While "jumping the broom" has become synonymous with the happy institution of marriage, the phrase is borrowed from a distinctly unhappy one: American slavery. Denied the right to marry legally, slaves improvised ceremonies with what they had on hand. Leaping over a broom handle came to symbolize a couple's leap of faith, a tradition still practiced in many African-American weddings today.

While "jumping the broom" has become synonymous with the happy institution of marriage, the phrase is borrowed from a distinctly unhappy one: American slavery. Denied the right to marry legally, slaves improvised ceremonies with what they had on hand. Leaping over a broom handle came to symbolize a couple's leap of faith, a tradition still practiced in many African-American weddings today.

Nothing like a little hard labor to get a marriage off on the right foot. The Italian custom of sawhorsing holds that neighbors must set up a log, sawhorse and double-handled saw for newlyweds, who halve the log together. The thicker the log and duller the saw the better; the arduousness of sawhorsing symbolizes the equally mundane tasks a couple will have to endure together throughout their married life.

Long before Vegas was even a twinkle in a gangster's eye, Scotland was the quickie wedding capital of the world. It all started in 1753, when England passed Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, restricting kids under 21 from marrying without parental consent. Rough-and-tumble Scotland had no such rule, so lovers as young as 12 eloped across the border in droves. The first village they reached was Gretna Green, where thousands have since been married in a ramshackle blacksmith's shop, their unions sealed by the now-traditional and always ear-piercing hammering of an anvil.

A 2001 study showed that 43 percent of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, and that number is climbing. Soon, experts predict, more people will divorce each year than marry. Compare that to the U.S. divorce rate in 1940, which was just two divorcees per 1,000 people. In fact, untying the knot is so popular, we'll wager it's not long before it has its own set of wacky customs and traditions.

Adapted from Scatterbrained (HarperCollins), available at leading bookstores. For a daily dose of quirky fun visit MentalFloss.com and check out mental_floss magazine at your local newsstand.