Tennessee courts have the means for upholding informal marriages whenever the social reasons are sufficiently strong to impel them to do so. This is a very desirable result, and one which is not open to the criticism that the courts are inviting or encouraging informal marriages as against the ceremonial, statutory marriage. These devices are not alternative means of attaining the marriage status ab initio, but are merely remedial devices looking backwards, which the courts may use on occasion when satisfied that it is for the good of the state and society, as well as for the parties and their children and descendants. Of course, the application of these devices will continue not to be mechanical, but the courts will carefully consider the motives of the parties and the character of the relationship they maintained, both in the inception and in subsequent years, and weigh in the balance the somewhat conflicting public policies noticed above, before deciding which result would be more for the overall good.
Robert E. Kendrick,
Informal Marriages in Tennessee--Marriage by Estoppel, by Prescription and by Ratification,
3 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol3/iss3/36