All nuptials require an in-person officiant and witness. Don't have those? Then you can't be legally married.

By Nashia Baker
April 01, 2020
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As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, many soon-to-be newlyweds are opting out of formal ceremonies and tying the knot virtually, instead. The potential problem with these online weddings? Couples deciding to marry on platforms like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime may be missing those crucial in-person components that legally bind you as spouses. "The legal issue with virtual weddings is an inability to verify the couple's identity and whether the marriage license is legitimate," Natasha Anakotta, the Outreach and Operations Manager at American Marriage Ministries, says.

Anakotta explains that you need an officiant present, as well. "In order to ensure that this is done properly, states require that the officiant be physically present to sign and complete the marriage license along with witnesses—which has to occur promptly after the ceremony," she notes.

Though obtaining physical witnesses while practicing social distancing poses its challenges, you still have options. While it's common to have a maid of honor or best man perform these roles, anyone can step up to the plate, so long as they can understand and witness the service and sign their names. The witness could simply be the officiant's spouse if your loved ones aren't readily available—or a family member that you've been quarantining with. Just remember: It's crucial to stay six feet away from others (your officiant and witnesses, included!) to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

If you'd rather postpone your wedding entirely, rather than marry virtually, there is one way to make sure your pushed-back nuptials go off without a hitch: Simply stay flexible. According to Piper Hatfield of Piper and Muse, rescheduling your ceremony and reception separately can be the best course of action. "If there is not a date that works for both, I would recommend considering having the ceremony and reception on two separate dates and inviting a smaller group to the ceremony," she says. "There's really no wrong answer here, and guests will be very understanding considering the circumstances."

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