Can First Cousins Marry In Virginia? (Explained)

It is currently legal for first cousins to marry in Virginia.

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 Virginia.

Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Virginia

All types of cousins can get married in Virginia, including:

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 the Commonwealth.

If you’re unsure about what this relationship means, check out our article that describes what a half sibling means.

Marrying in Virginia

What You Should Know About First Cousin Marriages In Virginia

Virginia requires that you apply for a marriage license from a circuit court.

The form should be completed and signed at a circuit court clerk’s office.

Are you a resident?

Neither couple has to be a resident in Virginia. 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 in any county in the Commonwealth.

Your marriage license is valid across the state i.e. you don’t have to marry in the county where you got your license.

Does the Virginia 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 Minnesota.

We reviewed the application forms available online at the Newport and Virginia Beach websites in 2022. They do not ask for this information.

Be prepared for the possibility that a clerk may ask you whether you are related before you complete the marriage license application form.

Don’t worry! Just explain that you are first cousins (or further out).

What Relationships Can’t Get Married In The Commonwealth?

The Virginia marriage laws include these prohibitions.

A marriage between an ancestor and descendant, or between siblings, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption.

A marriage between an uncle or aunt and a nephew or niece, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood.

Virginia marriage laws

Half blood refers to half siblings who share one parent. Whole blood refers to full siblings who share both parents.

Why first cousins are legal

You’ve probably noticed that first cousins aren’t included in this list of prohibited relationships.

The Virginia laws don’t say explicitly that first cousins can marry. They simply don’t mention the relationship in their restrictions.

That means first cousins are permitted.

Do Cousins Travel To Virginia To Get Married?

Virginia shares a border with five states: Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Only two of the five states do not allow first cousin marriage (Kentucky and West Virginia).

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 Virginia. 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. You will find more details in our overview of first cousins marrying in the US.

Roman Catholic Marriages

If you want to celebrate your Virginia 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 review of how the Catholic Church deals with first cousin marriages.

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 what are second cousins. The diagrams should make everything understandable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some quick answers to common questions.

Does Virginia allow relatives to marry?

Virginia 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 Virginia?

Virginia 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 Virginia?

Marriage between second cousins is legal in Virginia.

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. Virginia 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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