Updated: Jun 29
It is pretty natural to feel worried about your wedding as it may be quite stressful. There are many things to consider, such as the flowers, decorations, or the color of the bridesmaids' gowns. However, couples who get married in prison have more challenging things to consider than a typical wedding couple.
Getting married in a room with bars, bare walls, and metal detectors is not a typical wedding. Prison weddings in Arizona are likely to be far more stressful than selecting a wedding gown for your wedding or planning your first dance. Getting permission can take weeks, months and sometimes even years.
All legalities and arrangements for the prison wedding ceremony in Arizona are typically the responsibility of the non-incarcerated prospective spouse. Unlike traditional marriage ceremonies, prison weddings in Arizona necessitate acquiring specific permissions and detailed information on prison rules.
How to Marry a Prisoner
The rules for marrying a prisoner differ from prison to prison, but most require a "Marriage Permission Request" to obtain authorization to marry the prisoner.
Inmates should obtain the Marriage Application Form and submit it to the prison authorities via the Chaplain after filling in all the details. This usually involves sending the form to the bride via prison mail and having her fill in information on the witnesses and wedding officiant. The bride may mail the form to the officiant, especially if social security numbers are required. The bride or the officiant then mails the form to the Chaplain for review. The Chaplain will review the Marriage Application for any incomplete information before forwarding it to the prison warden. Once you and your partner complete the paperwork, you must wait for the reply from the prison.
Once permission to marry the prisoner has been obtained, your next step will be planning your prison wedding in Arizona.
Planning the Prison Wedding
The most crucial part of any marriage is the officiant. Hire an officiant who can be there on your big day and help you marry the person you love.
The wedding will also necessitate the presence of two witnesses. Bring two people who are on your fiancé's list of permitted visitors and over the age of 18. Finally, you will need a marriage license for your prison wedding in Arizona. This is requested from the Clerk of the Court in the county where the wedding will take place by the Chaplain. The non-sequestered spouse must pick it up at their convenience and bring it to the prison on the day of the wedding.
Usually, both couples must be present to get a marriage license, but because one person is behind bars and unavailable to appear for a prison wedding you must have the Chaplain's assistance in obtaining a marriage license for a prison wedding in Arizona.
Another consideration is the clothes that will be worn to the wedding. First, no jewelry is allowed. While formal clothes for the non-incarcerated spouse-to-be are permissible, they must cover the shoulders and not have a lowered neckline.or any slits. Basically necklines should cover the collarbone. Long blouses or a one piece outfit are best, as no Spanx, or body shaping underwear is permitted. Bras can not have hooks and eyes or an underwire--no metal is allowed anywhere in the dress or undergarments. Naturally, no bare or even potentially bare midriffs are allowed, and backs must be covered. The rules are very strict. If you have metal in your body, such as a knee or hip replacement, you may be asked for a letter from your doctor, so be sure you are totally prepared.
The bride may wear white if she is not the prisoner. Usually a nice dress or pants suit is worn. The same rules in dress applies to the witnesses and officiant. Additionally, no low-cut necklines or sleeveless items can be worn. A higher neckline and at least short sleeves, such as a blank T-shirt is required. If a T-shirt is worn, it may not have any slogans or designs on it. Some brides, in desperation, have been known to wear their T-shirts inside out! Many brides wear a light-weight duster or kimono over their outfit to create the illusion of a flowing outfit.
Prisoners are only allowed to wear their prison jumpsuits.
Depending on the rules and regulations of the prison facility, you may be granted time together after the ritual for a private visit together. Currently, with COVID-19 regulations in place, no touching is permitted. This means no kiss during or after the wedding. Some prisons are relaxing this rule, but it seems to be on a case-by-case basis. Be prepared to blow your kisses for now.
Since no pictures are permitted, it is recommended that the bride take at least a selfie of her outfit as a remembrance. If the witnesses came with you, have them snap a few when you get home since none are permitted at the prison. It's sad to be alone on your wedding day, so plan a fun activity with friends to commemorate the time.
For a prison wedding, having all the permissions, an officiant, and documentations with you, will make your wedding successful. Hire an officiant today who understands all the procedures of prison weddings in Arizona. And remember to document and celebrate your special day.