Can you get married by banns anywhere in the US (or anywhere other than the UK and Canada)?

A recent thread brought up the quaintly archaic practice of banns of marriage whereby a couple could get legal authorization to marry by public announcement of their intent over a certain period of time, without having to obtain a marriage license. The announcement and waiting period was so that concerned citizens who might know of a legal reason why you can’t marry (e.g. underage, too closely related, already married) can report it and stop the ceremony. It seems that marriage licenses as a legal concept originated as a way to bypass the banns of marriage and get married sooner by swearing an affidavit that you were not aware of any reason why you could not legally marry. It seems that the laws of Ontario and England today permit marriage by banns to some extent, but getting a marriage license is still an option.

Are there any places in the US that allow you to get married by banns or other form of public disclosure, without filing for a marriage license?

For the purposes of this question, I would consider a so-called “common law marriage” which does not require any formalities to be outside the scope, unless I have misunderstood the situation and banns were never actually a legal requirement.

AFAIK, reading of the banns has never been a legal requirement in the U.S. If nothing else, it’s unconstitutional. Some churches may still require it, but any objections would only be an impediment to marriage within the church.

Nine states (and some Indian jurisdictions) allow for common-law marriages with varying requirements. In Texas, for example, all a couple has to do is is agree to be married, live together, and represent themsevles as married. Such a marriage can be declared and registered officially with a county clerk (essentially, you file an affadavit stating that the aforementioned three conditions have been met).

I used to prepare taxes and had to explain all this to a lot of couples who were filing joint returns. In particular, that there ain’t no common-law divorce. :slight_smile: