The Marriage Act of 1753 was enacted to require a formal ceremony of marriage because clandestine marriages achieved by crossing over the Scottish border and marrying in Gretna Green caused disputes as to their validity. The Ballyshannnon Herald claimed that a newspaper article in 1753 proposed some humorous clauses be added to the Marriage Act. Here are those suggestions in their entirety.
- When two young thoughtless fools, having no visible way to maintain themselves, nor any thing to begin the world with, resolve to marry and be miserable; let it be deemed PETTY LARCENY.
- If a younger brother marries an old woman purely for the sake of maintenance, let it be called SELF-PRESERVATION.
- When a rich old fellow marries a young wench, in her full bloom, it shall be DEATH WITHOUT BENEFIT OF CLERGY.
- When two old creatures, that can hardly hear one another speak, and cannot propose the least comfort to themselves in the thing; yet marry together to be miserable, they shall be deemed NON COMPOS, and sent to the mad house.
- When a lady marries her servant, or a gentleman his cook-maid, (especially if there are children by a former marriage), they both shall be transported for fourteen years.
- When a man has had one bad wife and buried her, and yet will marry a second; it shall be deemed FELO DO SE (felon of himself), and he shall be buried in the highway accordingly.
- When a woman in good circumstances marries an infamous man, not worthy a groat; if she is betrayed into it, it shall be called ACCIDENTAL DEATH; but if she knows it, it shall be made SINGLE FELONY, and she shall be burnt in the hand.
- When a man having no children, marries a woman of ill fame, knowing her to be so, he shall have a pair of horns painted on his door; or if she be a known scold, a couple of neat’s tongues in the room of them.
- And when a man or woman marries to the disinheriting of their children, let them suffer as in cases of high treason.
- When a woman marries a man deeply in debt, knowing him to be so, let her be sent to the house of correction, and kept to hard labour for three months; and if he deceived her, and did not let her know his circumstances, she shall be acquitted, and he doomed to beat hemp all the days of his life.
- “Proposed Matrimonial Enactments,” in Ballyshannnon Herald, 6 January 1837, p. 2.