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.
- Henry IV to Joanna of Navarre, the daughter of Charles d'Évreux, King of Navarre, on April 2, 1402
- Lorenzo de'Medici to Clarice Orsini, in 1469
- Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur, in 1501
- Margaret Tudor to James IV, in 1503
- Mary Tudor, Queen of France, to Louis XII, in 1514
- Anne of Austria to Louis XIII, on October 18, 1615
- Charles I of England to Henrietta Maria of France, on May 1, 1625
- Marie Antoinette to Louis-Auguste, on April 19, 1770
- Napoleon I of France to Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise, in 1810
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. 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.
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. 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.
As of 2015[update], 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. 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.
In the United States, proxy marriages are provided for in law or by customary practice in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana. Of these, Montana is the only state that allows double-proxy marriage. Proxy marriages cannot be solemnized in any other U.S. states.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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".
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. 
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