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Zoom Weddings: Proxy Marriages Spike in Pandemic

Quirk in Kansas Law Offers Distant Lovers a Loophole

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Above image credit: Stacy Welkom traveled from Florida to be married by proxy in Kansas. (Courtesy | Nimali Perry)

Stacy Welkom was looking for something casual.

Dinner or drinks occasionally. A third date was rarely in the cards.

But that all changed when the Florida teacher came across Jan while swiping through Tinder.

Handsome certified skydivers may, in fact, fall out of the sky. But they’re not easy to find.

Welkom approved and swiped right on the dating app.

It was an instant match. The daredevil pair hit it off immediately, falling in love and eventually making plans to become husband and wife.

Then came COVID-19. The pandemic forced their nuptials to be postponed twice, and left Stacy stranded on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean from Jan, a Norwegian citizen.

Stacy and Jan Welkom share a love of skydiving.
Stacy and Jan discovered a shared passion for skydiving and hit it off immediately. (Courtesy | Stacy Welkom)

After seven months apart due to travel restrictions and with an unused wedding dress stashed in her closet, Welkom was getting stir crazy.

That’s when she heard about civilian proxy marriage in Kansas.

Even better, Welkom had a cousin in Kansas City.

Love Loophole

In 2012, Kansas Citian Natalie Remington was ready to marry the love of her life. A self-described romantic, Remington dreamt of a beautiful wedding. But she and her significant other Chris were way short on cash. And a courthouse wedding wouldn’t cut it.

Finally, the lovebirds found an affordable altar that led to “let’s do this.”

“It was most definitely not my dream. Far from it. It looked like a basement, dark and dreary and we were in our t-shirts,” Remington writes in her enterprise’s “About” page.

“Right then and there I made up my mind to start my walk-in wedding business so other people could have what I didn’t.”

By 2014, Your Magical Day/Kansas Proxy Marriages was up and running.

Natalie and Chris Remington
Natalie and Chris Remington on their wedding day in 2012. (Courtesy | Kansas Proxy Marriages)

Remington’s business offers professional wedding officiant services, onsite courthouse-style elopements, same-day weddings, military, incarcerated and foreign country weddings, fast elopements and proxy marriages — often in some combination.

While the affordable spot to tie the knot kept Remington busy enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has put her business in overdrive, forcing her husband to quit his full time job to help out.

Phones now ring day and night and it’s been primarily thanks to an increased interest in proxy weddings.

So, what’s a proxy wedding?

“It’s for people who can’t be together,” Remington says. “Incarcerated people, military, foreign countries — things like that. What makes it a proxy is that Kansas just does not require the couple to be together to apply for the license and they don’t require the couple to appear together for the ceremony.”

Imagine taking that cardboard cutout to prom, only you become legally married by the state of Kansas to Zac Efron. Or, in the case of Remington’s clients, an active military member, incarcerated significant other, lover abroad, even a soon-to-be spouse on their deathbed.

Remington’s done her homework to ensure the weddings are legit — and it’s paying off.

According to Kansas Attorney General Opinion No. 80-261 filed in 1980, “In the absence of statutory or case law prohibition, marriages in which one party is represented by a proxy at the time of the ceremony are legal in Kansas.”

The 40-year-old opinion, noting that Kansas law leaves out the requirement that the couple must appear together for the marriage, permits marriage by proxy in Kansas. The state joins Montana, California, Colorado and Texas, where proxy marriages are permitted, though primarily for members of the armed forces or the incarcerated.

While Remington has made marriage a possibility for all kinds of couples, travel restrictions and other disruptions due to COVID-19 have made her services and Sunflower State’s love loophole a hot commodity.

The Big Day

Welkom crashed with her cousin and his wife in Kansas City. They had a bouquet ready for the special day and an at-home hair appointment before setting off for the wedding Welkom never imagined.

Marry by Proxy, the organization Welkom used, provided a pastor, transportation to and from the courthouse and venue, plus a little barbecue celebration to follow, where she Facetimed her new husband across the pond.

“I said, ‘OK I’m your wife now. Woohoo!’ ” she recalls. The wedding was official and in a few days official documents would come and Jan would have the green light to return to the states.

Stacy snaps a selfie in a tiara and 'Bride To Be' sash.
New bride Stacy Welkom snaps a selfie. (Courtesy | Nimali Perry)

Pre-pandemic, the proxy process required the following steps to marry.

One member of the marrying couple had to travel to Kansas to first, apply for a marriage license from the State of Kansas, hang out during the state’s three-day waiting period, and then pick up the license before heading to a spot like Remington’s Your Magical Day’s chapel in Olathe (located across the street from the Johnson County Courthouse) to do the deed.

In lieu of pandemic restrictions, however, Kansas has made its marriage certificate applications available through encrypted email and the Remingtons made proxy marriages available through Zoom.

It’s also worth noting that the present individual must also provide identification, as well as a notarized affidavit from their partner consenting to the marriage. That’s so not just anyone can decide to marry, say, Brad Pitt, Patrick Mahomes or Jan the skydiving Norwegian.

“My price is $250, so they aren’t going to lose an arm and a leg if it doesn’t work out in the long run,” Remington says, only half joking about her in-and-out, carbon-copied proxy ceremony. 

The ceremonies are still sweet and often emotional, by the way.

“Everyone wants to hear ‘I do.’ Everybody wants to hear ‘with this ring I bestow’ and ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife.’ And I’ve come up with some really sweet things to say in between,” she says.

“It’s five minutes, but nobody wants more than that. Thousands of weddings, no complaints. I’ve got it down to perfection.”

Empty chairs sit in wedding chapel.
Inside one of Remington’s wedding venues (Courtesy | Kansas Proxy Marriages | Facebook)

The proxy wedding mold doesn’t fit all couples’ circumstances. But for those looking to tie the knot as soon as possible, like Stacy and Jan, services like Remington’s result in a good-as-gold Kansas marriage certificate, which is recognized as valid across the board.

However, that certificate and being officially married might not be the end all be all for a spouse interested gaining U.S. citizenship, says immigration lawyer Michael Sharma-Crawford.

“It’s not not useful. We just have to sit down and have a long holistic discussion before I’m going to suggest (proxy marriage) is what you do,” Sharma-Crawford explains.

For those looking to expedite the marriage-and-become a U.S. citizen process, he says proxy marriage may not always be the most efficient method, as requirements such as consummation must also be met.

(We’ll let you Google consummation.)

Additionally, in a pandemic and lockdown-free world, fiance visas are another avenue to marriage and citizenship.

Happy Ending

Once back in the Sunshine State, Welkom eagerly awaited her marriage certificate and the accompanying apostille in the mail.

As soon as the original documents arrived, she overnighted them to Norway so he could join her as soon as possible.

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