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Why All The Hullabaloo? What Is The History Of Marriage?

Campbell

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History of Marriage in Western Civilization

HISTORY OF MARRIAGE IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Marriage, as we know it in our Western civilization today, has a long history with roots in several very different ancient cultures, of which the Roman, Hebrew, and Germanic are the most important. Western marriage has further been shaped by the doctrines and policies of the medieval Christian church, the demands of the Protestant Reformation, and the social impact of the Industrial Revolution.

When we look at the marriage customs of our ancestors, we discover several striking facts. For example, for the most of Western history, marriage was not a mere personal matter concerning only husband and wife, but rather the business of their two families which brought them together. Most marriages, therefore, were arranged. Moreover, the wife usually had much fewer rights than her husband and was expected to be subservient to him. To a considerable extent, marriage was also an economic arrangement. There was little room for romantic love, and even simple affection was not considered essential. Procreation and cooperation were the main marital duties.

On the other hand, it may surprise many modern couples to learn that in earlier times divorce was often easily granted. Here again, men usually had the advantage when they could simply dismiss their wives, but in many instances women could also sue for divorce. In ancient Rome couples could even divorce each other by mutual agreement, a possibility that has not yet returned to all European countries. Another notable historical fact is the nearly universal stress on the necessity of marriage and the resulting pressure on single persons to get married. This pressure was partially lifted only under the influence of Christianity which, at least for some time, found a special virtue in celibacy. Christian doctrines have, of course, also had their effects on marriage itself, and some of these will be discussed below.

Marriage in Ancient Greece and Rome

In ancient Greece marriage was seen as a fundamental social institution. Indeed, the great lawgiver Solon once contemplated making marriage compulsory, and in Athens under Pericles bachelors were excluded from certain important public positions. Sparta, while encouraging sexual relationships between men, nevertheless insisted on their marrying and producing children. Single and childless men were treated with scorn.

However, while marriage was deemed important, it was usually treated as a practical matter without much romantic significance. A father arranged the most advantageous marriage for his son and then had a contract signed before witnesses. Shortly thereafter a wedding celebration was held and the young couple (who might never have met before) was escorted to bed. All marriages were monogamous. As a rule, the bridegroom was in his thirties and the bride was a teenager. In addition to this disparity in ages there also existed an inequality in education and political rights. Women were considered inferior to men and remained confined to the home. Their main function as wives was to produce children and to manage the household while their husbands tended to public affairs. For their erotic needs, men often turned to prostitutes and concubines. As Demosthenes, the orator, explained it: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring." Many men also cultivated intense emotional and sexual relationships with male adolescents (paiderastia). The legal inequality of the sexes was further reflected in the divorce regulations. It was always easier for a husband to divorce his wife than vice versa. However, since a divorced woman could take her dowry back with her, men normally asked for a divorce only in cases of female adultery and infertility.

The marriage laws and customs of ancient Rome are not easily summarized, because they were rather varied and underwent significant changes in the course of time.

Marriage in Medieval Europe

The rise of Christianity produced a profound change in European marriage laws and customs, although this change came about only gradually. The first Christian emperors were more or less content with the traditional Roman law. However, under varying political and religious pressures, they alternately broadened and restricted the divorce regulations. They also repealed older laws which had penalized the unmarried and childless, since the new Christian asceticism favored virginity and sexual abstinence over marriage. In most other respects they resisted change. Marriage and divorce continued to be civil and private matters.

In the following centuries, however, marriage came more and more under the influence of the church. Compared to Rome, the newly Christianized countries of Northern Europe had rather barbaric marriage customs and treated women little better than domestic slaves. In Germanic law, for example, marriage was essentially a business deal between the bridegroom and the bride's father ("sale marriage"). The symbol of a successful "bride sale" was the ring (a form of down payment) which was given to the bride herself. Acceptance of the ring constituted betrothal. The full payment of the "bride price" was made on delivery, i.e., when the actual wedding took place. (Since then, the ring has acquired many other symbolic meanings and, indeed, is still used in our modern marriage ceremonies.) The civilizing influence of the church soon refined these primitive customs. According to Roman law and Christian belief, marriage could be built only on the free consent of both partners, and this doctrine was bound to raise the status of women. Furthermore, theologians increasingly found a religious significance in marriage and eventually even included it among the sacraments. This also endowed a formerly rather prosaic arrangement with a new dignity.

