is a social union or legal contract between individualsthat createskinship. It is aninstitutionin which interpersonal
relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in avariety of ways, depending on thecultureor subculture in which itis found. Such a union may also be called
, while theceremony that marks its beginning is usually called a
.People marry for many reasons, including one or more of thefollowing: legal, social, emotional, economical, spiritual, andreligious. These might include arranged marriages, familyobligations, the legal establishment of a nuclear family unit, thelegal protection of children and public declaration of commitment.
Marriage practicesare very diverse across cultures, may takemany forms, and are often formalized by a wedding.
The act of marriage usually createsnormativeor legal obligations betweenthe individuals involved. In some societies these obligations alsoextend to certain family members of the married persons. Almostall cultures that recognize marriage also recognizeadulteryas aviolation of the terms of marriage.
Marriage is usually recognized by thestate, a religious authority,or both. It is often viewed as acontract. Civil marriage is the legalconcept of marriage as a governmental institution irrespective of religious affiliation, in accordance withmarriage lawsof the jurisdiction. If recognized by the state, by the religion(s) to whichthe parties belong or by society in general, the act of marriagechanges the personal and social status of the individuals whoenter into it.
Marriage isthe union of two differentsurnames, infriendshipand in love,in order tocontinue theposterity of the formersages, and tofurnish thosewho shallpreside atthe sacrificesto heavenand earth, atthose in theancestraltemple, andat those atthe altars tothe spirits of the land andgrain.
Anthropologists have proposed several competing definitions of marriage so as to encompass the wide variety of marital practicesobserved across cultures.
In his book
e History of HumanMarriage
(1921),Edvard Westermarckdefined marriage as "amore or less durable connection between male and female lastingbeyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of theoffspring."
e Future of Marriage in Western Civilization
(1936), he rejected his earlier definition, instead provisionallydefining marriage as "a relation of one or more men to one ormore women that is recognised by custom or law".
The anthropological handbook
Notes and Queries
(1951) definedmarriage as "a union between a man and a woman such thatchildren born to the woman are the recognized legitimateoffspring of both partners."
In recognition of a practice by theNuer of Sudan allowing women to act as a husband in certaincircumstances,Kathleen Goughsuggested modifying this to "awoman and one or more other persons."
Edmund Leachcriticized Gough's definition for being toorestrictive in terms of recognized legitimate offspring andsuggested that marriage be viewed in terms of the different typesof rights it serves to establish. Leach expanded the definition andproposed that "Marriage is a relationship established between awoman and one or more other persons, which provides that achild born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited bythe rules of the relationship, is accorded full birth-status rightscommon to normal members of his society or social stratum"
Leach argued that no one definition of marriage applied to allcultures. He offered a list of ten rights associated with marriage,including sexual monopoly and rights with respect to children,with specific rights differing across cultures.
Duran Bell also criticized the legitimacy-based definition on thebasis that some societies do not require marriage for legitimacy,arguing that in societies where illegitimacy means only that themother is unmarried and has no other legal implications, alegitimacy-based definition of marriage is circular. He proposeddefining marriage in terms of sexual access rights.