Randy Nuñez and Sasha Nuñez-Carvalho married in October while he was quarantined in San Diego and used by the Navy 4,000 miles away in Europe. Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho was drinking in a bar when her fiancée, now husband, called her to tell her the news.
“It was around 11:30 am,” said Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho. “I went to my advisor and said, ‘Hey, I’m married. ‘He hugged me ginormously and then told everyone and we shot in celebration. It was strange. “
“The only thing I drank was medicine,” said Mr. Nuñez.
The couple had just married through a dual agent, a process allowed in Montana for residents and active members of the military. In a double proxy marriage, a couple signs their legal rights to two proxies who marry for them by signing the marriage certificate in front of a public official. Neither the couple member nor the officer are in the same room together during the wedding. Marriage is legal and recognized in all states except Iowa. Several other states, including California, Texas, and Colorado, allow single-proxy marriages in which one member of the couple is present.
Chris and April Coen were the deputies of Mr. Nuñez and Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho, who are both active in the Navy. He is an air traffic controller and she is a flight crew member working towards becoming a military doctor.
The Coens own Big Sky Events, a wedding planning company based in the Flathead Valley, Montana. They specialize in double proxy marriages, which they charge $ 675 for. The Coens have signed their names on thousands of marriage certificates for separated couples. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Coen said his business grew 400 percent. He said they will have 2,500 double proxy marriages this year alone.
As soon as Big Sky Events has received all the documents and it is ensured that both parties know that they are getting married, the Coens meet with their official Erik Maldonado and sign the marriage certificate for the couple with the words “Chris Coen for the groom’s name” and “April Coen for the bride’s name. “
Universal Life minister Mr Maldonado said he signed 310 licenses in July alone. “If this continues and the pandemic lasts longer, I could get into the Guinness Book of Records because I married most of the people,” he said. “I’m sure, that.” (Currently, this is not a category that is currently being monitored, said Elizabeth Montoya, director of public relations at Guinness World Records.)
Mr Coen said the pandemic has resulted in “many active military personnel, even stranded on domestic military bases where they have been unable to leave the base due to lockdowns. This is where the growing interest in our service really came into play. “[Sign up for Love Letter and always get the latest in Modern Love, weddings, and relationships in the news by email.]
Double proxy marriages have been legal in Montana since the 1860s when young men went to the area in search of mining work and wealth. The law allowed miners to marry their fiancés outside of the state. But now the Coens’ business is almost entirely military personnel.
Tom Kennedy of Armed Forces Proxy Marriage in Montana estimates that there are few companies out there doing what he and the Coens do in Montana. His company is well on its way to performing 1,900 proxy marriages, up from 500 last year.
Mr. Nuñez and Mrs. Nuñez-Carvalho were engaged to be married in 2019. When the pandemic broke out in early 2020, they had to plan a wedding taking into account Covid-19 security precautions and taking travel restrictions into account.
“From a military point of view, it is a hundred times stricter,” said Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho. “At the moment we cannot leave a radius of 350 miles from our base. If we have to leave the 350 mile radius, he has to go high in command. “
Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mr. Nuñez in San Diego. Like everyone else, they lived in limbo in the early days of the pandemic. Nobody knew when it would be over. The couple has met in person since Christmas when they were both on vacation. But they did manage to set a wedding date for August 22nd at an Airbnb in San Diego in what would have been an intimate ceremony.
“And then, in July, the Navy says,” Hey, by the way, we’re putting Sasha in about 15 days – August 1st – I hope you’re ready, “said Nuñez.
They’d already paid for their wedding, but never mind. The Navy sent Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho to El Salvador on November 10 with a provisional return. The couple postponed the wedding in the hopes they might get married before he came to command around November 9th. One of the most common reasons for the military couples seek proxy marriages because a couple must be married to be “in the same place”.
If Mr. Nuñez’s orders were received prior to his marriage, the military could send him and Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho to other parts of the world. And only when these orders, which can take up to three years to complete, can new orders be issued to place him with his wife.
“Once I’m with her, they can never part again,” he said.
During their deployment, the couple learned that he had the coronavirus and had developed long-distance symptoms. He tested positive for 60 days and had five trips to the emergency room. He also had bronchitis and pneumonia because of the virus.
“She not only had the operational mentality to fulfill her mission and do all of her secret things,” said Nuñez. “But she also had to worry about whether her fiancé was alive or not.”
However, their deployment was extended and they had to abandon their original wedding plans by early October. They said there was no way to see their positive partner for Covid-19. They were running out of time to be in the same place at the same time. The couple wanted to be married quickly and the opportunities dwindled.
While many couples turned to Zoom weddings that year and the online marriage process gained greater legal recognition under Executive Orders in New York, California, Utah, Illinois, and New Jersey, that option didn’t work for the Nuñezs. They weren’t sure if a Zoom marriage would be recognized by the military. The states that allow single-proxy marriages; California, Texas, and Colorado also had restrictions that disqualified the couple.
And then one day, during a routine Google search that he had done a thousand times before, Mr. Nuñez saw the Coens’ company.
“I still feel like a godsend,” said Nuñez. “I clicked on it and thought this looks exactly how we need it. But I don’t think that’s real. “
Mr. Coen phoned for two hours to make sure the process was real and legal. The process is mostly paperwork. A few fill out PDF forms with basic information such as names and addresses and have some of the documents notarized before they send the package back to the Coens. Because of the pandemic, the notaries even went online, which Mr. Coen had asked of the state of Montana for years.
Pat Kinsel, the managing director of Notarize, says his business grew 600 percent in 2020, including 1,200 notaries for single or double proxy marriages since the spring. The rise in technology has cleared another hurdle and stressor for separated couples.
“When clients find out about a proxy marriage, they are usually on their last rope,” Coen said. “You have somehow exhausted all other resources. So everyone is in a hurry. “
And less than two weeks after the first phone call with Mr Coen, Ms. Nuñez-Carvalho received that fateful call at 11:30 p.m. on October 20, 2020, telling her that she is now a married woman and is moving away from her husband is wedding day.