What You Need for a Proxy Marriage in California

Your stand-in must have a power of attorney (POA)

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on May 2, 2023

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A proxy marriage is a marriage in which someone else “stands in” on behalf of one of the parties. In other words, one party to the marriage ceremony will not actually be physically present as the couple is legally married. To be clear, proxy marriages are quite uncommon. Indeed, in most U.S. states, proxy marriages are prohibited by law.

Andrew Botros, an attorney at Bickford Blado & Botros in San Diego, says: “We have this rule that if a marriage is valid in any other state or country—absent public policy exceptions—California will recognize that marriage. Most of the other states are the same; Iowa won’t recognize proxy marriages.”

In limited circumstances, you may be eligible to get a proxy marriage in California. To do so, one party to the marriage must be an active duty member of the American military who is currently stationed abroad and they must give power of attorney to their proxy.

“You can do a proxy marriage, and, if you do it the right way, it will be treated like a valid marriage,” says Botros.

[California has] this rule that if a marriage is valid in any other state or country—absent public policy exceptions—California will recognize that marriage.

Andrew Botros

California Proxy Marriage Law: Only Allowed in Limited Circumstances

As the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) explains, state law requires both parties, the officiant, and a witness to be physically present in the same place at the time of the marriage. Otherwise, the marriage cannot be finalized for the purposes of the law.

The limited exception is that California recognizes a right to a proxy marriage for service members of the United States Armed Forces who are currently stationed overseas and are serving in a conflict zone.

If the exception is satisfied, the couple may be eligible to obtain a marriage by proxy. Notably, double proxy marriages are not permitted in California. Even if both parties to the marriage are active duty military members, at least one of them must be physically present to get married in California. Currently, Montana is the only jurisdiction in the country that allows double proxy weddings.

Stand-In Must Obtain Power of Attorney

To get married by proxy in the state of California, parties must follow specific legal requirements. As a starting point, the stand-in—meaning the person who will be serving as the proxy at the wedding ceremony—must obtain Power of Attorney (POA) for the individual that they are representing. As described by Superior Court of California, power of attorney is essentially written authorization to represent their financial or legal affairs. A faxed or duplicate copy of the POA documents are not sufficient. As a general rule, the proxy must bring the official POA documents to complete the marriage by singing the marriage license (or marriage certificate).

Once a proxy obtains the appropriate Power of Attorney, they will be required to appear in the proper County Clerk’s Office with the (future) spouse who is not currently stationed overseas in a military zone. If you or your partner is a member of the United States Armed Forces and you have any questions or concerns about obtaining a marriage by proxy, contact an experienced California family law attorney for immediate assistance with your case. A lawyer can offer you and your partner guidance on how best to proceed.

For more information on this area, see our overview of family law.

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