Virtual marriage via Zoom
Virtual marriage is not an option in the UK at this time, leaving many couples with cancelled wedding plans disappointed.
There will be hundreds of couples up and down the country who will have had to put their wedding plans on hold because of COVID-19. Some have taken to virtual meeting platforms like Zoom in order to have a virtual party with friends and family on the day they should have been getting married.
In England and Wales it is not possible for two parties to have a valid marriage ceremony via a virtual wedding. However in other countries around the world it is. In New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on 18 April 2020 that he had signed an Executive Order allowing New Yorkers to obtain marriage licences remotely and authorising clerks to perform ceremonies via video conference. The UAE also recently announced that citizens and residents would be able to get married online with virtual ceremonies able to take place once required documents have been lodged online.
Whilst there are no plans to allow valid virtual marriage in England and Wales, marriage ceremonies conducted by video link in other countries would likely be recognised under English law provided three conditions are met:
- First, the marriage must comply with the formalities of the law of the country in which it takes place.
- Second, the couple getting married must have the legal capacity to get married in accordance with the law of the country of their domicile immediately before the marriage.
- Third, the marriage must not be contrary to English public policy. It is highly unlikely as a matter of public policy that England would refuse to recognise marriages from friendly jurisdictions through a law entered into recognising distinctive circumstances preventing conventional weddings and where all of the other requisites of marriage are satisfied.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.