Can First Cousins Marry In Pennsylvania? (Explained)

It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in Pennsylvania.

First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.

Pennsylvania has recognized first cousin marriages conducted in other states where the union is legal.

This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Keystone State.

What Do The Pennsylvania Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?

The Pennsylvania marriage laws have a fairly lengthy list of prohibited relationships.

Here they are (I’ve bolded the relevant statements).

A man may not marry his mother. A man may not marry the sister of his father. A man may not marry the sister of his mother. A man may not marry his sister. A man may not marry his daughter. A man may not marry the daughter of his son or daughter.

A man may not marry his first cousin.

A woman may not marry her father. A woman may not marry the brother of her father. A woman may not marry the brother of her mother. A woman may not marry her brother. A woman may not marry her son. A woman may not marry the son of her son or daughter.

A woman may not marry her first cousin.

Pennsylvania marriage laws

You probably understand first cousins. If you’re not exactly clear, check out our article that explains what first cousins are.

What about first cousins once removed?

By being once removed, this relationship is more distant than standard first cousins.

It’s considered that first cousins once removed are allowed to marry in the state.

Are half first cousins allowed to marry?

It’s not entirely clear. The laws of some other states say “first cousins of the half as well as the whole blood”. That means they are spelling out that half first cousins arent’ allowed marry.

But Pennsylvania simply says  “first cousins”.

We suggest that you consult an attorney if you are concerned about this question.

Are there any exceptions to the laws?

Some other states generally don’t allow first cousin marriage but have some allowances based on age or other criteria.

In contrast, Pennsylvania has a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.

Marrying in Pennsylvania

Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Pennsylvania

Relationships that are further out than first cousins are allowed.

We’ve already mentioned first cousins once removed. Of course, more distant cousins are also permitted.

If you’re not sure what the difference is between the various relationships, the links below will give you diagrams and clear explanations.

Does Pennsylvania Recognize First Cousin Marriages From Other States?

Pennsylvania recognizes first cousin marriage from other states (as long as they are legal in those states).

This dates back to the early 20th century when the Superior Court Of Pennsylvania made a ruling that validated a first cousin marriage conducted in another state.

Does The Pennsylvania Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?

Some U.S. states have a section in their marriage application forms where the couple must state whether they have a blood relationship.

You can see an example in our article on whether first cousins can marry in Alaska.

We reviewed the application form for a marriage license in Pennsylvania in 2022. There is no such question present.

I point this out because I can see how people could get married without being aware of the impediment. However, when you sign the form you are affirming that there is no impediment to your marriage.

Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?

Pennsylvania is bordered by Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia. Half of these states allow first cousins to marry. Check out these articles:

Oops, I missed New Jersey

Looking for a destination wedding spot?

Do you live in a state or country where first cousin marriage is legal and you simply wanted to visit Pennsylvania as a destination wedding spot?

Consider these other states as alternative options in the region!

Looking to relocate?

Some first cousins choose to relocate permanently to a state where their marriage will be legal.

Review your options and future plans carefully. You may wish to sit down with an attorney to consider all the implications.

Some states in the U.S. will not recognize legal marriages from other states.

Roman Catholic Marriages

Even if close cousins move to another state that allows their civil marriage, they will face separate hurdles if they want a wedding in a Roman Catholic church.

Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t encouraged first cousin marriages. However, the church laws have been relaxed somewhat in recent years.

There is a process that first cousins need to go through with the hierarchy in order to get permission to marry in a church ceremony. This is known as a dispensation.

You can read a more detailed explanation here on whether first cousins can have a Catholic wedding.

What about other cousins?

Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.

We suggest that you mention to your priest that you are second cousins before the service. This means he won’t get uneasy if he hears mention of “cousins” from other people.

If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains the second cousin relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some quick answers to common questions.

Does Pennsylvania allow relatives to marry?

Pennsylvania does not allow close relatives to marry.

More distant relatives such as second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.

Can you marry a sibling in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania does not allow siblings to marry. Half-siblings are also not allowed to marry in the state.

Is it legal to marry your second cousin in Pennsylvania?

Marriage between second cousins is legal in Pennsylvania.


The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Pennsylvania may have more current or accurate information.

We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on other sites. Please check official sources.

Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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