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'They Make a Lovely Couple'

If you've been to a lot of weddings, you've heard these words. Or have you?

"By the authority vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife — by proxy."

What was that last part again?

"By proxy."

In other words, the man is now married, but doesn't have to be there to kiss the bride. And she doesn't have to be there, either!

This happens hundreds of times a year in one place, and one place only, in America. It's the mountainous western state of Montana, where, back in pioneer mining days, there were a lot more men than women. To get women to move to the remote wilderness, men had to not only promise to marry them, but to actually marry them, long-distance, before the women left home.

The idea grew to the point that now, neither party need be present. Stand-ins take their vows for them. One Kalispell, Montana, college student recently got married 11 times in 21 minutes as a proxy for brides far away! She made $50 a wedding. In fact, she's been "married," in a manner of speaking, more than 250 times!

But so many proxy weddings were piling up, with couples from all over the world filing for licenses and paying the court costs — plus fees to the judge and payment to the stand-in bride and groom — that the state's clerks could not keep up with the demand.

So Montana has changed the law slightly. Now, at least one of the blissfully betrothed must live in Montana or be a member of the U.S. military. But both bride and groom can still be hundreds or thousands of kilometers away when the vows are spoken and they are officially wed.

Double-proxy marriage ceremonies in Montana don't require fancy suits or wedding gowns. Flowers and limousines, organists, big white cakes, and even a chapel or courtroom aren't required. And in Montana, U.S.A., you don't even need a bride or groom!