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The American Tradition of Marrying Cousins

Alexander Graham Bell, best known for inventing the telephone, also waded into the debate. He suggested introducing legislation to ban consanguineous marriages in families with deaf-mute members so that the condition would not be inherited by children of such marriages.

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The legality of cousin marriage in the United States varies from state to state. The practice is illegal in 25 states. A first cousin is the child of either parent's brother or sister. Pixabay

What do famous Americans such as author Edgar Allan Poe, Wild West outlaw Jesse James and theoretical physicist Albert Einstein have in common?

They all reportedly married their first cousins.

The legality of cousin marriage in the United States varies from state to state. The practice is illegal in 25 states. A first cousin is the child of either parent’s brother or sister.

In some societies around the world, marrying a first cousin is often preferable, not only to keep property or money within the family, but in some cases to keep a “good catch” from going off with a stranger.

But the practice is generally viewed as taboo in the United States.

Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, his first cousin, arrive in the port of San Diego, California, December 30, 1930.
Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, his first cousin, arrive in the port of San Diego, California, December 30, 1930. VOA

Opposition to first-cousin marriage in the U.S. dates back to the Puritans, among the earliest European settlers in America, who opposed such unions as far back as the 17th century, according to the book “Consanguinity in Context” by medical geneticist Alan Bittles.

Marriages are considered “consanguineous” when couples are either second cousins or more closely related.

The first actual laws against first-cousin marriage appeared during the Civil War era, with Kansas banning the practice in 1858, followed by Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wyoming in the 1860s.

While first-cousin marriages were once favored by the upper classes in the U.S., such alliances declined sharply in the mid-to-late 19th century, possibly because advances in transportation and communication offered perspective brides and grooms greater access to a wider pool of marital prospects.

The gravesite of infamous Wild West outlaw Jesse James and his wife, Zerelda, the first cousin he married after a 9-year courtship, at a cemetery in Kearney, Missouri.
The gravesite of infamous Wild West outlaw Jesse James and his wife, Zerelda, the first cousin he married after a 9-year courtship, at a cemetery in Kearney, Missouri. VOA

Also, as families grew smaller, so did the number of marriageable cousins. And women became more independent during that period, so their marital options increased.

One of the earliest people to influence American public opinion on the issue was the Rev. Charles Brooks of Massachusetts. Brooks delivered a paper at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 1855 that asserted first-cousin marriage led to birth defects among the children of such unions.

Alexander Graham Bell, best known for inventing the telephone, also waded into the debate. He suggested introducing legislation to ban consanguineous marriages in families with deaf-mute members so that the condition would not be inherited by children of such marriages.

A seven-year Columbia University study published in 2018 found that children whose parents are first cousins have a 4% to 7% probability of birth defects, compared with 3% to 4% when the parents are distant relatives who marry.

From 1650 to 1850, the average person was fourth cousins with their spouse, according to the study. By 1950, the average person was married to their seventh cousin. The researchers believe that today, many couples are 10th to 12th cousins.

First Cousin Marriage Laws in the United States
First Cousin Marriage Laws in the United States. VOA

The data on consanguineous marriage in the U.S. is “scant and incomplete,” according to Bittles. CousinCouples.com, a website for people who are romantically involved with their cousin, estimates that about one out of every 1,000 U.S. marriages is between first cousins.

However, Bittles finds that number to be unrealistically low.

“The recent large-scale migration to the USA of couples from countries where consanguineous marriage is traditional may not reveal their premarital relationship,” he told VOA via email. “In terms of numbers, this particularly applies to immigrants from Arab countries … where 20-plus percent of marriages are consanguineous, and South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan where more than 50% of marriages may be consanguineous.”

Some states allow first-cousin marriages only if the couple can’t have children because they are too old or one of the parties is found to be infertile.

Founding father John Adams, second president of the United States, married to his third cousin, Abigail, and they had six children.
Founding father John Adams, second president of the United States, married to his third cousin, Abigail, and they had six children. VOA

When you look past first cousins, there are a number of prominent Americans who married more distant cousins. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both said “I do” to their third cousins. President Franklin Roosevelt was married to his fifth cousin, once removed. And the first wife of Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and President Donald Trump’s lawyer, was his second cousin once removed.

Worldwide, only a handful of countries prohibit first cousin marriages.

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“Besides the USA, they comprise the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Philippines,” Bittles says. “Even in the People’s Republic of China, the ban on first-cousin marriages is not enforced in officially recognized ethnic minorities where consanguineous marriage has been traditional.”

Bittles expects the number of cousin marriages in the U.S. to diminish over time as family sizes decline and there are fewer cousins available to marry, and as the children of migrants internalize negative mainstream U.S. views on marrying your cousin. (VOA)

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Here are Suggestions to Ace a Destination Wedding

5 ways to ace a destination wedding

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Destination Wedding

BY PUJA GUPTA

No matter where and when you plan your destination wedding, executing one is far from a cakewalk. A lot needs to be taken into account, and the entire process needs to be thoroughly thought through, in order to avoid any crisis or chaos. A destination wedding surely has its advantages including a scenic view and unique celebration in itself, but to truly enjoy every moment, a plethora of factors must be given due diligence.

As the fervour around the current wedding season increases, OYO’s Weddingz.in suggests some easy ways how you can truly ace it.

destination wedding location
Selecting a suitable location is the first and foremost step to having the perfect destination wedding. Pixabay

* Prioritise the location and recce

Selecting a suitable location is the first and foremost step to having the perfect destination wedding. Be mindful of the weather at that particular location, along with available venues, local vendors, and its overall aesthetics. Further, ensure that you make one trip to the destination well in advance for a recce and if one cannot travel to the destination in advance, cross-check logistics with professional help and plan ahead of time.

* Keep the guest-list in check

As a destination wedding is generally an expensive affair, it is recommended that you have a limited guest-list. In most cases, you end up incurring the cost for your guests’ accommodation, travel, and other sundry expenses. Therefore, it is best to celebrate a destination wedding only amidst your close ones. Moreover, be sure to inform them in advance so that they can plan ahead too, and make bookings accordingly.

* Hire local professionals

A very important step is to pick local vendors and planners when it comes to a destination wedding, especially when international, as they are well-versed with the area, location, language, and every other nitty gritty. Hiring a local planner is highly advantageous as it makes coordination with these vendors along with bookings seamless, as they are up-to-date with the required details of the destination. With regard to vendors like florists, caterers, rental companies and other suppliers, it is best to pick them in-person when you go for your recce, and ask for referrals to book the best.

destination wedding guests
As a destination wedding is generally an expensive affair, it is recommended that you have a limited guest-list. Pixabay

* Be mindful of budgets

A well-planned budget is essential for a well-organised destination wedding. In case you decide to take your own preferred planners and vendors along, be sure to keep their accommodation and travel reasonable, yet comfortable. For weddings involving alcohol, it is best to purchase from local stores to not incur a huge cost of transporting the same, especially to an international location. Most importantly, partner with a dedicated wedding planner who will provide you with the best deals and 100% delivery on promises, thus ensuring a great event. Lastly, to avoid last-minute and out-of-control expenditures, keep a checklist at hand since Day 1.

Also Read- You need a Healthy Scalp for Gorgeous Hair

* Focus on packing

Finally, pack your luggage as per the chosen destination, with its climate being the most important factor. If it’s a cold place, carry warmer clothes, and ensure that you pack the essentials. Additionally, it is always a nice gesture to pack some simple gifts and handwritten notes in your luggage for your guests, to make them feel welcome and add to their merriment around the festivities. (IANS)