Why did this happen?
Why would American couples cross the border to wed in Windsor or Sandwich?
There were perhaps 3 over-arching factors that encouraged some Americans to come to Windsor to get married. Firstly, there were differences between Ontario, Canadian, and state laws which might have brought the couples to Windsor, e.g. remarriage rules for divorced people, consanguinity, race. Secondly, there were specific loopholes that were introduced in the 1875 marriage act that made it much easier for Americans to evade the usual requirements. They had simply to make an affadavit before the license issuer that “the reason for procuring the marriage to be solemnized in the municipality is not in order to evade due publicity or for any other improper purpose”. There were similar loopholes for age of consent rules. Thirdly, there was a lack of enforcement of the Marriage Act rules and conditions on the part of the Ontario Office of the Registrar General.
These are some of the specific reasons given in the newspapers of the time:
- the novelty of getting married on foreign soil
- impulse marriages, e.g. July 4th celebrations
- “runaway marriages”: couples facing parental disapproval
- “shotgun marriages”: often with accompanying parents
- the desire to keep the relationship secret and avoid publicity, e.g. large differences in age, celebrity of one of the partners
- young age of couple
- consanguinity: usually first cousins
- Canadian origins of couple: the desire to be married in the country of their ancestors
- the idea that marriage by license was more “sacred” in Windsor because the ceremony was performed by a clergyman, rather than a Justice of the Peace