Unfortunately, at the same time the church created two new problems: It abolished divorce by declaring marriage to be insoluble (except by death) and greatly increased the number of marriage prohibitions. Now there were three basic impediments to marriage: "consanguinity", "affinity", and "spiritual affinity". Consanguinity (i.e., relationship by blood) was interpreted very broadly up to the 6th or even 7th degree. This meant that nobody could marry anyone more closely related than a third cousin. Affinity referred to a mysterious closeness between the two families of husband and wife. Since the latter were seen as having become "one flesh", all relatives on both sides also became related to each other, a circumstance which made marriage between any of them impossible. Spiritual affinity was said to exist between godparents and godchildren with their families.

As a result of these new regulations, the influence of the church on marriage was greatly strengthened. Very often extensive clerical investigations were necessary to prove or disprove the existence of impediments. For example, marriages that had been entered in ignorance or defiance of such impediments were considered null and void. In these cases the church was therefore willing to pronounce an "annulment". Since divorce was no longer permitted, an annulment was the only way of dissolving a marriage, and thus many married couples who had tired of each other sooner or later conveniently discovered some previously overlooked marriage impediment. The church also began to post so-called banns before each wedding, inviting anyone with knowledge of an impediment to come forward. The growing church involvement in marriage could further be seen in the development of a special religious wedding ceremony. In the first Christian centuries marriage had been a strictly private arrangement. As late as the 10th century, the essential part of the wedding itself took place outside the church door. It was not until the 12th century that a priest became part of the wedding ceremony, and not until the 13th century that he actually took charge of the proceedings. Nevertheless, it remained understood that, even as a sacrament, marriage sprang from the free consent of the two partners, and that therefore neither the parents nor the priest nor the government could affect its validity. It thus became possible for couples to get married secretly if they could not obtain anyone else's approval. It also became possible for very young children to be married, if their parents could coax the necessary consent out of them. Especially aristocratic families often took advantage of this possibility when they found a politically advantageous match for their little sons or daughters. On the average, however, males married in their mid-twenties, and females in their early teens (i.e., soon after their first menstruation).

Today it may be tempting to see medieval marriage in the light of certain lofty religious doctrines and the poetry of the troubadours. However, throughout most of the Middle Ages and for the greater part of the population marriage remained a practical, economic affair. Romantic love hardly had any place in it. Moreover, the social and legal status of women, while somewhat improved in some countries, continued to be very low.




UNCONVENTIONAL FORMS OF MARRIAGE IN 19TH-CENTURY AMERICA

Marital experiments are nothing new. Especially the United States has an interesting history of attempts at marriage reform.



The Oneida Community

Founded by John Noyes in 1948, the Oneida colony in upstate New York cultivated a form of group marriage called "complex marriage" in which theoretically every woman was married to every man. The community also practiced "scientific breeding" in which potential parents were matched by committee for physical and mental health. The picture shows this special breed of children playing in front of their proud parents.



Mormon Polygamy

The members of the Mormon church were relentlessly persecuted, harassed, and ridiculed because of their polygamy. Finally, they were forced to abandon the practice. The picture is a satirical cartoon commenting on the death of Brigham Young in 1877. tl shows twelve widows in the same marital bed mourning the death of their husband.

A more efficient divorce court was not established until the middle of the 19th century. In colonial America the Puritans permitted divorce in certain specific cases, but it remained prohibited in all Catholic countries until the French Revolution and the Napoleonic code introduced it to France. After Napoleon, divorce was abolished again by the restored monarchy, but it was reinstated by the Second Republic in 1884. Still, divorce remained impossible in Italy, Portugal, and Spain, until Italy finally legalized it in 1970.



