It is currently legal for first cousins to marry in South Carolina.
The state laws prohibit closer relationships such as brothers and sisters.
Couples must apply for a marriage license, which is valid in any county in the state. Either or both cousins can be non-resident.
This article looks at what you need to know about first cousin marriages in South Carolina.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In South Carolina
All types of cousins can get married in South Carolina, including:
- first cousins (share common grandparents)
- half first cousins (first cousins through a half-sibling of your parent)
- first cousins once removed (children of your first cousins)
- second, third and fourth cousins (and further out)
It’s important to be sure that your partner is your cousin and not a half-sibling.
Half siblings aren’t allowed to marry in South Carolina.
If you’re unsure about what this relationship means, check out our article that looks in-depth at the half sibling relationship.
What You Should Know About First Cousin Marriages In The State
South Carolina requires that you apply for a marriage license.
Some counties require you to complete the application form in the presence of an official at a Probate Court.
In recent years, some counties have an online application process. Charleston County and Greeneville County had online forms when I reviewed the sites in 2022.
However, be sure that you check the signature requirements. You may still be required to print and sign the document in the presence of a notarized official.
Are you a resident?
Neither couple has to be a resident in South Carolina. But be aware that some other states in the U.S. don’t recognize your marriage if they prohibit first cousin unions.
You can apply for your marriage license in any county, and it is valid across the state.
Does the South Carolina application form ask if you’re related?
Some states have a section in their forms where you must state a relationship e.g. first cousin.
You can see an example in our article on first cousin marriage in West Virginia.
We reviewed the application form available online at the Charlestown and Greeneville County websites in 2022. It does not ask for this information.
Be prepared for the possibility that a probate clerk may ask you whether you are related if you attend a Probate Court to complete the application.
Don’t worry! Just explain that you are first cousins (or further out).
Who Can’t Get Married?
The South Carolina marriage laws have a lengthy list of relationships that are prohibited.
This is for men:
No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, stepmother, sister, grandfather’s wife, son’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s granddaughter, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister, mother’s sister…South Carolina government website (may be out of date)
This is for women:
No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, stepfather, brother, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband, husband’s father, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s grandson, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother, mother’s brother…South Carolina government website (may be out of date)
Whew! Did you read all that? If not, just trust me that they don’t mention an uncle or aunt’s son or daughter.
South Carolina laws don’t say explicitly that first cousins can marry. They simply don’t mention the relationship in their restrictions.
Do Cousins Travel To The State To Get Married?
South Carolina is bordered by Georgia and North Carolina. Both states allow unrestricted first cousin marriage.
You will sometimes hear griping from legislators in states that share borders with neighbors prohibiting cousin marriages.
They complain that hordes of out-of-state cousins descend upon their state to get legally married.
I don’t find any such concerns expressed in South Carolina. That may be because residents in neighboring states have plenty of options.
If you are thinking of traveling to get married, be sure to check the laws of the state you are resident within. Some do not recognize first cousin marriages conducted elsewhere.
Roman Catholic Marriages
If you want to celebrate your South Carolina wedding in a Roman Catholic church, you will face a separate hurdle.
Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t been keen on 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.
Here’s a link to our detailed explanation of how first cousins can get married in a Catholic church.
What about second 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 how second cousins are related.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does South Carolina allow relatives to marry?
South Carolina does not allow close relatives to marry.
More distant relatives such as first and second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.
Can you marry a sibling in South Carolina?
South Carolina 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 South Carolina?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in South Carolina.
Other cousin relationships, such as first and third cousins, are also allowed to marry in the state.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. South Carolina may have more current or accurate information.
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