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History of Marriage Laws  (Marriage Compact, part two)



Marriages are as old as mankind itself, and certainly predate government. We can find examples of both monogamy and polygamy in the King James Bible, and even much older, but that is not the point of this section.


Most state and federal statutes today are a restatement of older laws that have been handed down over time. You may already know that most western law is derived from English commonlaw which, in turn, derived from Mosaic Law (Moses).


We tend to think of weddings as ceremony, but when you look at the elements of ceremony you often find solid reasons in law for those elements to be in there.


The first element of a lawful wedding has always been public notice. A weddingoften affects more than just those who marry, whether for good or ill. Others may have been interested in a particular man or woman; families may consider themselves joined by a marriage between two of their members; entire dynasties have been created through marriage. One or another may move to a different town, in which case one town may lose a blacksmith, or a teacher, or other craftsman, while another town gains one.


I’m sure we’ve all been to a wedding and heard the preacher say these words, “If anyone knows of a reason why these two should not be joined in the bonds of Holy Matrimony, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace!?”Consider that if prior notice is not given, how might someone who does know of a reasonhave the opportunity to speak up?


Proper notice has taken different forms over the years, from public announcements at church, to written notice posted at the general store or saloon, to printing a wedding announcement in the local newspaper of record. I suppose it might be considered lawful now to give notice on Facebook, although I would personally like to see Facebook decline in significance in western culture. For a very long time it has been considered proper to give at least thirty days notice prior to a wedding.


Certain marriages have been prohibited, at various times and places throughout history. Examples include marriages between close family members, different races or religions, same gender, and multiple (plural) partners.

Different locales have varying views on age, some younger than others. It has long been customary in most places that people younger than the usual minimum agecould still marry with parents’ permission.


When you look closely, a wedding is very much like a contract. Vows are exchanged, in the presence of witnesses. In most cases some kind of property changes hands (lawful consideration), even if it is only rings.


Traditionally it has been churches which managed and imposed all these rules. The idea of a marriage license was first thought up by the churches. Gradually, government began taking over this role. Today, when most people plana wedding, they also think theyneed to go down to city hall, or the county seat, and obtain a marriage license. I’ll write more about the marriage license in the next section, "Understanding Government Encroachment."

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