We traveled state to state in search of the most curious courtship regulations that are still on the books. As for the question of whether or not these laws of love should actually be enforced—well, we leave that up to you and your better half to decide.
• In South Carolina, if a man over 16 proposes marriage to an unwed woman without actually intending to marry her, he’s guilty of a misdemeanor under the Offenses Against Morality and Decency. Don’t get too jazzed, though, ladies. You can’t bring the sleaze ball up on charges unless you can get someone to corroborate your story that he proposed as a means of seduction. Not to mention, the whole thing is null and void if the accused man can prove that at the time of the alleged seduction the woman in question was behaving “lewd and unchaste.” (That’s legalese we all can understand.)
• In North Carolina, it’s against the law to “pretend” to be married when registering for a hotel room. So next time the unknowing clerk hands you and your bedtime buddy the room keys and says, “Enjoy your stay, Mr. and Mrs. Guest,” you may want to swallow the awkwardness and correct him, or risk suffering the consequence of a Class 2 misdemeanor. On the other hand, if the couple checking into the honeymoon suite is legitimately hitched but can’t “close the deal” due to one or both parties being sexually impotent, the marriage can be declared null and void. One has to wonder, though: should the advent of Levitra and Viagra make this law null and void?
• In Montana, a couple can marry even if neither of them is present. This miracle marriage is done by way of a “double proxy” ceremony. Particularly popular with soldiers deployed overseas who wish to get married without coming home on leave, this type of marriage is arranged through a lawyer, who then hires two proxies (anyone with a free afternoon and a desire for some extra cash) to come sit before the judge, recite the vows and sign the marriage license on behalf of the absent bride and groom. Also potentially an option for the ultra-lazy couple that can’t even be bothered to elope and would prefer to have someone else do the “I do-ing” for them while they relax in front of the TiVo. Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad at all.
• For several embarrassing months in late 2007 and early 2008, Arkansas state law mistakenly allowed persons of any age, even twee toddlers, to marry as long as they had parental consent. The gaff was made when a minimum age requirement was accidentally left out of an amended marriage law aimed at establishing eighteen as the legal age of non-parental consented marriage. The law was finally corrected in April of 2008, meaning Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt are once again off the market until further notice.
• There is some serious girl power going on down in Alabama, where women are entitled to keep any and all possessions that they acquired prior to the marriage in the event of a divorce, but no such allowance is made for the man. So while angry exes might go 45 rounds arguing over who gets to keep his original vinyl record collection, the five rooms full of Pottery Barn furniture she brought into the marriage will be off the table. He might get to keep the big screen in the end, but she’ll dare him to try and enjoy watching the big game without a plush Pearce Sectional Sofa in Oatmeal ultra-suede cushioning his backside. Mwah ha ha ha!
• In New Orleans, Louisiana, it is illegal for anyone claiming to be a palm reader, fortune teller, mystic healer or any other magic-possessing hoodwinker to offer up marriage services (they are also not allowed to proclaim their ability to contact your dead or lost relatives, locate buried treasure or predict the outcome of a lawsuit, just for starters). Too bad though, it really would have been convenient to have a one stop shop for a marriage, a séance, and a chakra cleansing.
Jenn Thompson is a freelance writer for publications including Charlotte Magazine, Weddings Unveiled, and The Atlantan. For the next few days, she’ll be sharing her wedding knowledge with us. Superstar researcher Kathleen Pierce helped dig these weird laws up.
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