Via Instapundit, Megan McArdle asks(and answers) “why marry,” especially when the tax consequences can be awful. She gives reasonable answers, but doesn’t consider a more subtle question: assuming you’re religious, why not marry within your religious tradition, in a public ceremony, but not have an official, government-recognized marriage? You’re still married in the eyes of God, you have still made a public commitment to a life together, and, in most religious traditions, you’ll still need to get some sort of official divorce.
I can imagine all sorts of answers, but I first thought of the question many years ago while watching a rerun of All in the Family. Archie and Edith were scandalized because an elderly couple was living together “in sin” because they didn’t want to lose some of their social security benefits. So, why didn’t they just go to their minister, have a marriage ceremony, keep their benefits, and tell busybodies Archie and Edith that they WERE married, but just didn’t register their marriage with the government?