The gradual emancipation of marriage and divorce laws from the control of the church resulted in greater individual freedom and further raised the status of women. The parents began to lose influence over the marital choices of their children, and romantic love became an important factor in marriage. Even so, for most couples until well into the 19th century marriage was still basically an economic arrangement. Moreover, the husband was usually the one who profited most, because he was the "head of the household" and controlled his wife's property. He also had many other rights denied to his wife and was favored by a moral double standard that allowed him considerable sexual license. Under the circumstances, women continued to press for further reforms, a process which even today has not yet fully reached its goal. (See also "The Social Roles of Men and Women.")





[Title Page] [Contents] [Preface] [Introduction] [The Human Body] [Sexual Behavior] [Sex and Society] [The Social Roles] [Conformity & Deviance] [Marriage and Family] [The Oppressed] ["Sexual Revolution"] [Epilogue] [Sexual Slang Glossary] [Sex Education Test] [Picture Credits]
 
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Un biased

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History of Marriage in Western Civilization

HISTORY OF MARRIAGE IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Marriage, as we know it in our Western civilization today, has a long history with roots in several very different ancient cultures, of which the Roman, Hebrew, and Germanic are the most important. Western marriage has further been shaped by the doctrines and policies of the medieval Christian church, the demands of the Protestant Reformation, and the social impact of the Industrial Revolution.

When we look at the marriage customs of our ancestors, we discover several striking facts. For example, for the most of Western history, marriage was not a mere personal matter concerning only husband and wife, but rather the business of their two families which brought them together. Most marriages, therefore, were arranged. Moreover, the wife usually had much fewer rights than her husband and was expected to be subservient to him. To a considerable extent, marriage was also an economic arrangement. There was little room for romantic love, and even simple affection was not considered essential. Procreation and cooperation were the main marital duties.

On the other hand, it may surprise many modern couples to learn that in earlier times divorce was often easily granted. Here again, men usually had the advantage when they could simply dismiss their wives, but in many instances women could also sue for divorce. In ancient Rome couples could even divorce each other by mutual agreement, a possibility that has not yet returned to all European countries. Another notable historical fact is the nearly universal stress on the necessity of marriage and the resulting pressure on single persons to get married. This pressure was partially lifted only under the influence of Christianity which, at least for some time, found a special virtue in celibacy. Christian doctrines have, of course, also had their effects on marriage itself, and some of these will be discussed below.

Marriage in Ancient Greece and Rome

In ancient Greece marriage was seen as a fundamental social institution. Indeed, the great lawgiver Solon once contemplated making marriage compulsory, and in Athens under Pericles bachelors were excluded from certain important public positions. Sparta, while encouraging sexual relationships between men, nevertheless insisted on their marrying and producing children. Single and childless men were treated with scorn.

However, while marriage was deemed important, it was usually treated as a practical matter without much romantic significance. A father arranged the most advantageous marriage for his son and then had a contract signed before witnesses. Shortly thereafter a wedding celebration was held and the young couple (who might never have met before) was escorted to bed. All marriages were monogamous. As a rule, the bridegroom was in his thirties and the bride was a teenager. In addition to this disparity in ages there also existed an inequality in education and political rights. Women were considered inferior to men and remained confined to the home. Their main function as wives was to produce children and to manage the household while their husbands tended to public affairs. For their erotic needs, men often turned to prostitutes and concubines. As Demosthenes, the orator, explained it: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring." Many men also cultivated intense emotional and sexual relationships with male adolescents (paiderastia). The legal inequality of the sexes was further reflected in the divorce regulations. It was always easier for a husband to divorce his wife than vice versa. However, since a divorced woman could take her dowry back with her, men normally asked for a divorce only in cases of female adultery and infertility.

The marriage laws and customs of ancient Rome are not easily summarized, because they were rather varied and underwent significant changes in the course of time.

Marriage in Medieval Europe

The rise of Christianity produced a profound change in European marriage laws and customs, although this change came about only gradually. The first Christian emperors were more or less content with the traditional Roman law. However, under varying political and religious pressures, they alternately broadened and restricted the divorce regulations. They also repealed older laws which had penalized the unmarried and childless, since the new Christian asceticism favored virginity and sexual abstinence over marriage. In most other respects they resisted change. Marriage and divorce continued to be civil and private matters.

