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Marriage is a cultural custom in most societies wherein two or more individuals -- usually adults -- are socially and legally recognized as forming common cause with each other. This is most often with the intention of having children, but that has never been the exclusive reason for the custom's existence.

Traditionally, marriage has had slightly different functions depending on the social class of the participants; for the lower classes, it was mainly a way to formalize the responsibility for the care of offspring. Among upper classes (at least in the West), it was also a way to seal bonds between aristocratic houses – sort of a familial corporate merger.

In modern, middle-class usage, it has become somewhat ambiguous in intent, though it is usually regarded as a requirement for having offspring. In the United States, it is necessary in order to get a lower "family rate" on health insurance or to share a lower, employer-sponsored insurance rate with a spouse not employed at the same company. It is also necessary in order to establish kinship in certain situations such as hospital visitation and "next-of-kin" for inheritance purposes.


  • /history: history of marriage and its many definitions
  • /problems: problems with the custom of marriage


Governments and cultures generally have laws and rules to encourage people to get married.

In the United States, one big incentive to get married is the reduction in health insurance costs. One's spouse is also considered to be "next of kin" and thus receives certain automatic rights, such as hospital visitation and effective power of attorney if the other spouse is unable to speak for her/himself.

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