Utah Online Weddings
I first heard about the possibility of Utah online weddings early this year 2021. Clients had asked me prior to this, and I must admit I dismissed it as being another “Facebook story”*. Weddings throughout history (western-style weddings, that is) had long been an event where two people stood before a marriage celebrant and ended with “You may kiss the bride”. So doing this online is a fairly quantum leap for the brain.
*See BLOG Post next week on the topic of Facebook Stories
Then again, I was slow to register the value of mobile phones. Hey, I didn’t even like push-button phones when they first came out! And I can remember the days when I swore I would live my entire life without ever using a computer, as I saw no practical use for them! Didn’t want to pay bills online either.
Goodness me! Maybe I’ll soon be that old gent saying “Stay off my lawn!”!!
Anyway, I saw something which sounded like it was actually real, so I did my enquiries.
Jeff’s Online Wedding Discovery Journey
First of all I contacted Utah. The Utah Government in the town of Provost, which is the capital of Utah County.
- I read over their websites and read all the FAQ’s
- I emailed them and asked “Is it possible for an Australian man and a lady from Philippines (ie two non-US Citizens) to marry online legally?”
And yes, they confirmed that this was entirely legal. No US Citizenship required, and the couple could also be in separate countries.
They also explained that the license was issued after interviewing both bride and groom online, to cover the legalities, eg checking ID’s and ensuring no coercion and a full understanding of what they were entering into.
So far, so good.
I contacted a Family Law specialist lawyer in Victoria, and ran the scenario by him. (His letter to me is available for the asking (<–CLICK) by the way).
He confirmed that:
- Australian recognises overseas marriages! There’s a Hague Marriage Convention 1978 which Australia is a signatory for, that provides for the recognition of overseas marriages. NOTE: RECOGNITION! Not REGISTRATION. Australian does not REGISTER overseas marriages, and doesn’t have to.
- That Australia will recognise marriages where “the basics” (ie those deal-breaker aspects of the Marriage Act 1961) are covered, ie
- Both parties give their consent, ie no coercion or “shotgun weddings”, and understand the commitment they are making
- Both parties are legally adults
- The marriage is not a prohibited relationship (eg marrying your sister)
- Both parties are legally free to marry (ie no bigamous marriages)
- There are two witnesses present at the wedding
Australia isn’t concerned whether your celebrant says “Dearly beloved” or whether confetti is tossed over the happy couple. Australia doesn’t care whether the local law for giving notice before the wedding is 7 days, 10 days or 30 days like in Australia. Australia even recognises the Las Vegas spur-of-the-moment Elvis Chapel weddings!
Australia doesn’t recognise bigamous weddings, for instance. You can have a Shari’a wedding in some countries and marry more than one wife, however in Australia they will only accept the first wife as being a legal wife. And I imagine a marriage to a 12 year old wouldn’t be accepted either.
But the weddings in Utah confirm to all the acceptable standards, therefore all legally OK.
Australian Government Responses
I didn’t bother following up the Department myself. Firstly, the Law is the Law and if a lawyer who specialises in the area says it’s OK I would trust that more than a clerical assistant in a Government Department.
However, I had intelligent and prudent clients follow this up themselves…..
Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria
They said “If it was a legal marriage signed with witnesses and you were issued with a legal marriage certificate it would be recognised as a legal marriage in Australia.”
And that’s exactly what a Utah online wedding is!
Department of Home Affairs (aka “Immigration”)
They said that they would accept a legal overseas marriage.
Attorney Generals Department
They said basically the same as Home Affairs, but added that you should seek private legal advice (which we already have).
Australian Consulate-General – Bali
I found this useful gem on the website of the above, which sums it all up really well.
The basis for the new rules
The rules governing whether or not a marriage is valid under Australian law are to be found in the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 (‘the Act’). Until recently, the rules governing recognition of overseas marriages were primarily to be found in the ‘common law’ – that body of legal rules developed by judges over the years and inherited by Australia from the United Kingdom.
In 1976, a group of nations met and drew up a new international regime for the recognition in one country of marriages solemnised elsewhere. This was embodied in the Hague Convention on the Celebration and Recognition of Marriages. On 7 April 1986, the Commonwealth Parliament enacted the Marriage Amendment Act 1985 in order to implement the rules contained in the Hague Convention. They apply, however, to all marriages solemnised outside Australia, even if they took place before that date.
Marriages outside Australia under foreign law
Part VA of the Act contains the rules for recognition of marriages entered into outside Australia under foreign laws. The basic rule adopted is that, if the marriage was recognised as valid under the law of the country in which it was entered into, at the time when it was entered into, the marriage will be recognised in Australia as a valid marriage, unless one of the exceptions mentioned below is applicable.
Exceptions to recognition of foreign marriages
While designed to remove all technical barriers to recognition of marriages celebrated elsewhere, the Hague Convention acknowledges the strong interest many countries have in refusing to recognise certain marriages.
Australia, in adopting the convention rules, has also set out certain exceptions to recognition based on its policy. The following marriages will not be recognised under the new rules:
- where one of the parties was already married to someone else;
- where one of the parties was under marriageable age;
- where the parties are too closely related under Australian law – that is either as ancestor, descendant, brother or sister, including half-brother and half-sister, and whether the relationship is natural or by adoption;
- where the consent of one of the parties was not a real consent due to duress or fraud, mistake, or mental incapacity.
I hope this eases some concerns about Utah online weddings!
And please be clear that neither Down Under Visa or Jeff Harvie in particular are Family Law Lawyers or experts on the Marriage Act. Mere Registered Migration Agents, sorry. We’re also not marriage coordinators. We just prefer to have well-informed clients who may make their own decisions in their own best interests.
NOTE: The two Utah sites are NOT https sites (yeah, I know!), and can sometimes be hard to access. Some browsers don’t like this, and some internet providers don’t like this. So we’ve had a small number of clients say “I can’t open it!” Advice from my IT man is to try other browsers or devices.
If that fails? Suggest you click below and (a) tell them of your difficulty accessing, and (b) ask them what you want. (Either way, don’t give up! This is your best chance right now.)
Disclaimer: Neither Down Under Visa or any of it’s staff are marriage coordinators or advisers on marriages and weddings, whether in Australia, Philippines or in Utah USA. We have no business arrangements with the Utah Government, nor do we receive any commissions or gratuities. This is purely an information page to allow site visitors to make their own decisions as to whether they wish to take this path. Down Under Visa also give no guarantees that visa applications based on marriages performed online in Utah (or Australia or Philippines or anywhere else) will result in granted visas. The decision to grant an Australian visa rests by law with the representatives of the Minister and not with us. We guarantee only to do the best job we can to prepare and manage your visa application.