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Definition of Marriage

Rules And Regulations

In the United States, marriage is a legal contract, with the state regulating the economic and sexual exchanges between two heterosexual adults (McIntyre 1994). The fifty states vary somewhat in the regulations or criteria that must be satisfied before a couple can contract to marry. Most states specify that people must get a license to marry; must be a specific age before they can marry; must marry only people of the opposite sex; must not be married to someone else; cannot marry persons with whom they hold certain kin relationships (e.g., mother, father, sibling, in-laws [in some states]); and must be married by a legally empowered representative of the state with two witnesses present. In some states, the couple must have blood tests made to ensure that neither partner has a sexually transmittable disease in the communicable stage. Some states demand a waiting period between the time of purchasing a marriage license and the marriage ceremony (Knox and Schacht 1991). The nature of the legal contract is such that the couple cannot dissolve their marriage on their own; the state must sanction the dissolution of marriage, just as it sanctions the contracting of it.

In some other parts of the world, marriages are arranged and love is hoped for after the marriage occurs. Arranged marriages are the norm in many parts of the world. One cross-cultural survey indicates that marriages are arranged for girls in 44 percent of cultures and for boys in 17 percent (Broude 1994). Arranged marriages occur through the involvement of two sets of parents or through negotiations by professional marriage brokers with prospective families. However, even in most societies where marriage is arranged, the prospective bride and groom are consulted and have some veto power if they feel the proposed partner is absolutely unacceptable. Even in cultures where marriages are preferably arranged and the wishes of the parents and kin of the prospective couple are important, marriages based on love do occur. They typically take place through elopement followed by the grudging acceptance of the parents and kin. The motivation for arranged marriage is to assure the continuity of the family's political and economic well-being and growth. The desire is to provide the best possible match for the children, so educational level, personal skills, and family resources are all important considerations. Because many family resources may be exchanged through marriage, the reputation, resources, and knowledge of the marriage brokers are important (Saxton 1993).


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsDefinition of Marriage - Why People Get Married, Rules And Regulations, Types Of Marriage, Conclusion