Proxy marriage

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A proxy wedding or proxy marriage is a wedding in which one or both of the individuals being united are not physically present, usually being represented instead by other persons (proxies). If both partners are absent, this is known as a double proxy wedding.

Marriage by proxy is usually resorted to in one of two situations: either a couple wish to marry but one or both partners cannot attend (for reasons such as military service, imprisonment, or travel restrictions); or a couple lives in a jurisdiction in which they cannot legally marry.

In most jurisdictions, the law requires that both parties to a marriage be physically present: proxy weddings are not recognized as legally binding. Under the English common law, however, if a proxy marriage is valid under the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated (the lex loci celebrationis) then it will be recognised as valid in England and Wales.[1][2]


The Wedding by Proxy of Marie de' Medici to King Henry IV by Peter Paul Rubens (1622–25)
The wedding by proxy of Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, painted by Alejandro Ciccarelli, 1846

Starting in the Middle Ages, European monarchs and nobility sometimes married by proxy; by the end of the 19th century the practice had largely died out.[3] Some examples of this are:

In 1490, Maximilian of Habsburg (the future Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I) married Anne of Brittany by proxy; he was represented at the wedding by Wolfgang von Polheim.[4] As part of the symbolism of the proxy wedding, on the wedding night Polheim went to bed with Anne but wore a full suit of armour, covering all but his right leg and hand. A sword was placed between them in the bed.[5][6]

A famous 17th-century painting by Peter Paul Rubens depicts the proxy marriage of Marie de' Medici in 1600.

During the First and Second World Wars, there were many proxy marriages between soldiers serving at the front and women back at home; they often participated in the wedding ceremony via telephone.

During the First World War, proxy marriage was permitted by law in Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Czechoslovakia and Italy.[7] On 4 April 1915 proxy marriage was legalised in France.[8]

During the Second World War, proxy marriages were common in the US, UK, Soviet Union and Nazi Germany where obtaining leave to return home and marry was difficult or impossible.[9][10][11] During this period, Kansas City, Kansas in particular was known for its permissive proxy-marriage laws; one lawyer in the city helped to arrange 39 proxy weddings.[12]

In Italy, between 1945 and 1976, 12,000 women were married by proxy to Italian Australian men; they would then travel to Australia to meet their new husbands.[13]


As of 2015, various Internet sites were offering to arrange proxy and double-proxy marriages for a fee, although the service can generally be set up by any lawyer in a jurisdiction that permits proxy marriage. Video conferencing allows couples to experience the ceremony together.[14] A unique "space wedding" took place on August 10, 2003, when Ekaterina Dmitriev, an American citizen living in the U.S. state of Texas, where the ceremony was performed, was married by proxy to Yuri Malenchenko, a cosmonaut who was orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station at the time.[15]



Proxy marriage is legal in The Gambia under sharia law.[16]

United States[edit]

In the United States, proxy marriages are provided for in law or by customary practice in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana.[17][18][19] Of these, Montana is the only state that allows double-proxy marriage.[20] Proxy marriages cannot be solemnized in any other U.S. states.[21]

In 1924, a federal court recognized the proxy marriage of a resident of Portugal, where proxy marriages were recognized at the time, and a resident of Pennsylvania, where common-law marriages could be contracted at the time.[22] The Portuguese woman was allowed to immigrate to the United States on account of the marriage, whereas she would have been inadmissible otherwise due to being illiterate.[22]

During the early 1900s, United States proxy marriages increased significantly when many Japanese picture brides arrived at Angel Island, California. Since the early 20th century, it has been most commonly used in the United States for marriages where one partner is a member of the military on active duty.[23] In California, proxy marriage is only available to deployed military personnel. In Montana, a double-proxy marriage is available if at least one partner is either on active military duty or is a Montana resident.[20] In the United States if a proxy marriage has been performed in a state that legally allows it many states will recognize it fully or will recognize it as a common law marriage. An exception to this is the state of Iowa, where it is completely unrecognized.[24]


Germany does not allow proxy marriages within its jurisdiction (§ 1311 BGB). It recognizes proxy marriages contracted elsewhere where this is possible, subject to the usual rules of private international law, unless the foreign law should be incompatible with German ordre public (art. 6 EGBGB): this is not the case with the marriage by proxy per se, but would be if, e. g., the proxy was held responsible for choosing the spouse without further asking rather than only contracting a marriage with a given spouse.

