Okanagan bride questions need for in-person weddings amid COVID-19

With physical distancing currently the norm under the COVID-19 pandemic, should getting married require an in-person ceremony?

An Okanagan woman is questioning the province’s marriage rules that require the couple, a marriage commissioner and two witnesses to be physically present for the ceremony.

Cindy Pepper thinks B.C. should allow virtual ceremonies, arguing it’s an issue of safety.

The Vernon resident and her partner, Jim, would like to tie the knot but feel an in-person ceremony poses an unnecessary risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

For Pepper it’s a question of safety as officials continue to encourage physical distancing.

She’s concerned about bringing a group of five people together, particularly if the officiant is presiding over other ceremonies and meeting with other couples and witnesses to do so.

Instead, Pepper and her partner would like to be able to connect with an officiant and their witnesses over a online video call.

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Pepper suggests the officiant could check IDs during the video calls and that information could also be faxed or emailed along with the paperwork.

The province isn’t ruling out changing the legislation to allow for online ceremonies in the future.

However, the ministry responsible said any change to the Marriage Act would take time and issues of privacy and legality would need to be considered before changes were made.

Meanwhile, some are unsure if there is a pressing need to change the rules.

“Given that marriage commissioners are allowing marriages to proceed with physical distancing measures in place, I don’t see a large rush to change the formal requirements for a marriage,” said family law lawyer Taryn Moore.

If online weddings are allowed, there could be concerns about whether officiants can adequately determine if the couple properly consented to the marriage and are who they say they are, Moore said.

It could be harder online for the marriage commissioner to look at whether either of parties is underage, intoxicated or not of sound mind to be married, she added.

For her part, Pepper said she won’t tie the knot during the pandemic if it can’t be done virtually.

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