Four Weddings and a Divorce or Three

Flip through a weekend edition of your local newspaper and there’s a good chance you’ll find a section titled “weddings” or something similar. It’s become a tradition, at least in the United States, for papers to announce the nuptials of couples, listing their names, occupations, parent’s names, and officiants. Not everyone makes the cut in some places, making a placement a bit of a status symbol in its own right

But it’s weird for a newspaper to talk about already-married couples remarrying each other, as if to renew their vows. It’s similarly strange for the paper to cover that wedding a year later. And it’s even weirder for a newspaper to do so without mentioning you or your spouse by name. But if you opened the South China Morning Post on April 21, 2021, you’d have found a discussion of one couple’s decision to marry each other anew.

That’s because also pretty strange to get married four times in just over five weeks.

The weddings occurred in Taiwan, starting on April 6, 2020, according to a timeline provided by the New York Times. Ten days later, the happy couple was apparently not so happy — they divorced. But then, on April 17th — yes, the next day — they changed their mind again, and got remarried. They divorced again on April 28th and remarried again on the 29th, and then on May 11th got divorced for a third time, only to get married for a fourth time on May 12th. 

But this wasn’t cold feet, indecisiveness, or something more insidious. It was, as the above-mentioned South China Morning Post article reports, a bit of a scam: “Taiwanese companies are legally obliged to offer eight days of paid leave to newlyweds.” And the man in the couple worked at bank in Taiwan, and claimed he was owed 32 days — eight days per wedding — of paid leave.

The man’s employer, understandably, refused to grant him the paid time off — not only was this obviously not what was intended under the law, but it was something repeatable (clearly!) and something anyone could do. And with fewer than 32 workdays between April 6th and May 12th, it was apparently rather easy to earn enough days off to literally never have to work again. Granting the uber-groom his leave was simply not an option.

But after the man was denied more than eight days of leave, he complained to the Labor Department — and the Labor Department agreed with him. Last October, the Labor Department fined the bank the equivalent of about $700 for failing to provide the man with his legally entitled 32 days of leave. 

The bank appealed (here’s the appeal but it’s in Chinese), basically going with the “you’ve got to be kidding” defense. And the bank ultimately won. In early April 2021, the Labor Department rescinded the fine, But the eight days of marriage leave law is still on the books, meaning this could happen again. And more to the point, the groom in the story above still isn’t happy with the outcome. A week or so ago, per the South China Morning Post story, he’s still after his time off or equivalent pay: “Not to be deterred, the employee, who later quit the bank, has called the Labour Department to complain that his former employer still owes him 24 days of leave, said an official who asked not to be named.”

Bonus fact: If you’re a Russian cosmonaut on your way to space, you have to sign a contract that prevents you from getting married while you’re literally out of this world. On August 10, 2003, Yuri Malenchenko, then aboard the International Space Station, married Ekaterina Dmitriev, a Russian-born American who, at that moment, was in Texas. The couple had met a year earlier (when both were on Earth) and wanted to get married, but didn’t have time before Malenchenko went into space. And there was another wrinkle: per NBC News, “legal complexities and Soviet-era rules requiring military officers to get permission to marry foreigners” meant that Malenchenko, a  Russian air force colonel, may not have been able to marry Dmitriev when he returned to Russia after his spaceflight. But under Texas law, couples can have a proxy marriage — someone stands in for one half of the happy couple — and the actual couple are then legally married. For this instance, the Russian government ultimately didn’t object to the wedding, but as NBC News reports, that changed thereafter: “Russian officials ultimately gave their blessing but said other cosmonauts won’t be able to do the same and such rules will be included in future preflight contracts.”

From the Archives: Unhitched: The place where marriage doesn’t happen.