A bill that would remove the requirement for marriage witnesses moves to the Alaska House of Representative floor for a vote on Friday. HB 62 would eliminate the current requirement for two witnesses to sign a marriage certificate.
At present, couples must assent to the marriage in the presence of each other, the person solemnizing the marriage, and two additional witnesses. All five present parties must sign the marriage certificates. House Bill 62 would eliminate the requirements of any additional witnesses at the marriage solemnization and the signatures of these witnesses on marriage certificates. The bill is an effort to help support Alaska’s destination wedding industry.
According to the bill sponsor, Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, Alaska is one of 20 states that require two wedding witnesses. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia do not require wedding witnesses.
View the laws in 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 the wedding had taken place in the event that records were damaged or missing.
“Today, however, the role of a wedding witness is ceremonial. In Alaska, while the person solemnizing the marriage must meet certain criteria, no form of witness verification (proof of identification, language comprehension, address validation, etc.) is required. HB 62 would allow Alaska to compete with states like Hawaii and Florida, which require no wedding witnesses and lead the nation in destination weddings.”
In Alaska, witnesses are required for other legal activities, such as voting an absentee ballot.
Destination weddings are a growing business in Alaska, especially as couples opt for small, intimate ceremonies rather than large ones due to risks associated with Covid-19, Claman said. The requirement of two wedding witnesses makes Alaska a less attractive location for many who travel from farther away or who do not want the financial burden of a larger wedding, he said.
Destination weddings bring in an estimated $1 million in revenue to Alaska in the form of roughly 500 destination weddings a year, Claman said. “This revenue figure doesn’t consider the fact that more than 90% of the out-of-state 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 filed the bill last year and it has taken one year to get it to the floor for a vote, where it faced several amendments on Wednesday.
If the bill passes on Friday it will be sent to the Senate for consideration.