In the following centuries, however, marriage came more and more under the influence of the church. Compared to Rome, the newly Christianized countries of Northern Europe had rather barbaric marriage customs and treated women little better than domestic slaves. In Germanic law, for example, marriage was essentially a business deal between the bridegroom and the bride's father ("sale marriage"). The symbol of a successful "bride sale" was the ring (a form of down payment) which was given to the bride herself. Acceptance of the ring constituted betrothal. The full payment of the "bride price" was made on delivery, i.e., when the actual wedding took place. (Since then, the ring has acquired many other symbolic meanings and, indeed, is still used in our modern marriage ceremonies.) The civilizing influence of the church soon refined these primitive customs. According to Roman law and Christian belief, marriage could be built only on the free consent of both partners, and this doctrine was bound to raise the status of women. Furthermore, theologians increasingly found a religious significance in marriage and eventually even included it among the sacraments. This also endowed a formerly rather prosaic arrangement with a new dignity.

Unfortunately, at the same time the church created two new problems: It abolished divorce by declaring marriage to be insoluble (except by death) and greatly increased the number of marriage prohibitions. Now there were three basic impediments to marriage: "consanguinity", "affinity", and "spiritual affinity". Consanguinity (i.e., relationship by blood) was interpreted very broadly up to the 6th or even 7th degree. This meant that nobody could marry anyone more closely related than a third cousin. Affinity referred to a mysterious closeness between the two families of husband and wife. Since the latter were seen as having become "one flesh", all relatives on both sides also became related to each other, a circumstance which made marriage between any of them impossible. Spiritual affinity was said to exist between godparents and godchildren with their families.

As a result of these new regulations, the influence of the church on marriage was greatly strengthened. Very often extensive clerical investigations were necessary to prove or disprove the existence of impediments. For example, marriages that had been entered in ignorance or defiance of such impediments were considered null and void. In these cases the church was therefore willing to pronounce an "annulment". Since divorce was no longer permitted, an annulment was the only way of dissolving a marriage, and thus many married couples who had tired of each other sooner or later conveniently discovered some previously overlooked marriage impediment. The church also began to post so-called banns before each wedding, inviting anyone with knowledge of an impediment to come forward. The growing church involvement in marriage could further be seen in the development of a special religious wedding ceremony. In the first Christian centuries marriage had been a strictly private arrangement. As late as the 10th century, the essential part of the wedding itself took place outside the church door. It was not until the 12th century that a priest became part of the wedding ceremony, and not until the 13th century that he actually took charge of the proceedings. Nevertheless, it remained understood that, even as a sacrament, marriage sprang from the free consent of the two partners, and that therefore neither the parents nor the priest nor the government could affect its validity. It thus became possible for couples to get married secretly if they could not obtain anyone else's approval. It also became possible for very young children to be married, if their parents could coax the necessary consent out of them. Especially aristocratic families often took advantage of this possibility when they found a politically advantageous match for their little sons or daughters. On the average, however, males married in their mid-twenties, and females in their early teens (i.e., soon after their first menstruation).

Today it may be tempting to see medieval marriage in the light of certain lofty religious doctrines and the poetry of the troubadours. However, throughout most of the Middle Ages and for the greater part of the population marriage remained a practical, economic affair. Romantic love hardly had any place in it. Moreover, the social and legal status of women, while somewhat improved in some countries, continued to be very low.




UNCONVENTIONAL FORMS OF MARRIAGE IN 19TH-CENTURY AMERICA

Marital experiments are nothing new. Especially the United States has an interesting history of attempts at marriage reform.



The Oneida Community

Founded by John Noyes in 1948, the Oneida colony in upstate New York cultivated a form of group marriage called "complex marriage" in which theoretically every woman was married to every man. The community also practiced "scientific breeding" in which potential parents were matched by committee for physical and mental health. The picture shows this special breed of children playing in front of their proud parents.



Mormon Polygamy

The members of the Mormon church were relentlessly persecuted, harassed, and ridiculed because of their polygamy. Finally, they were forced to abandon the practice. The picture is a satirical cartoon commenting on the death of Brigham Young in 1877. tl shows twelve widows in the same marital bed mourning the death of their husband.

