By Jedidiah McKeehan

There are many movies and TV shows, perhaps the most famous being, “The Hangover,” when someone wakes up in Las Vegas and finds out they got married the night before while in the midst of a drunken stupor. Yikes!

Fortunately, there is a law in place in Tennessee that is designed to prevent this from occurring.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-109 states, “No (marriage) license shall be issued when it appears that the applicants or either of them is at the time drunk, insane or imbecile.”

I have searched all of the Tennessee laws for the legislators’ definition of an imbecile, but it appears that they did not provide one. If we turn to Webster’s Dictionary, an imbecile is defined as, “a foolish or stupid person; a person affected with moderate intellectual disability.” It also states that the term imbecile is, “dated, now offensive.” Since this law came into effect in 1937 I suppose I am not terribly surprised that the term is dated, but if I am understanding correctly, this is saying that anyone with a moderate intellectual disability is to be denied a marriage license.

Let’s turn back to the drunk part though. Here is a legitimate story I heard from someone’s own mouth. A woman’s boyfriend was charged with a domestic assault in which she was the alleged victim. They went to court, the domestic assault charge got dismissed. They then proceeded directly to a bar and started drinking to celebrate. One of them came up with the idea to go to the courthouse and get married. And so they did. And it appears they obtained the marriage license, while under the influence and/or drunk. Probably a marriage license request that should have been politely declined by the clerk’s office. I do not blame the clerks though. How are they supposed to know when people are drunk unless they are a slobbering mess?


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.