By Jed McKeehan

When you think about marriage ceremonies, there are a few images that usually come to mind.  The bride walking down the aisle, saying vows in front of a minister, kissing the bride, having a reception, and maybe seeing a relative of the bridal party do or say something incredibly embarrassing.

But what if absolutely none of that happens?  Can an actual marriage ceremony take place if one of the parties isn’t even at the wedding?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is, yes, a marriage can still take place under Tennessee law, even if one of the parties is not physically at the marriage ceremony.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-302 states that in order for a marriage to be “solemnized,” the parties shall state in the presence of a minister or officer, “that they accept each other as husband and/or wife.”  However, this requirement is waived if one of the people getting married is a member of the armed forces.  If someone is a member of the armed forces, they may appear for the marriage ceremony via video conferencing.

Now, let me stop here, and say, I’m sure there are reasons for this exception, but if I was in the armed forces and I tried to appear for my wedding via video conferencing instead of just getting married before I was deployed, my wife would have probably declined to have married me!

Having said that, let’s walk through what the statute says has to occur for a video conferencing wedding to occur:

  1. The member of the armed forces must be stationed in another country;
  2. A commissioned office is present with, and confirms the identity of, the member of the armed forces;
  3. A person authorized to solemnize weddings is present with, and confirms, the identity of, the person who is marrying a member of the armed forces; and
  4. The person who is marrying the member of the armed forces is present in Tennessee.

Okay, so back to our original question, can someone get married without actually being physically present at the marriage ceremony, yes, it is possible.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.