There are quite a few things I didn't realise mentioned in this review of 4 books about marriage in the US.
The odd way American slaves were treated with respect to marriage after emancipation, for one:
Before the Civil War, slave marriages had no legal effect andAlso - that adultery as a criminal offence is still on so many American State's books.
afforded participants no legal protections. One result was that other
forms of intimate relationships developed alongside traditional
marriage. When slavery ended and former slaves were finally permitted to
marry, these other relationships were declared illegal; marriage law
quickly became an important way for states to reassert control over
their former slaves. Adultery, bigamy and fornication statutes were used
to justify the arrest and incarceration, generally accompanied by
forced labour through convict-leasing programmes, of many African
The denial of marriage rights during slavery had also been one of the
most significant ways in which society told African Americans they were
less than human. Yet securing the right to marry, which all African
Americans had by 1866, did not free them from state control over their
intimate lives – instead, marriage often became a requirement. After the
war, many states passed laws automatically marrying freed men and women
living together on the date of the law’s enactment. Other states gave
such couples a set number of months to formalize their marriages or face
criminal prosecution. Even the federal government forced couples to
marry, telling them that they would be denied aid if they refused. The
pressure on couples was tremendous and most, but not all, gave in – some
states used the law as an opportunity to punish those who did not.