America’s Strangest Marriage Laws That Many Couples Are Unintentionally BreakingBy Anglina Roberts
In the lead-up to the wedding, many people say that getting married was the best decision they ever made. However, it soon becomes clear just how much paperwork and red tape is involved. There’s so much more to getting married than just saying “I do” and having a big party with your friends and family.
From signing prenuptial agreements to changing your name on official documents after the vows have been exchanged, it can start to feel like the hoops you have to jump through are endless. The craziest part about all of this is that American couples are bound by far more marriage laws than they realize. Most of them haven’t been enforced for years (if ever), but that doesn’t make them any less binding. Let’s go state by state and explore some of the wildest marriage laws, many of which are still in existence today.
Alabama: All About the Ladies
The idea of signing a prenuptial agreement is just too unromantic in the eyes of many loved-up couples. However, this has left many people in sticky situations when their marriages fall apart a few years (or months) down the track.
In the state of Alabama, it’s even more important to sign a prenup if you’re the groom as this great southern state only protects the bride’s pre-marriage possessions. Anything the groom owns could be up for grabs in the divorce settlement.
Arizona: Keeping It in the Family
This may sound wild, but in Arizona, it’s perfectly legal to marry your first cousin. Before you get too worried, the state does impose restrictions, so it’s not a free-for-all of cousin weddings.
To be able to marry your first cousin in Arizona, you must prove that you’re both incapable of reproducing or both over the age of 65. We don’t want to throw any shade on people who’ve taken advantage of this law, but let’s just say that marrying a cousin isn’t on any of our to-do lists.
Arkansas: The Law that was Never Meant to Be
This is one of the craziest marriage laws on the list, partly because of the law itself and partly because it was brought in entirely by accident. In 2007, a legislative mistake withdrew the minimum age of consent for marriage, meaning children could technically tie the knot.
This loophole was created by a single misplaced “not.” The legislation was designed to outlaw the marriage of anyone under 18, except if one party was pregnant and had parental consent. However, the law contained a typo, stating that a minor could marry if they were “not pregnant” and had parental consent. Thankfully, it was quickly amended.
Connecticut: Another Family-Friendly State?
We don’t know a single person who would want to marry their uncle, but if you believe the rumors on the internet, it is legal for uncles and nieces to marry in this state. How true is this assertion, though?
As it turns out, there is no room in the law for uncles and nieces to marry in Connecticut. Indeed, no one can marry a descendent or ancestor under Connecticut law. The misunderstanding may have arisen because a niece-in-law and uncle-in-law (who were completely unrelated by blood) were able to wed after the marriage that made them in-laws was dissolved.
Delaware: Making Light of Marriage
If you’re ever bored in Delaware, you can pick any friend or stranger who’s willing and get married just for the fun of it. It seems the First State has a sense of humor.
Delaware offers an easy annulment route for any couples who only got married as a joke or to follow through on a dare. Who’s keen to go to Delaware and test out this weird marriage law?
Kansas: In-Law Love
Given the tone of some of the earlier entries on this list, you’ll be forgiven if you assumed this was going to be another law that’s a little too close to the realm of incest. Thankfully, it’s far more innocent.
In Wichita, Kansas, there’s a local law that obligates couples to be kind and polite to their in-laws. To be specific, if your spouse mistreats your mother in Wichita, it’s acceptable grounds for divorce. Of all the crazy laws on this list, Wichita’s is actually quite sweet.
Kentucky: Third Time’s a Charm, Fourth Time’s a Crime
Nowhere is the saying “third time’s a charm” more true than in Kentucky. Indeed, when it comes to marriage, the fourth time could be a crime! Two people can marry, divorce, marry, divorce, marry, and divorce again, but God help them if they go in for round four.
The funniest part is, for it to have been made into a law, there must have been enough people clogging up the courts with repeat divorces for the legislators to deem it necessary.
Louisiana: The Future is Clear
New Orleans is a magical place, and it has more than its fair share of palm readers, psychics, and others who claim to have a connection to the spirit world. While it’s perfectly legal for people to practice and earn a living from their beliefs, New Orleans prohibits them from doing one thing.
No psychics, palm readers, or other mystics of this type are permitted to perform wedding ceremonies. This law seems pretty set in stone for now, but we’re sure the psychics will let us know in advance if there’s a chance it might change.
Massachusetts: Marriage Sacrifices
Back in the 1770s, residents of Eastham, Massachusetts were asked to kill at least three crows or six blackbirds before they could marry. This may sound strange, but it was all in the name of crop preservation.
Though some online sources would have you believe this law still exists (and others misattribute it to neighboring towns), Eastham locals can rest assured that there’s no chance they’ll be forced to murder any birds just to get married.
Michigan: Watch Your Step
It pays to be faithful in Michigan. Of course, married couples should be faithful to each other regardless. However, in Michigan, your freedom may be at stake if you stray.
Adultery remains a felony in Michigan, and though many argue that the law is outdated, for now, it seems it’s here to stay. If a married man cheats with an unmarried woman, only the man is liable for the felony offense. Technically, he may be given a sentence of up to a year in prison.
Montana: Body Doubles
Body doubles aren’t just for film stars. If you want to get married and at least one of you is a resident of Montana and away on military service, you can have a proxy wedding in which a “stunt double” signs the papers on your behalf.
Montana isn’t the only state to allow proxy marriages, but it is unique in the fact that it allows for double proxy marriages. Only one member of the couple needs to be a Montana resident, and only one needs to be away on active service.
New York: An Unusual Loophole
If Rochester from Jane Eyre had lived in New York, then the story’s main conflict never would have arisen. In New York, if you’re married to someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and the condition has persisted for five years or more, it’s grounds for divorce.
The law is in place to help people separate when it is in the best interests of both parties. As we learned from Jane Eyre, it’s no good for either party if someone is stuck in a marriage that’s causing them harm.
North Carolina: The Truthful State
Perhaps it’s time for North Carolina to update its nickname from “the Tar Heel State” to “the Truthful State.” Why? In North Carolina, it’s a misdemeanor offense if you falsely claim that you’re a married couple when checking into a hotel.
It’s also technically illegal to live with a romantic partner before getting married in North Carolina. However, the law specifically refers to lewd and lascivious cohabitation between a man and a woman, so make of that what you will!
South Carolina: Also Fans of the Truth
The Carolinas are really into honesty! In South Carolina, it’s illegal to propose to someone if you don’t truly intend to marry them. Proposals made with ulterior motives could get you in trouble if the proposee finds out.
There’s nothing at all wrong with this law. Indeed, we’re sure it has protected at least one person over the years. However, it would be nice to live in a society in which such laws didn’t have to exist. If you’re going to propose to someone, make sure you mean it!
Tennessee: The Sober State
Tennessee does not want to deal with the aftermath of people getting drunk, getting married, and regretting the decision the moment they sober up. This is why it’s illegal to get married in Tennessee if you’re drunk.
In a way, the Tennessee lawmakers have a point. If the only way you can get through your wedding ceremony is to be plastered, then perhaps you need to rethink what you’re doing.
Vermont: Love and Dentures
An 1856 case in Vermont brought a rather strange marriage law into existence. The ruling has never been overturned, and since the US is a case law country, that means it’s technically still in effect. What is this bizarre law?
Married women are supposed to get written permission from their husbands before getting dentures. This must be submitted to their dentist. However, we can confirm that no dentists in Vermont currently require such documentation!
Virginia: For Lovers?
The phrase “Virginia is for lovers” has been used as a slogan in tourism for quite some time in the Old Dominion. However, the loved-up state actually has some of the strangest old marriage laws in America.
Until 2005, it was technically illegal for any unmarried people to have sex in Virginia. Oral pleasure was also illegal, even between married couples, up until 2013. Not only was it illegal, but the state prosecuted people for it.
Arizona: Donkey Details
It’s not just marriage laws that are strange in the good old old US of A. This proud nation has a love of odd laws that goes so far as to include donkeys and bathtubs!