A more efficient divorce court was not established until the middle of the 19th century. In colonial America the Puritans permitted divorce in certain specific cases, but it remained prohibited in all Catholic countries until the French Revolution and the Napoleonic code introduced it to France. After Napoleon, divorce was abolished again by the restored monarchy, but it was reinstated by the Second Republic in 1884. Still, divorce remained impossible in Italy, Portugal, and Spain, until Italy finally legalized it in 1970.



The gradual emancipation of marriage and divorce laws from the control of the church resulted in greater individual freedom and further raised the status of women. The parents began to lose influence over the marital choices of their children, and romantic love became an important factor in marriage. Even so, for most couples until well into the 19th century marriage was still basically an economic arrangement. Moreover, the husband was usually the one who profited most, because he was the "head of the household" and controlled his wife's property. He also had many other rights denied to his wife and was favored by a moral double standard that allowed him considerable sexual license. Under the circumstances, women continued to press for further reforms, a process which even today has not yet fully reached its goal. (See also "The Social Roles of Men and Women.")





[Title Page] [Contents] [Preface] [Introduction] [The Human Body] [Sexual Behavior] [Sex and Society] [The Social Roles] [Conformity & Deviance] [Marriage and Family] [The Oppressed] ["Sexual Revolution"] [Epilogue] [Sexual Slang Glossary] [Sex Education Test] [Picture Credits]
Males used to kidnapp wifes that what tie the knote comes from the ring was established as a bought good not a stoled good.
 

Muddy Creek

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The Hullabaloo is that the republican religious right wants the government to have control over the lives of those they send to hell.
 

Aunt Spiker

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History of Marriage in Western Civilization

HISTORY OF MARRIAGE IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION
Marriage in Ancient Greece and Rome

Marriage in Medieval Europe

UNCONVENTIONAL FORMS OF MARRIAGE IN 19TH-CENTURY AMERICA

Marital experiments are nothing new. Especially the United States has an interesting history of attempts at marriage reform.

The Oneida Community

Mormon Polygamy

[Title Page] [Contents] [Preface] [Introduction] [The Human Body] [Sexual Behavior] [Sex and Society] [The Social Roles] [Conformity & Deviance] [Marriage and Family] [The Oppressed] ["Sexual Revolution"] [Epilogue] [Sexual Slang Glossary] [Sex Education Test] [Picture Credits]
History is all great and good - but unfortunately we're not longer just a nation descended from Europe. . .We need to always be flexible to permit people to continue what they determine is appropriate for their selves.
 

Einzige

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What are we generally politically discussing?
I think the fact that the idea of the "nuclear family" - one man, one woman, two point five children, half a dog and a white picket fence - is less than a hundred and fifty years old.
 

Muddy Creek

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I think the fact that the idea of the "nuclear family" - one man, one woman, two point five children, half a dog and a white picket fence - is less than a hundred and fifty years old.
Or that is has NOT been the definition of marriage in our history.
 

Campbell

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The Hullabaloo is that the republican religious right wants the government to have control over the lives of those they send to hell.
Definitely one of the reasons the party and I split after 30 years. They used to stand for balanced budgets, small government and individual liberty. Now they advocate everything from forced examinations of a woman's uterus to who has any business using their manufactured description of marriage. George W. Bush cut taxes for the wealthy, started two wars...one totally unnecessary, passed a patriot act which allows all kinds of hanky panky with citizens without so much as a search warrant, increased the size of government by 15 and in addition to that they handed $870 billion of borrowed money to the most powerful financial institutions in the world and didn't even specify how it had to be used. They're firmly in the grasp of corporations and the wealthy.
 

