Marriage is a social, religious, spiritual and/or legal union of individuals that creates kinship. This union may also be called matrimony, while the ceremony that marks its beginning is usually called a wedding and the married status created is sometimes called wedlock.
Marriage is an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are acknowledged by the state, by religious authority, or both. It is often viewed as a contract. Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution, in accordance with marriage laws of the jurisdiction. If recognized by the state, by the religion(s) to which the parties belong or by society in general, the act of marriage changes the personal and social status of the individuals who enter into it.
People marry for many reasons, but usually one or more of the following: legal, social, emotional, and economic stability; the formation of a family unit; procreation and the education and nurturing of children; legitimizing sexual relations;
Anthropologists have documented a diverse variety of marriage practices across different cultures. Many competing definitions of marriage have been proposed to capture its essential, cross-cultural characteristics.
In his three volume The History of Human Marriage (1921), Edward Westermarck defined marriage as "a more or less durable connection between male and female, lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring."
The anthropological handbook Notes and Queries (1951) defined marriage as "a union of a man and a woman such that children of the woman are recognized as legitimate by both parents." Because the Nuer of Sudan allow for female-female marriage, Kathleen Gough suggested "a woman and one or more other persons." Nuer female-female marriage is done to keep property within a family that has no sons; It's not a form of lesbianism. A legitimacy-based definition has been criticized as not being universal and as being circular.
Edmund Leach argued that no one definition of marriage applied to all cultures. 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 proposed that marriage has traditionally been characterized by sexual access rights, suggesting that modern societies which do not provide for such rights have moved toward a distinct institution.