Thursday, May 31, 2012

Away marriage

Last night I read a sweet short story, The Proxy Marriage by Maile Meloy, about a pair of high school friends (one in love with the other) who over the course of many years perform a series of "double proxy marriages," standing in together for soldiers overseas and their fiances at home. Such marriages are legally binding and allow for death benefits to the soldier's children if the soldier is killed.

In the final scene, the marrying couple ask to be skyped in to the proxy ceremony, and both couples interact on-screen.  This seems to me to raise an obvious nonliterary point: why not eliminate the middle-couple?  That is, in an age ubiquitous webcams, why can't physically separated couples marry by videoconference, with officiator and witness?  Proxy marriage seems a needless anachronism, great story premise though it is.


  1. Who needs two parties? In early seventies, a trial court in Connecticut actually upheld an "ex parte" marriage. Who needs one party? The court even suggested that, at least in some circumstances, neither party's presence was required.

    A Catholic couple was married by a priest in 1955. In 1957, they underwent a civil divorce. In 1960, they decided to resume cohabitation and remarry; they advised a priest of their intentions and took out a marriage license in November 1960. Five days later, one member of the couple alone presented the paperwork to the priest, who signed, certifying that the parties were legally joined in marriage on that day in November 1960.

    The couple resumed cohabitation for some years. When they later separated, the party who had not been present when the priest signed the certificate sought an annulment.

    According to the trial judge, “The Catholic Church does not call this remarriage. The church says the bond exists and the priest simply signs this license to cover the civil law to testify to the fact that this couple intends now to live together as man and wife.

    “The marriage in 1960 was solemnized in accordance with the forms and usages of the Roman Catholic religion”, said the trial court. Good enough! Annulment denied.

    That result was set aside on appeal. Hames v. Hames, 163 Conn. 588 (1972).

    1. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't get my legal information from fiction. But then, there does seem to be a whole little industry delivering proxy marriages to military personnel