Love and Marriage

Marriage or wedlock is an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are sanctioned with governmental, social, or religious recognition. It is often created by a contract or through civil processes. Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution.

Marriage may take many forms: for example, a union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; polygamy—in which a person takes more than one spouse (marriage partner)—is common in many societies; and, in some jurisdictions and denominations, a same-sex marriage unites people of the same sex.

People marry for many reasons, but usually one or more of the following: legal, social and economic stability; the formation of a family unit; procreation and the education and nurturing of children; legitimizing sexual relations; public declaration of love; or to obtain citizenship.

A marriage is often declared by a wedding ceremony, which may be performed either by a religious officiant, by a secular government-sanctioned officiator, or (in weddings that have no church or state affiliation) by a trusted friend of the wedding participants. The act of marriage usually creates obligations between the individuals involved, and in many societies, their extended families.

Marriage and religion

Many religions have broad teachings regarding marriage. Most Christian churches blessing the couple being married; the wedding ceremony sometimes involves a pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship. Religious communities widely hold marriage as a relationship uniquely allegorical to God's relationship with the people; the husband represents God and the bride represents the whole of God's chosen people.

Liturgical Christian communions—notably Anglicanism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy—consider marriage (sometimes termed holy matrimony) to be an expression of grace, termed a sacrament or mystery. In Western ritual, the sacrament is bestowed upon a husband and wife by the spouses themselves, with a bishop, priest, or deacon normally witnessing the union on behalf of the church. In Eastern ritual churches, the clergyman functions as the minister.

In Judaism, marriage is viewed as a contractual bond commanded by God in which a man and a woman come together to create a relationship in which God is directly involved. Though procreation is not the sole purpose, a Jewish marriage is also expected to fulfill the commandment to have children. The main focus centers around the relationship between the husband and wife. Kabbalistically, marriage is understood to mean that the husband and wife are merging together into a single soul. This is why a man is considered "incomplete" if he is not married, as his soul is only one part of a larger whole that remains to be unified.

Islam also recommends marriage highly; among other things, it helps in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. Age of marriage is whenever the individuals feel ready, financially and emotionally, for marriage. It should also be noted that in Islam, marriage is not a religious concept as it is in many religions, but a civil contract between a man and a woman.

Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, recommended that people marry as an assistance to themselves in their well-being, but did not make it obligatory; he explained that it is both a physical and spiritual bond that endures into the afterlife. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the religion, stated that marriage is a foundation for the structure of human society. A Bahá'í marriage requires the consent of the couple, and then of all living parents, as to strengthen the ties between the families and avoid enmity.

For the most part, religious traditions in the world reserve marriage to heterosexual unions, but there are exceptions including Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church and some Anglican dioceses and Quaker, United Church of Canada and Reform Jewish congregations.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Marriage. The Official Guide to Marriage is Margaret Paul. Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is an expert on marriage and relationships, and the co-creator of Inner Bonding, a transformational six-step spiritual healing process.

Additional Resources covering Marriage can be found at:

Website Directory for Marriage
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Margaret Paul, the Official Guide To Marriage