Virtual Weddings?

Posted by on May 8, 2020 in Marriage and Epidemics, The Wedding Service, Weddings | 0 comments

Virtual Weddings?

Just this week, a groom in search of an officiant emails to ask if I perform virtual weddings. Yes, I answer, but with this caveat. “Allow me to do some further research first.”

My research begins with a call to the City Clerk’s office, Charlottesville.

Me to Clerk:  “I am an officiant.  I am in conversation with a groom, who is wondering if I might perform a virtual wedding for him and his fiancée.  Is it legal to perform virtual weddings in the Commonwealth of Virginia?” 

Let me tell you!  We have entered strange and dangerous territory! The clerk’s short answer? Yes, it is legal for me to perform virtual weddings.  But, wait!  It is legal, because this is a new concept.  The laws haven’t been written yet to reflect what could become a new trend.

Now here is where the Clerk wanders into the weeds.  Stay with me. It is worth repeating the clerk’s answer. It bears heavily on your decision whether to marry virtually. 

The weeds

The Clerk cites a case in Virginia law coming from the 1970’s.  That case is Cramer vs. The Commonwealth of Virginia

I look it up after our call ends.

The weeds of our laws!
The Clerk and I stroll through
high weeds, eeh gads!

In that case, a husband and wife filed for divorce. They had been married by an officiant ordained online. That officiant was ordained by the Universal Life Church (ULC).  The husband said he and the woman he lived with never really HAD BEEN married. Well, not LEGALLY, that is. The marriage had been performed by a ULC “clergy” person.  The officiant’s “clergy” status was invalid.  The ULC church is not a true-to-form church with the trappings of churchy-ness. No services, no congregations.

The Virginia Supreme Court ultimately decided the husband was correct.  The marriage was invalid.    Since then, the Commonwealth of Virginia carefully determines who qualifies to perform weddings.  It must be someone who is responsible, as determined by a reputable ordaining organization. 

I myself went through 4 years of training in a real, accredited seminary. Since then (and here I admit that I am really just bragging),  I have earned a Doctorate in Ministry. What’s more, I continue to serve churches in my denomination.  (However, keep in mind that I also perform secular weddings, and officiate at weddings for couples of whatever denomination or spiritual leaning.)   

My Certificate of Ordination
Yes, I am legal
And a letter from the Clerk
The clerk confirmed that I am legal

One more thought

The other thing that concerns me, is the location of your wedding. Say you apply for a wedding license in Virginia, but you actually exchange vows in front of a computer at your home in Florida. I am listening to those vows from my own home at my own computer in Virginia. Where, then, does the wedding take place? Is it in Virginia or in Florida?

A recap

So, to recap:  There is no law AS YET, addressing virtual weddings.  However, do you want to take the risk that the Commonwealth could disallow virtual weddings sometime down that weedy road?  You do want your wedding vows to last a lifetime, don’t you?  Think about it. 

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