Important Business in the Alaska Legislature: Removed requirement for two marriage witnesses
A bill that would remove the requirement for marriage witnesses is moving upstairs in the Alaska House of Representatives for a vote on Friday. HB 62 would eliminate the current requirement that two witnesses sign a marriage certificate.
Currently, couples must consent to marriage in the presence of each other, the person performing the marriage and two additional witnesses. All five parties present must sign the marriage certificates. House Bill 62 would eliminate requirements for any additional witnesses at the solemnization of marriage and the signatures of such witnesses on marriage certificates. The bill is an effort to help support Alaska’s destination wedding industry.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, Alaska is one of 20 states that require two marriage witnesses. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia do not require marriage witnesses.
Check the laws of all states regarding marriage witness requirements at this link.
Claman argues that witnesses played a more critical role in past centuries when record keeping was less automated. Witnesses could be contacted to verify that the marriage had taken place in the event that documents were damaged or missing.
“Today, however, the role of a wedding witness is ceremonial. In Alaska, while the person performing the wedding must meet certain criteria, no form of witness verification (proof of identity, understanding of the language, address validation, etc.) is required HB 62 would allow Alaska to compete with states like Hawaii and Florida, which require no marriage witnesses and lead the nation in marriages at destination.
In Alaska, witnesses are required for other legal activities, such as mail-in voting.
Destination weddings are a growing business in Alaska, especially as couples are opting for small, intimate ceremonies over large ones due to the risks associated with Covid-19, Claman said. The requirement of two wedding witnesses makes Alaska a less attractive location for many people who are traveling from further afield or who don’t want to bear the financial burden of a larger wedding, he said.
Destination weddings bring about $1 million in revenue to Alaska in the form of about 500 destination weddings a year, Claman said. “This turnover does not take into account the fact that more than 90% of foreign couples who come to Alaska to get married stay for days and weeks to explore our great state. The resulting benefit to Alaska’s tourism industry is substantial,” he said. Claman introduced the bill last year and it took a year for it to come to a vote, where he faced several amendments on Wednesday.
If the bill passes on Friday, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration.