Strange marriage laws are on the books all over the world, and in every state in the US. While some of these funny laws about marriage are arcane relics leftover from centuries ago (such as the requirement that men in a small Cape Cod town kill six blackbirds before marrying), and others quirks of history or circumstance, others are incredibly restrictive, dangerous, and harmful to women.
As with the odd and silly laws controlling marriage in many countries, so too are there strange divorce laws. Some states let you divorce at the drop of a hat, while others make it quite difficult. There are countries where blame MUST be assigned - and some where divorce is simply illegal. There are also laws about what married people can do, even if they're legally wed.
Here are some of the most unusual laws about marriage and divorce in the world. See how many you might be breaking!
list ordered by
In Connecticut, You Can Marry Your Uncle
Connecticut is the only state in the union that allows uncles and nieces to marry - but only half-blooded relations.
Wearing Dentures in Vermont? Check with Your Husband First!
An arcane law on the books in Vermont requires women to get written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.
Men on Cape Cod Have to Kill Birds in Order to Be Married
Apparently, in 1771 in the small town of Truro on Cape Cod, birds eating crops was a problem. Hence, the town voted that "Every single man in the township shall kill six blackbirds or three crows, and shall not be married till they comply with this requisition."
Married Couples Can't Sleep Naked in a Rented Room in Salem, MA
It's no surprise that a town that once burned witches hangs on to a bit of its prudish past. In the case of Salem, MA, it's still against the law for married couples to sleep naked in a rented room, though it remains a mystery as to how this is enforced.
Wichita Is a Mother-in-Law's Paradise
Wichita, KS has a law that makes it compulsory to be nice to one's mother-in-law. If you mistreat them, it can be grounds for divorce.
Montana Allows Double Proxy Marriage
While a few states with large military presences allow proxy marriage - in which one party of the wedding isn't present for the ceremony - Montana allows double proxy marriage, where neither party is present. A soldier stationed in Kuwait can marry someone living in Kentucky - as long as one is a resident of Montana.
Outdoor Weddings Aren't Legal in England
Because of laws requiring the solemnization of marriages, weddings must take place in a "fixed structure" with a roof - such as a church or house. This means no open-air, outdoor, or garden weddings. Exemptions exist for religious groups other than the Church of England, and laws are being proposed that would overturn the ban altogether.
France Allows Posthumous Marriage but It's Tricky
A French law passed during World War I allows women to marry men who are dead - likely to allow fiancées and girlfriends to obtain death benefits. The law was clarified in 1950 after a woman wanted to marry a man who died in a dam breach. The new rules made it much harder to marry posthumously. In fact, it can't be done without express permission of the President of France. You also have to provide proof that the deceased intended to marry you before they died.
No Public Kissing on Sundays in Hartford
In keeping with the nation's many alcohol-related blue laws, Hartford, CT, bans public displays of affection on Sundays.
If You're Old and Want to Marry Your Cousin, Head for One of These States
In six different US states (Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Utah, and Wisconsin) cousins can marry - but only if they're over 65 (or 50 if you're in Illinois), and thus out of child-bearing age.
If You're a Man in Alabama, You're Going to Want a Prenup
Alabama law entitles women to keep any and all possessions that they acquired prior to the marriage in the event of a divorce, but doesn't make such an allowance for the man.
Public Announcements Are Required in Monaco
To be married in Monaco, you are required to write a note announcing your marriage and put it up in the local town hall. It must remain there for at least 10 days, and that period also must include two Sundays. If couples don't do it, their marriage may not be valid.
Pretending to Be Married When Getting a Hotel Room Is Illegal in North Carolina
Forget those pre-wedding fantasies of registering for a hotel room in North Carolina as "Mr. and Mrs. So and So" - it's a misdemeanor.
In Kentucky, It's Illegal to Marry the Same Man Four Times
Kentucky women are saved from their own temptations by being unable to marry one man four different times. However, you can marry four different men one time each.
Arkansas Briefly Had No Minimum Marriage Age
For a few months in 2007 and 2008, Arkansas had no minimum age required for marriage. Even babies could get married, as long as their parents consented. The legislation was intended to establish 18 as the minimum age to marry without consent, giving an exemption to pregnant teenagers - but a typo made it read as if anyone of any age could marry with parental permission. Shockingly, there was so much debate over the mistake that it took a special session of the state legislature to fix it.
South Carolina Is Serious About Seduction
South Carolina's Offenses Against Morality and Decency Act considers it a misdemeanor for a man over 16 to propose to a woman in order to seduce her.
No-Fault Divorce Is Still Illegal in England
While the entire US recognizes the validity of no-fault divorce (New York was the last holdout, adopting it in 2010), it's still not on the books in England. Splitting couples have to have someone to blame, usually through adultery or abuse.
Japanese Divorce Law Is Seriously Unfair
Japanese women have to wait at least six months to get married again, but men can re-marry right away. As of 2015, this law was being challenged in court.
"Prank" Marriages Can Be Annuled
Delaware law states that a marriage may be annulled if "one or both parties entered the marriage as a jest or dare."
Interracial Marriage Wasn't Legal in Alabama Until 2000
It took a ballot proposition for Alabama to finally overturn its ban on interracial marriage - and shockingly (or not) 40 percent of voters were against it.
19 States and Washington, D. C. Allow Cousin Marriage
Shockingly, marrying your first cousin is perfectly legal in 19 states and DC. North Carolina allows cousin marriage, but not "double cousin marriage."
Divorce Is Illegal in the Philippines
Predominately Catholic, the Philippines makes it almost impossible to end a marriage. Divorce is against the law, and annulments are very difficult to get.
New York Grants Divorces for Insanity
Courts in New York are allowed to grant divorces to parties whose spouses have gone insane - but the behavior must have been going on for at least five years.
New Orleans Palm Readers Can't Marry People
New Orleans law prohibits psychics, tarot readers, or palm readers from performing marriages. Presumably, this is to stop people from getting loaded on Bourbon Street and stumbling into the first neon-lit storefront they see to get hitched.
In the South, Marriage Is a Sober Matter
Both Mississippi and Tennessee can deny a marriage license to anyone the county clerk deems drunk or legally insane.