In Arizona, the law dictates that you cannot allow a donkey to sleep in your tub. This strange US law was put in place after a napping donkey was washed away into another home during a flood, bathtub and all!
Wisconsin: America’s Dairyland
This state has high standards when it comes to cheese, and if you don’t meet them, you could find yourself in trouble with the law. The milk a cheesemaker uses in this state must meet certain standards, but sadly, there are no uniformed dairy police enforcing the strict rules.
There’s a reason Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland, and clearly, the state wishes to hold onto its title. Its alternative nickname is the Badger State, which sounds far less magical (no shade on badgers, of course).
Tennessee: Keep it Civil
While dueling is mostly a practice of the past, anyone who’s visited the subReddit called r/ActualPublicFreakouts knows that plenty of people are still challenging each other in the modern world. It may not have the classiness of 16th-century duels, but some definite brawls are going down!.
It seems these people might be out of luck if they want to work in a government department in Tennessee. The state specifically bans anyone who’s challenged someone to a duel from holding office.
Delaware: Protecting the People
Here’s an odd law that comes from a kind and thoughtful place. In Delaware, it’s illegal to pawn wheelchairs, artificial limbs, and other items used to support people with mobility challenges.
Though this may sound unfair at first glance, it’s in place to protect people from losing items that are essential to their quality of life. It’s nice to see Delaware using the law for the right reasons – to protect and serve its citizens.
Oklahoma: Mind Your Own Business
The Sooner State (yes, that really is Oklahoma’s nickname!) does not like gossip or eavesdropping. There’s a law in place to protect people from having their conversations listened in on in any way.
So, if you’re in Oklahoma and you feel like a stranger or neighbor is paying a little too much attention to your conversation, you may have legal recourse. We wonder how Oklahomans feel about reality TV then – it’s all about snooping into other people’s lives!
Iowa: Can You Believe It’s Not Butter?
The Hawkeye State lives up to its name when it comes to spotting fake table spreads! If you dare to pretend that your margarine is actually butter, you could find yourself in legal trouble.
We wonder how seriously a judge would take a charge like this. It’s probably best to err on the side of caution and be honest about your table spreads in Iowa. There’s no shame in using margarine if that’s what you love!
Louisiana: Pizza Crimes
Sending pizza to someone else’s address is a common prank as it leaves the person with a bunch of pizzas they don’t want and a bill to match. Of course, this is a huge problem for both the recipient and the pizza parlor.
In Louisiana, they take pizza crimes very seriously. If you’re caught making a fake order, you could be fined up to $500. While this may seem a little excessive, we think it’s fair to outlaw such an unimaginative prank.
Georgia: No Forks for You
Fried chicken should never be eaten with a fork, but if you try it in Gainesville, Georgia, you may well be charged with an offense! Apparently, the state was hoping to position itself as the fried chicken capital of America back in the 60s, and this strange law was part of the moves they made.
Crazier still, a woman was actually charged with this offense in 2009! It was done as a joke and she was later pardoned. We doubt she found it as funny as the police officer did.
Missouri: Stop Fighting Bears
Can you imagine living in a time when so many people thought it would be a good idea to wrestle bears that your state had to outlaw it? Well, if Missouri hadn’t brought in its bear wrestling laws, we might still be living in those times!
Bear wrestling was once so popular in the Show-Me State that legislators had to do something about it. Apart from being incredibly dangerous, this practice was clearly animal cruelty, so we’re glad Missouri lawmakers stepped in to put an end to it.
New York: How Mask Laws Have Changed
This is an odd one considering the current climate. Though masks are encouraged all over the world now to help prevent the spread of the pandemic, they were once illegal in New York.
Indeed, for almost two centuries, no New Yorker could legally wear a mask unless they could prove they were going to a masquerade ball. How times have changed! Masks are now strongly encouraged in the state of New York.
Wyoming: Creative Laws
In a bid to add value to Wyoming, the state’s legislators got creative with their lawmaking. Any building valued at $100,000 or more in the Cowboy State must have art on display.
