US state earmarks unions in which neither party is actually there, explored in documentary Absent from Our Own Wedding
For some nervous betrothed duos a proxy matrimony might chime more good to be true: if there really were such an easy way to avoid the stress and fuss of a wedding ceremony, surely everyone would do it?
But marriages in which neither the bride nor groom are present happen all the time, and not only in countries with very different custom-mades and rules to Britain.
The award-winning British documentary maker and former performer Debbie Howard recently released the first cinema about a US duo who guided a thriving proxy marriage business from their urban home in Flathead county, Montana.
Her film Absent from Our Own Wedding tells the remarkable story of the retired husband and wife team Tom and Teresa Kennedy, who manage about 500 weds a year for a fee of $750( PS530 ), without ever fulfilling a blushing bride or a gallant groom.
Montana is the only US state where double agent marries are legal and the Kennedys imagine their business, Armed Forces Proxy Marriages, offers a useful work to duets who cannot arrange to be together on their large-hearted day.
Tom Kennedy said:” I stumbled on the said law and now we just love doing it and we want to carry on. We are not doing it for the money. We are fine, because Teresa was a stockbroker and I worked in public service for around 25 years, including a long time in the fire department .”
The obscure Montana law dates back to the 1860 s, Tom interpreted, and was initially a way to help out male miners.” All the women were on the east coast and it was not seen as proper to make them to tough all-male mining communities to get married ,” he said.
Teresa, 56, regularly stands in for either the bride or the bridegroom, who can be same-sex, while a peer steps up to play their intended. Tom will often conduct the ceremony.
In the past double, proxy wedding was possible in Montana for anyone who related from in all regions of the world, but 10 years ago the law was changed. Now one of the two getting married must be a resident of Montana- or on active office in the armed services.
” Outside of Montana very few people have heard of this ,” said Tom, 66.” It is very obscure and even federal officials know nothing about it. The knowledge is, in Montana you do not even need to be a magistrate or a adjudicator to marry parties. You only have to appear to be of sound mind to those who are present at the time. You could even marry yourselves .”
Howard’s documentary, made by Big Buddha Films, was shot in Montana last year and is now showing as part of the Real Stories strand on YouTube.