Maybe you’ve been dreaming about your wedding day since you were little. Maybe it’s been a whirlwind romance and you can’t wait another second to tie the knot. Maybe your significant other is about to deploy for the next year and a baby is on the way. Whatever the circumstances, you want to get married. Enter the pandemic – upheaving plans, changing our world as we know it. Here’s what you need to know before saying “I Do” in the wake of COVID-19.
Generally yes, but the requirements and process to do so will look different depending on where you live. Make sure you check with your local court system and government guidelines to verify how they are handling things like marriage licenses or civil ceremonies amidst social distancing and essential function protocols.
Arizona law first requires that a couple obtain a marriage license. The marriage must then be “solemnized” by a person authorized to do so under Arizona law (often referred to as the officiant). “Solemnization” is a fancy term for performance of a formal ceremony to validate the marriage. The ceremony also needs to be witnessed by two other people (not including the officiant).
Yes. The latest guidance from the Arizona Supreme Court issued on April 24, 2020 is that the Clerks of Court shall continue to issue marriage licenses, and may do so remotely if the available technology allows licenses to be properly issued under state law. However, even though marriage licenses must still be issued, some courts are encouraging people to wait unless the impending marriage is absolutely necessary, whatever that means.
In Arizona, marriage licenses expire one year after the date of issuance. This gives you some leeway as the state starts to open up again. If you already have an active marriage license that was issued prior to or during the shutdowns, but haven’t yet had the marriage ceremony due to delays, you may want to reconsider the timing of taking your vows. If your license expires, you can always reapply for another one.
- Yes. A judge may perform a marriage ceremony at the courthouse with no more than 10 persons present with social distancing. However, this is discretionary with the judge.
- Jurisdictions in other states may be making special provisions for obtaining a marriage license and getting married remotely, such as this executive order in California.Again, check your options with the timing and the parameters of any civil marriage proceedings through your local court.
- If you still want to get married now, but still practice safe social distancing, technology may be the ticket. With video applications like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, friends and family could virtually witness your vows from all over the country without ever leaving their home. Take this example from Arizona – Hoda from the Today Show made a surprise appearance to officiate a couple’s marriage ceremony after their big wedding plans were canceled due to the pandemic.
- Before you consider a virtual approach, make sure to check your state laws to ensure it’s permissible. In the example above, the Arizona couple needed to have their local pastor there as well so that he could sign the marriage license and finalize the union as required by state law.
In Arizona, you and your new spouse, the officiant, and two witnesses must sign the marriage license after the ceremony occurs. The officiant then needs to return the signed marriage license to the Clerk of the Superior Court for recording. Don’t forget this important step!
Even with limited physical access to the courts during the pandemic, executed marriage licenses can still be mailed in to the Clerks of Court, and many courts have an exterior drop box for documents to be delivered and processed.
You’re struggling with the idea of postponing everything until things calm down. However, there may be key benefits you are missing out on by delaying the legal portion of your nuptials:
- For one, there can be huge tax benefits that come along with marriage. Talk to your accountant about what marriage could mean for you.
- You may qualify for better health insurance benefits through your spouse, or vice versa.
- Military Spouses are entitled to significant benefits as well.
Yes, and it is ever more relevant now with the changing landscape of COVID-19. Weddings can be a significant expense, and you or your vendors may be forced to cancel or delay plans, which could be financially painful depending on your vendor agreements. Even worse, some vendors won’t survive the economic fallout of the pandemic. Check out this article from theknot.com for more information.
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