Chapter 51


A recent search for a legal definition of “marriage” in North Carolina led me to some brief statute summaries which give all the rules for who can marry and how it must be done but nowhere have I found a concrete legal (in NC) definition for marriage and the rights and obligations marriage confers on two individuals. Where can I find that information? Thanks!


NCGS 51-1 is the only statute that really speaks to what you are asking.

§ 51‑1. Requisites of marriage; solemnization.

A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to take each other as husband and wife, freely, seriously and plainly expressed by each in the presence of the other, either:

(1) a. In the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate; and

b. With the consequent declaration by the minister or magistrate that the persons are husband and wife; or

(2) In accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination, or federally or State recognized Indian Nation or Tribe.

Marriages solemnized before March 9, 1909, by ministers of the gospel licensed, but not ordained, are validated from their consummation. (1871‑2, c. 193, s. 3; Code, s. 1812; Rev., s. 2081; 1908, c. 47; 1909, c. 704, s. 2; c. 897; C.S., s. 2493; 1945, c. 839; 1965, c. 152; 1971, c. 1185, s. 26; 1977, c. 592, s. 1; 2000‑58, ss. 1, 2; 2001‑14, ss. 1, 2; 2001‑62, ss. 1, 17; 2002‑115, ss. 5, 6; 2002‑159, s. 13(a); 2003‑4, s. 1; 2005‑56, s. 1; 2007‑61, s. 1; 2009‑13, s. 1.)

§ 51‑1.1. Certain marriages performed by ministers of Universal Life Church validated.

Any marriages performed by ministers of the Universal Life Church prior to July 3, 1981, are validated, unless they have been invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction, provided that all other requirements of law have been met and the marriages would have been valid if performed by an official authorized by law to perform wedding ceremonies. (1981, c. 797.)

§ 51‑1.2. Marriages between persons of the same gender not valid.

Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina. (1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 588, s. 1.)


Is marriage considered a contract in NC?


Marriage is a legal contract governed by North Carolina state law.