United Kingdom[edit]

Proxy marriage was argued for in the House of Commons by Jennie Adamson in 1943.[7]

In 2014 it was reported that "proxy marriage misuse" was common in the UK, in which an EU citizen and non-EU citizen, both living in the UK, participated in a proxy marriage in an outside country. These were sham marriages which allowed one spouse to gain EU citizenship.[25]

Citizens Advice Scotland warns that "It may be extremely difficult to prove that a marriage by proxy is a valid marriage, both legally and for claiming benefits."[26]

Jewish Law[edit]

Jewish Law permits marriage by proxy. The process includes the groom sending the worth of a small denominational coin (שוה פרוטה), to the bride as discussed in Tractate Kiddushin Second Chapter. All Rabbis agree that it is preferable to bethrow in person based on the dictum "It is more fitting that the mitzva be performed by the man himself than by means of his agent".[27]

הָאִישׁ מְקַדֵּשׁ בּוֹ וּבִשְׁלוּחוֹ הָאִשָּׁה מִתְקַדֶּשֶׁת בָּהּ וּבִשְׁלוּחָהּ הָאִישׁ מְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת בִּתּוֹ כְּשֶׁהִיא נַעֲרָה בּוֹ וּבִשְׁלוּחוֹ

Translation: A man can betroth a woman by himself or by means of his agent. Similarly, a woman can become betrothed by herself or by means of her agent. A man can betroth his daughter to a man when she is a young woman, either by himself or by means of his agent. [28]

Catholic Church[edit]

Catholic Canon Law permits marriage by proxy,[29] but requires officiants to receive authorization from the local ordinary before proceeding.[30]


  1. ^ Apt v Apt [1948] P 83; CB (Validity of marriage: proxy marriage) [2008] UKAIT 80
  2. ^ Christopher Clarkson and Jonathan Hill (2011). The Conflict of Laws (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 9780199574711.
  3. ^ Cafazzo, Debbie (2006-06-01). "Marriage by proxy used for ages". Tacoma News Tribune.[dead link]
  4. ^ Keen, Maurice (2012). "The Angevin Legacy, Dynastic Rivalry and the Aftermath of the Hundred Years War, 1453–1491". In Skoda, Hannah; Lantschner, Patrick; Shaw, R. L. J. (eds.). Contact and Exchange in Later Medieval Europe: Essays in Honour of Malcolm Vale. Boydell Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-84383-738-1.
  5. ^ Krause, Stefan, ed. (2019). Das Turnierbuch Kaiser Maximilians I. Taschen. p. 295. ISBN 978-3-8365-7681-9.
  6. ^ Zwiedineck-Südenhorst, Hans von (1888). "Polheim, Wolfgang Freiherr von". In Liliencron, Rochus von (ed.). Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Vol. 26. Duncker & Humblot via Deutsche Biographie. p. 822.
  7. ^ a b "MARRIAGE BY PROXY (Hansard, 30 June 1943)".
  8. ^ "Private Life (France) | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)".
  9. ^ Moore, Marvin M. (1962). "The Case for Marriage by Proxy" (PDF). 11 Clev.-Marshall L. Rev. 313 – via
  10. ^ Bradway, John S. "Legalizing Proxy Marriages" (PDF). The University of Kansas City Law Review.
  11. ^ Meloy, Maile (21 May 2012). "The Proxy Marriage". The New Yorker.
  13. ^ "Until we meet again An Italian proxy brides story". Australian National Maritime Museum.
  14. ^ Christenson, Sig (2010-01-01). "With this Skype, I thee wed". San Antonio Express-News. Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  15. ^ "From Russia With Love". H Texas magazine. Archived from the original on 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
  16. ^ "Do You Have to Actually be Present on Your Wedding Day in The Gambia? | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress". October 7, 2014.
  17. ^ "Proxy Marriage and US Immigration Laws - Marriage By Proxy". S&B Inc. Archived from the original on October 3, 2010.
  18. ^ Barry, Dan. "Trading Vows in Montana, No Couple Required". The New York Times. March 10, 2008.
  19. ^ [1] Archived April 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ a b "Section 40-1-301". Montana Code Annotated 2015. Montana Legislative Services. Accessed on May 19, 2016.
  21. ^ "No Marriage By Proxy in Missouri". Archived from the original on 2018-08-28. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  22. ^ a b "Alien's Marriage by Proxy Held to Give Alien Woman Status of "Wife"". Virginia Law Register. 10 (7): 516–520. November 1924. doi:10.2307/1107813. JSTOR 1107813.
  23. ^ "Another Effect of Covid: Thousands of Double Proxy Weddings". The NY Times. 2020-12-15. Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  24. ^ "Where You Can Have a Proxy Marriage". The Spruce. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  25. ^ "Immigration inspector warns of rise in proxy marriage misuse". the Guardian. June 19, 2014.
  26. ^ "Getting married".
  27. ^ "Kiddushin 41a:4".
  28. ^ "Kiddushin 41a:3".
  29. ^ "Canon 1105", Code of Canon Law, 1983, retrieved 2022-11-22
  30. ^ "Canon 1071", Code of Canon Law, 1983, retrieved 2022-11-22

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