Muddy Creek

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Definitely one of the reasons the party and I split after 30 years. They used to stand for balanced budgets, small government and individual liberty. Now they advocate everything from forced examinations of a woman's uterus to who has any business using their manufactured description of marriage. George W. Bush cut taxes for the wealthy, started two wars...one totally unnecessary, passed a patriot act which allows all kinds of hanky panky with citizens without so much as a search warrant, increased the size of government by 15 and in addition to that they handed $870 billion of borrowed money to the most powerful financial institutions in the world and didn't even specify how it had to be used. They're firmly in the grasp of corporations and the wealthy.
Unfortunately true. And many within the party are regretting the alliance with religious radicals that have hijacked the party like Palin. Many of the republicans have dropped out of the Congress out of disgust. The sad reality is, they are now owned wholly and controlled positively by the rich. The democrats have to really be careful, as many have been voted out because of their "right leanings", as well.
 

Campbell

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Unfortunately true. And many within the party are regretting the alliance with religious radicals that have hijacked the party like Palin. Many of the republicans have dropped out of the Congress out of disgust. The sad reality is, they are now owned wholly and controlled positively by the rich. The democrats have to really be careful, as many have been voted out because of their "right leanings", as well.
I'm surprised...I had not thought of that about the right of center Democrats. It might be because they're about as plentiful as a Susan Collins on the Republican side.
 

Northern Light

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Religion doesn't own marriage. Before their institution, there was handfasting which was Pagan, and it was a private ceremony where matrimony was witnessed and acknowledged by a community. People have been pledging themselves to each other for all time, before organized religion appeared.

My issue with modern marriage laws has more to do with the Federal and State benefits going to families. Really, to me it's about children. Not allowing gays to marry is basically saying that their children don't deserve the same de facto privileges as the children of straight couples, and thus they should suffer inequal potential for success.

That's why I don't get what the religious right is on about. If it's about families then permitting gays to get government sanction benefits helps children.
 

Campbell

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Religion doesn't own marriage. Before their institution, there was handfasting which was Pagan, and it was a private ceremony where matrimony was witnessed and acknowledged by a community. People have been pledging themselves to each other for all time, before organized religion appeared.

My issue with modern marriage laws has more to do with the Federal and State benefits going to families. Really, to me it's about children. Not allowing gays to marry is basically saying that their children don't deserve the same de facto privileges as the children of straight couples, and thus they should suffer inequal potential for success.

That's why I don't get what the religious right is on about. If it's about families then permitting gays to get government sanction benefits helps children.
You know what the bottom line is? The idea that a marriage is between one man and one woman is about as screwed up as anything I've heard in my life. One woman my ass........Newt Gingrich has had three wives and Rush Limbaugh four. Give me a break! I've had two myself.

I won't even get into the Joseph Smith and Brigham Young conniviance which allowed them to have about 75 young wives between them(or on top)

Who is so narrow minded and has their asshole up so tight that they give a big rat's ass who somebody else sleeps with?
 
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Muddy Creek

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Religion doesn't own marriage. Before their institution, there was handfasting which was Pagan, and it was a private ceremony where matrimony was witnessed and acknowledged by a community. People have been pledging themselves to each other for all time, before organized religion appeared.

My issue with modern marriage laws has more to do with the Federal and State benefits going to families. Really, to me it's about children. Not allowing gays to marry is basically saying that their children don't deserve the same de facto privileges as the children of straight couples, and thus they should suffer inequal potential for success.

That's why I don't get what the religious right is on about. If it's about families then permitting gays to get government sanction benefits helps children.
Technically, religion doesn't HAVE marriage. They have ceremonies of which some are called "holy Matrimony". With the license from the State signed and recorded with the Recorder in the County, or City, there is no Marriage.
 

Campbell

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Technically, religion doesn't HAVE marriage. They have ceremonies of which some are called "holy Matrimony". With the license from the State signed and recorded with the Recorder in the County, or City, there is no Marriage.
You ever heard of Ring Gold, GA?

In the 1950's and Early 60's marriage in Tennessee required a blood test and a 3 day waiting period. Just south of Chattanooga, TN is Ring Gold, GA. A couple could drop in down there and within an hour or two they were legally married. I drove a couple of my good friends down there in a 1951 Chevy and the guy chewed my buddy's ass out for smoking in his office. The way he acted I'm pretty sure he had been drinking. They ended up hitched anyway. We were all teen agers...the marriage lasted about three years.
 
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