How important is consummation to legality of marriage?

If they don’t have sex afterwards is the couple really married.

Yes, I realize in that case either could get it annulled, so don’t point that out. I’m asking if anyone else can say it’s not a real marriage if the principals are okay with it.

Say if Anna Nicole Smith marries some old coot who dies at the reception, did the marriage “take” ?

As far as I know, consumamation is not a legal requirement of marriage in any jurisdiction these days, if ever it was.

Interestingly, in Virginia, if at least one member of a couple believes incorrectly that they’re married (for instance, if the officiant was only pretending to be a priest), and the couple has sex, they become legally married (so long as they were both single before).


Damn, so I can’t use that to trick a girl into sex?

Not in Virginia. Or at least, not if you want to avoid alimony payments.



In the UK it is possible to have a marriage anulled (as opposed to divorce) although this is very rare.

One of the grounds for an anulment is non-consummation.

Consummation is still required under **canon ** law to make a marriage completely indissoluble. From the Code of Canon Law:

Canon 1061(1)

A valid marriage between baptized persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring. To this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh.

Canon 1141

A marriage which is ratified and consummated cannot be dissolved by any human power or by any cause other than death.

I married someone after only knowing her 3 months and yes we consummated the marriage. Many times. We realized a week later that the marriage was a mistake (she was moving to New York to take a new job, I wasn’t going to give up my job to follow her there). We had the marriage annulled and the question of consummation never came up during the 3 minutes we were in court.

Just a couple of sidenotes regarding consummation of marriage:

  1. in order to get DIVORCED in some states (georgia for one) you cannot have had “relations” with your soon-to-be-ex wife in the previous 30 days. (I think this intends that you and her are “still working it out” as it were)

  2. you CAN be awarded punitive damages in a lawsuit if an injury to you or your partner results in the two of you being unable to have “relations” with each other. (i.e. the shiavo case awarded michael schiavo $200,000 because due to his wife’s condition, he was no longer able to have sex with her). There’s a legal term for “loss of intimacy” but it escapes me for the moment.

Just my two cents worth…


Loss of consotium. It can also apply in some crcumstances to the loss of non-sexual intimacy, such as between a parent and child, but in married couples it’s typically taken to mean both that and the loss of sexual relations.


Patty Duck claims her relationship with Michael Tell was never consummated, and she only married him because she was pregnant with then-married John Astin’s son Sean. She got the marriage annulled on these grounds, later married the now-divorced John, and he adopted Sean. Meanwhile, there was some speculation that Sean was the son of 17-year-old Desi Arnez Jr., whom Patty was also involved with at the time.

DNA testing has proved that Sean is Michael Tell’s genetic son. Yet Patty still claims John is Sean’s genetic father, and the tests are wrong.

And I have heard that Sean Astin accepts four men all to be his father. Despite his rather confused parentage, he seems to be a very decent guy.

Apparently, Sean addresses John Astin, Desi Arnaz Jr., Michael Tell, and Mike Pearce all as “dad.”

My understanding (IANAL) is that in common law states like SC, having sex is part of the “living as a married couple” component of a common law marriage. (The seven years thing is a myth; I understand it to be more like “if the neighbors think you’re hitched”.) A friend’s college roomate who had a Muslim religious service but no civil component still had to have a civil divorce because it was a common law marriage here in SC.

In practice, of course, you only hear the phrase “common-law spouse” when the other spouse has robbed three banks and lit out across the state line. “He has fled the state, leaving his common law wife and three children.” Which I suppose is an authentic use of the original purpose of common law marriage; to protect a woman if she gets run out on.

OK, I’ll bite. What’s a “human manner,” as opposed to, say, an “animal manner?”

If you do it doggie-style, it doesn’t count. :slight_smile: