, how is it that you can just jump on a video conference and come out married?
A: In order to be legally married a couple goes through three distinct steps: obtaining a marriage license, participating in a wedding ceremony, and having the marriage recorded with the county.
All certificates of completed marriages issued and certified by Utah County have gone through all three of these steps. The couple has legally applied for and been issued a marriage license, a valid wedding ceremony within the state (of Utah) has taken place, and the marriage has been registered with the County. Any couple with certified copy of their marriage certificate has been legally married according to Utah law and the laws of the United States.Utah County Clerk, Getting Married Via Remote Appearance
Q: How can you tell if a person or company is real and will be there for you once you have committed to them?
A: Here are some things to think about when looking at online wedding companies or officiants.
For a Utah County based wedding – Are they physically located in Utah and will they be hosting the conference from a physical location in Utah?
In March of 2022, Utah County instituted a new policy that requires Utah County Designee Officiants and others performing marriages with Utah County digital marriage licenses to either be a resident of Utah (for limited or indefinite duration officiants) or have proof that the marriage will occur within the geographical boundaries of the State of Utah. They are very clear on the point that they will be enforcing the policy where remote marriages must have a host location that is in Utah.
What does that even mean? It means that the person who is hosting the video conference must be physically located in Utah at the time of the ceremony. The person in Utah must ALSO be the originating host of the video conference, meaning they start, stop and control the conference. Those allowed to host the marriage can be only one of three people. Either one of the marriage couple or the officiant must be physically located in Utah at the time of the ceremony.
Nobody wants even a hint of invalidation attached to something as legally critical as the marriage certificate, so it is very important that if you are getting married by using a Utah County digital license, that you try to ensure that this rule is followed.
Some questions to ask could be:
- Is my officiant a Utah County Designee Officiant? (I am, and here’s my certificate)
- You can also look up all the registered Designee Officiants on the Utah County website to double check that they are registered. Check the Remote Appearance tab for their name.
- If they are an officiant that is not a Designee, can they prove that they are hosting from Utah?
Do they have experience in officiating weddings?
Believe it or not, being the officiant at a wedding is both a skill and a talent! Wedding officiating combines a many different disciplines, and one must have both the skills involved and the talent to make it seem effortless. In the ceremony, they must be good at public speaking, diplomacy, crowd management and situational awareness. In addition, the online component requires the technical know-how to host video conferences, perform video and audio streaming, recording, and editing, and the capability to understand the video and audio recording and streaming equipment and software.
They need to have the the ability to perform in-call audience management on the fly and even help clients troubleshoot their connections. They need the skills to manage their online presence and social media. Finally, the officiant (or their company) should be proficient in business management and understand how to keep records, provide clear communication and instruction, manage financial transactions and provide excellent customer service. So either the wedding company has people who can fulfill all of those roles, or the wedding officiant must do so. Either way, experience with performing online weddings does count and can make a big difference in the kind of ceremony you’ll end up with.
Some ideas to consider along these lines might be:
- How long has the officiant been performing marriages?
- Will my wedding be recorded, and how will I get the video of my wedding afterward?
- Can I get the unedited video file from my wedding to keep for my archives?
- Who will help me or my guests with technical issues, if they occur?
- What can I expect during the ceremony?
- Can I customize the ceremony or have other people speak?
- What happens if the ceremony is interrupted by connection problems or other issues?
- Can I reschedule without penalty or additional fees?
- What days and times can the wedding be scheduled for? Do they charge extra for weekends or evening events?
- Can we use alternative video conferencing software such as Tencent, WhatsApp, Facebook Live?
Do they have independent reviews that you can read?
Independent reviews are a great indicator of the business or person’s practices and their level of customer satisfaction and service. However, some companies on the internet may solicit reviews by offering cash incentives or rewards, and don’t disclose this fact to their future potential customers.
Given that anyone can say or do anything on the internet, it is important to be aware of potential scams.
Here are some suggested ways to check on this:
- Do they have more than one review site?
(Some companies offer incentives to review only on a specific site)
- Do they publish the link to these review sites or only show the text on their own website?
- Do they disclose that they offer incentives or rewards for reviews, if they do?
- Are the reviews all very recent, or clustered in groups that are very close together in time?
(Reviews clustered together can reflect a coordinated purchase of “reviews” from third party sites)
- How far back do their reviews go? (For example, my first wedding reviews are from 2010, but some of them are for weddings performed years earlier, reflecting a relationship that has endured.)
Do they publish their fees, procedures, and add-ons up front?
Clear, honest, and transparent communication helps to establish trust and fosters a good working relationship between the officiant (or company) and the couple. Showing the clear procedure of how they operate, publishing the pricing scale, addons, or fees to the public, and communicating openly about what to expect are all hallmarks of a trustworthy organization, whether a wedding officiant or other service.
A lot of companies are full service and that is great! Sometimes we need a little guidance for something as important and stressful as getting married. But be sure you know what exactly the company or person does provide before committing to their process.
For online weddings, my own services are designed for couples to be able to do most of what they need themselves, so that I don’t require a larger infrastructure or support of a legal team. With some companies, they require that the couple still do all the legwork themselves, so ask yourself – what are you really paying for?
You might ask some of the following questions:
- How do I sign up for a ceremony?
- Can I reschedule without penalty or additional fees?
- How do I get the wedding license?
- Do you get the license for me?
- If so, do they ask you to sign a procuration, proxy, agent, limited power of attorney or other authorization document? Remember, the wedding license is a legally binding document, so no-one should sign it for you unless you have a written agreement stating that they can do so.
- If they get the license for you, do they send you all the documents (copy of your application, etc.) before the wedding so you can check for typos or errors?
- Do they employ attorneys to help with the legal issues involved or have legal resources?
If so, can you communicate with them if needed?
- Do they provide witnesses?
- Do they give you a video recording of your wedding? Is it an extra fee?
- How many guests can you invite to your wedding ceremony, if any?