Types of marriages

The type, functions, and characteristics of marriage vary from culture to culture, and can change over time.

Eastern vs. Western views

Western world

In the Americas and Europe, in the 21st century, legally recognized marriages are formally presumed to be monogamous (although some pockets of society accept polygamy socially, if not legally, and some couples choose to enter into open marriages). In these countries, divorce is relatively simple and socially accepted. In the West, the prevailing view toward marriage today is that it is based on a legal covenant recognizing emotional attachment between the partners and entered into voluntarily.

In the West, marriage has evolved from a life-time covenant that can only be broken by fault or death to a contract that can be broken by either party at will. Other shifts in Western marriage since World War I include:
* Unlike in the 19th century, women, not men, get child custody more than 80% of the time
* Both spouses have a formal duty of spousal support in the event of divorce (no longer just the husband)Clarifyme|date=August 2008
* Out of wedlock children have the same rights of support as legitimate children
* In most countries, rape within marriage is illegal and can be punished
* Spouses may no longer physically discipline or abuse their partner
* In some jurisdictions, property acquired since marriage is not owned by the title-holder. This property is considered marital and to be divided among the spouses by community property law or equitable distribution via the courts.

Marriage for immigration purposes is sometimes practiced by international students who are seeking to migrate to countries such as Australia, where additional points required for immigration are awarded for marriage within the country.

Eastern world

Some societies permit polygamy, in which a man could have multiple wives; even in such societies however, most men have only one. In such societies, having multiple wives is generally considered a sign of wealth and power. The status of multiple wives has varied from one society to another.

In Imperial China, formal marriage was sanctioned only between a man and a woman, although among the upper classes, the primary wife was an arranged marriage with an elaborate formal ceremony while concubines could be taken on later with minimal ceremony. After the rise of Communism, only strictly monogamous marital relationships are permitted, although divorce is a relatively simple process.

Polygamy, monogamy, and polyandry


Polyandry (a woman having multiple husbands) occurs very rarely in a few isolated tribal societies with limited resources. These societies include some bands of the Canadian Inuit, although the practice has declined sharply in the 20th century due to their conversion from tribal religion to Christianity by Moravian missionaries. Additionally, the Spartans were notable for practicing polyandry. Spartan polyandry often took the form of adelphic polyandry (where the husbands are all biological brothers).

Societies which permit group marriage are extremely rare, but have existed in Utopian societies such as the Oneida Community.

Today, many married people practice various forms of consensual nonmonogamy, including polyamory and swinging. These people have agreements with their spouses that permit other intimate relationships or sexual partners. Therefore, the concept of marriage need not necessarily hinge on sexual or emotional monogamy.

Christian insistence on monogamy

In the Christian tradition, a "one man one woman" model for the Christian marriage was advocated by Saint Augustine (354-439 AD) with his published letter "The Good of Marriage". To discourage polygamy, he wrote it "was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce. For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bear children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful." (chapter 15, paragraph 17) Sermons from St. Augustine's letters were popular and influential. In 534 AD Roman Emperor Justinian criminalized all but monogamous man/woman sex within the confines of marriage. The Justinian Code was the basis of European law for 1,000 years.

Christianity has continued to insist on monogamy as an essential of marriage.

Contemporary Western societies

In 21st century Western societies, bigamy is illegal and sexual relations outside marriage are generally frowned-upon, though there is a minority view accepting (or even advocating) open marriage.

However, divorce and remarriage are relatively easy to undertake in these societies. This has led to a practice called serial monogamy. "Serial monogamy" involves entering into successive marriages over time. Serial monogamy is also sometimes used to refer to cases where the couples cohabitate without getting married.

Unique practices

Some parts of India follow a custom in which the groom is required to marry with an auspicious plant called Tulsi before a second marriage to overcome inauspicious predictions about the health of the husband. This also applies if the prospective wife is considered to be 'bad luck' or a 'bad omen' astrologically. However, the relationship is not consummated and does not affect their ability to remarry later. One should note that this is not a norm found across the entire Indian sub-continent.

In the state of Kerala, India, the Nambudiri Brahmin caste traditionally practiced henogamy, in which only the eldest son in each family was permitted to marry. The younger children could have "sambandha" (temporary relationship) with Kshatriya or Nair women. This is no longer practiced, and in general the Nambudiri Brahmin men marry only form the Nambudiri caste and Nair women prefer to be married to Nair men.

In Mormonism, a couple may seal their marriage "for time and for all eternity" through a "sealing" ceremony conducted within LDS Temples. The couple is then believed to be bound to each other in marriage throughout eternity if they live according to their covenants made in the ceremony. Mormonism also allows living persons to act as proxies in the sealing ceremony to "seal" a marriage between ancestors who have been dead for at least one year and who were married during their lifetime. According to LDS theology, it is then up to the deceased individuals to accept or reject this sealing in the spirit world before their eventual resurrection. A living person can also be sealed to his or her deceased spouse, with another person (of the same sex as the deceased) acting as proxy for that deceased individual.

