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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.

Also Read: Deaths Rising in U.S. Due To Heart Failure, Especially in Younger Adults

“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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Common Myths About Destination Wedding Busted

Destination wedding in your mind? Know everything about it

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If you are drooling over the idea of a destination wedding but hesitant to go for it calling it an expensive affair, then that's just a myth. Pixabay

If you are drooling over the idea of a destination wedding but hesitant to go for it calling it an expensive affair or calling it just for the elites, here we are busting the myths.

Sandeep Lodha, Chief Executive Officer, Weddingz.in explains in detail:

Myth #1: Expensive affair

Destination wedding
It is a common perception that wedding planners put together a destination wedding that looks artificial and is far from what the couple actually desires or their personalities. Pixabay

Contrary to popular belief, weddings, if planned well, are not just easy on your pockets, but also end up posing as a great bonding exercise for the family. Moreover, timely planning allows you to avail of a gamut of deals on venue and non-venue services like catering, decor, jewellery, outfits and insulate you from the brunt of inflation. Initiating the back-end work during the off-season also gives you the freedom to choose from the choicest selections at breakthrough prices and helps you execute the much anticipated eBig Fat Indian Wedding’ by eliminating the chances of last-minute price shoot-ups.

Myth #2: Weddings curated by planners lack a personal touch

It is a common perception that wedding planners put together a wedding that looks artificial and is far from what the couple actually desires or their personalities. However, they are professionals who work with the only purpose of bringing an individual’s plans to reality. They have the intention of providing clients an enjoyable and memorable experience, and seamless events leading up to the big day. In order to ensure the same, they make a note of the aspirations and preferences of the couple, get acquainted with their style and personality, and finally bring together an affair that simply is an extension of the couple’s persona and specially curated for them…all while being patient and passionate about your big day. Today, bespoke weddings are a rising trend across India, wherein all elements of the wedding, right from the wedding website, decor, bar, food menu and light settings are specially customized keeping in mind the couple’s interests and hobbies.

Myth #3 : Destination weddings are only for the elite

Destination wedding
If you think that a destination wedding is meant for the elite, then you are wrong about it. Pixabay

In today’s day and age aspiring millennials, with most belonging to the middle-income group are making bold choices with regards to destination weddings. They are not shying away from exploring all sorts of destinations be it beaches, palaces, lakesides and historical forts among others. They opt for guest accommodation close to the venue to make it feasible for all. Besides, resorts and venues offer discounts on bulk packages and cater to end-to-end needs of all attendees, taking away the burden of planning this massive affair from the to-be-weds. The hotel ensures that all the important details are accounted for, look after guest RSVPs, room service, hospitality and F&B provisions in the lead up to the wedding so as to make it a memorable experience for each one to have participated in the event.

Also Read- How to Pack your Skincare for Travel

Myth #4: Running errands personally is the key to a successful wedding

While weddings can be a tedious event involving a lot of moving around, there are new-age online wedding companies offering best-in-class venue and non-venue services at the mere click of a button. These are reliable and pose as one-stop-shop for all your wedding-related needs entailing every element from the venue to Mehendi to the bridal lehenga to wedding planning. Brands like Weddingz.in provide hassle-free planning & booking at guaranteed best prices and also assist you with venues by facilitating guided visits. They also help you pick from a range of options to cater to your preferences and tastes and give you access to over 20000+ vendors across the country. They save you the drudgery of running from pillar to post in the quest for finding the right vendor and make the process seamless by strategically bridging the gap between you and some of the best vendors in the business. (IANS)