GREAT FALLS — Double-proxy marriages are on the rise in Montana. In a proxy marriage, a representative - known as a proxy - stands in place of either of the participants.
In a double-proxy marriage, the participants are both absent from the marriage ceremony, and each is represented by a proxy.
It may be a term that some people aren't familiar with for one simple reason: Montana is the only state where double-proxy marriages are legal. In order to qualify, you must either be a Montana resident, or an active-duty military member.
Peg Allison, who has served as the Flathead County Clerk of District Court since 1993, says that It was about a decade into her tenure when she first heard about this, after receiving a call from a lawyer who prepared to marry a couple that was overseas.
"It first came to my attention when an attorney called me about 20 years ago," she said. "I was a little surprised, it's a little strange, but that was our very first one. He had arranged for a couple of proxy to stand in the place of a couple of spouses and they were married."
"We saw a very gradual increase over the last 20 years. In 2019, we were doing about 1,200 of them annually, and then Covid hit, and in 2020, we did 4,200 of them, and in 2021, another 4,300," Allison added. "People weren't able to travel, gather in groups, and I think double-proxy became widely used because of the pandemic."
Armed Forces Proxy Marriages in Bigfork is one of the providers of double-proxy marriages. The company explains on its website:
Montana allows active duty military personnel to participate in double proxy marriages where neither you nor your fiancé is required to be present. Montana proxy marriages are legal, binding unions and are recognized by all states, and all branches of the U.S. Military. We can marry you whether you are stationed at home, abroad or deployed. Montana will marry same sex couples through proxy marriage.
Another provider is Double Proxy Marriage in Kalispell, which notes:
When a couple is unable to be present for their own wedding, yet need the fact of their marriage documented, proxies may stand in on their behalf to sign the marriage license. Double Proxy Marriage is not intended to take away from your special day, but to add convenience and efficiency to the legal process of marriage.
The law has been in place since Montana became a territory in 1889; Allison said, "I think that one intention of the Montana Legislature was to provide an opportunity for persons that either lived a long way from a county seat. We are a very rural state, and a hundred years ago, it took quite an effort for people to be able to get to a county seat, and if someone is in the service, it's nearly impossible."