While we love the idea behind this law, we’re not sure how we feel about making it mandatory to include art in your building. What do you think? Should art be something people are free to bring into their lives on their own terms?
Washington: Bigfoot Protection
Bigfoot believers will love this Washington state law. Skamania County decided to put some protections in place, just in case the mythical creature really exists.
If you find Bigfoot and get proof, you’ll be rewarded with instant fame. However, if you find Bigfoot and kill the creature, you’ll be rewarded with a five-year prison sentence. We think that’s fair, and we love the fact that Washington protects animals that may or may not exist.
Oregon: Road Trip Rules
America is one of the best countries in the world for taking a long road trip. However, if your drive takes you through Oregon, there’s a law you need to know about: When nature calls, it’s important to stop at a bathroom.
If you do your business in a bottle or other container and then toss it on the side of the road, you could be in big trouble with the law. Surely, this should be common sense, right? Don’t leave your waste for other people to clean up, whether there’s a law in place or not!
Michigan: Cheaters Really Don’t Prosper
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “cheaters never prosper.” Well, this is especially true in Michigan. In fact, cheaters can face up to four years in prison if they’re caught under certain circumstances!
Of course, people aren’t regularly going to prison in Michigan for infidelity. The adultery laws are old and have long since fallen out of use. However, if you’re married and suspect your spouse is cheating, it can still be worth seeking proof as this can help greatly with the divorce proceedings.
New Hampshire: Weed Laws
No, not that kind of weed! New Hampshire has laws in place to protect a different kind of weed – seaweed. Since this valuable plant can be used to create fertilizers, New Hampshire protects it.
If you’re in the Granite State, don’t even think about sneaking out at night to harvest seaweed! Incidentally, New Hampshire is also one of the states in which marijuana is illegal for recreational use. So, if you’ve just come from California, be careful about what you bring with you!
North Carolina: Serious Business
Halloween must be disappointing for office workers in North Carolina. It’s illegal to wear a costume to any kind of meeting in this state. While this law may sound ridiculous, there’s a very good reason behind it.
North Carolina’s law prohibiting costumes at meetings was designed to make it more difficult for the Ku Klux Klan to have meetings. Since it’s for such a noble cause, we’re sure office workers in North Carolina will be happy to avoid scheduling meetings on Halloween.
Kentucky: No Snakes in Church
One of America’s many fascinating quirks is the practice of snake handling in church. Some Christian sects, mostly offshoots of the Methodist church, bring snakes into their sermons, handling them to demonstrate the protection of God.
Since many people use poisonous rattlesnakes to up the stakes, Kentucky decided it needed to do something about this wild practice. So, they banned snakes from churches, with a fine in place to make sure the law is followed by all.
Indiana: Hold Your Horses
Before illegal car races, there were illegal horse races. Indeed, if Indiana laws are anything to go by, the next film in the Fast and Furious franchise may well be a throwback to the old days of street racing with horses.
Indiana has some laws in place to ensure that anyone trying to create an off-the-books horse race can be charged. All horse racing must be restricted to the tracks, but given how much cruelty is involved in the sport, we wonder whether it should just be outlawed altogether.
Mississippi: Watch Your Mouth
Though many of the crazy laws on this list are old and outdated, Mississippi is coming in strong with a law made this century. In 2010, Mississippi lawmakers made swearing officially illegal. The law was quickly overturned. However, they did manage to keep part of it.
It’s still illegal in Mississippi to have coarse language printed on a sign. So, if you go to a protest in Mississippi, be sure to get your message across without swearing. We wouldn’t want you to get in any legal trouble.
Maine: Dare to Dance
This is one law we wouldn’t want to have to enforce. In Maine, it is illegal to dance in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol unless the establishment has a live entertainment license. That’s right – you need a license to dance while drinking in Maine!
Can you imagine trying to enforce this law? We would not want to be in charge of telling drunk people they can’t dance when the music is pumping. All we can say to the police force in Maine is, good luck!