One society that traditionally did without marriage entirely was that of the Na of Yunnan province in southern China. According to anthropologist Cia Hua, sexual liaisons among the Na took place in the form of "visits" initiated by either men or women, each of whom might have two or three partners each at any given time (and as many as two hundred throughout a lifetime). The nonexistence of fathers in the Na family unit was consistent with their practice of matrilineality and matrilocality, in which siblings and their offspring lived with their maternal relatives. In recent years, the Chinese state has encouraged the Na to acculturate to the monogamous marriage norms of greater China. Such programs have included land grants to monogamous Na families, conscription (in the 1970s, couples were rounded up in villages ten or twenty at a time and issued marriage licenses), legislation declaring frequent sexual partners married and outlawing "visits", and the withholding of food rations from children who could not identify their fathers. Many of these measures were relaxed in favor of educational approaches after Deng Xiaoping came into power in 1981.

See also the Mosuo ethnic minority of China and their practice of so-called walking marriage.

Other terms for types of marriages

There are many terms for marriage types:

* "After death marriage" - Permitted in France, a living person can marry a dead person of the opposite sex after the individual has died.
*Arranged marriage - A marriage that is at some level arranged by someone other than those being married.
*Boston marriage - marriage-like relationship between two women, not necessarily sexual; also historic lesbian relationships.
*Celestial marriage - marriage performed in an LDS temple.
*Child marriage - A practice in which the parents of two small children (even infants) arrange a future marriage.
*Common-law marriage - A form of interpersonal status in which a man and a woman are legally married because they live together.
*Covenant marriage - A marriage in which the couple agrees to obtain pre-marital counseling before marrying, and accept more limited grounds for divorce.
*Digital marriage - A marriage that occurs within a computer or video game.
*Endogamous - When marriages occur within the boundaries of the domestic group, between members of the same group.
*Exogamous - When marriages occur outside of the domestic group, between members of different groups.
*Fleet Marriage - The best-known example of an irregular or a clandestine marriage taking place in England before 1753.
*Flash marriage - Speedy marriage between couples.
*Forced marriage - A marriage in which one or more of the parties is married without his/her consent or against his/her will.
**Marriage by abduction - A form of forced marriage in which a woman who is kidnapped and raped by a man is regarded as his wife. This practice is limited to a few traditional cultures in a small number of countries, and is generally regarded as abhorrent by other cultures.
*Group marriage - A form of polygamous marriage in which more than one man and more than one woman form a family unit, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage.
**Line marriage - A form of group marriage in which the family unit continues to add new spouses of both sexes over time so that the marriage does not end.
*Heqin - Arranged marriage for political alliance during Medieval China.
*Hollywood marriage - A marriage between Hollywood celebrities or a marriage that is of short duration and quickly ends in separation or divorce.
*Human-animal marriage - A marriage between a human and a non-human animal.
*Intermarriage or Mixed marriage - Marriage between people belonging to different religions, tribes, nationalities or ethnic backgrounds.
**Interracial marriage - Marriage between two people of differing races.
**Interreligious marriage - Marriage (either religious or civil) between partners professing different religions.
*Lavender marriage - A marriage between a man and a woman in which one, or both, parties are, or are assumed to be, homosexual.
*Levirate marriage - A marriage in which a woman marries one of her husband's brothers after her husband's death, if there were no children, in order to continue his line.
*miscegenation - The mixing of different ethnicities or races, especially in marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations.
*mixed-orientation marriage - A heterosexual marriage where one spouse is gay, lesbian or bisexual.
*monogamy - Marriage with one spouse exclusively for life or for a period of time.
*Mop marriage - An archaic common-law practice in which a couple could be joined by a local magistrate at the annual Mop Fair.
*morganatic marriage - A marriage which can be contracted in certain countries, usually between persons of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage.
*Multiple marriages
**polyandry - The wife has several husbands.
**polygamy - Plural marriages.
**polygyny - The husband has several wives.
*Mutta marriage - A marriage for pleasure between a Shia man and a Shia woman or a woman who believes in the same.
*open marriage - A marriage in which the partners agree that each is free to engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without regarding this as sexual infidelity.
*plaçage - A recognized extralegal system in which predominantly wealthy and white Creole men in Louisiana entered into the equivalent of common-law marriages.
*putative marriage - An apparently valid marriage, entered into in good faith on part of at least one of the partners, but is invalid because of an impediment.
*same-sex marriage - Marriage between two people who are of the same sex.
*serial monogamy - Marriage to one spouse at a time.
*sexless marriage - A marriage in which no sex is had between the two partners.
*Shim-pua marriage - A Taiwanese tradition of arranged marriage, in which a poor family (burdened by too many children) would sell a young daughter to a richer family for labour, and in exchange, the poorer family would be married into the richer family, through the daughter.
*sister exchange - The husbands trade sisters to be each other's wives in order to keep any group from losing a woman.
*sororate marriage - A marriage in which a man marries his wife's sister, usually after the wife is dead or has proved infertile.
* Traditional marriage - A term used by the traditional marriage movement to describe only monogamous opposite sex marriages.
*walking marriage - a practice of a matrifocal group in which the woman accepts her lover each evening, but he departs in the morning to work in his mother's household.
*widow inheritance - the widow may have the right to require her late husband's extended family to provide her with a new man; more commonly, she is obliged to marry the one they choose.
*Yogic marriage is a tradition of Hindu Marriage done within Shavite Sadhaks and Sadhvis, to enable them to get positive energy from yajnans and homas.

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