For other uses, see Marriage (disambiguation).
"Married" and "Matrimony" redirect here. For other uses, see Married (disambiguation) and Matrimony (disambiguation).
Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognised union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between those spouses, as well as between them and any resulting biological or adopted children and affinity (in-laws and other family through marriage). The definition of marriage varies around the world not only between cultures and between religions, but also throughout the history of any given culture and religion, evolving to both expand and constrict in who and what is encompassed, but typically it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged or sanctioned. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal. A marriage ceremony is known as a wedding.
Individuals may marry for several reasons, including legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious purposes. Whom they marry may be influenced by socially determined rules of incest, prescriptive marriage rules, parental choice and individual desire. In some areas of the world, arranged marriage, child marriage, polygamy, and sometimes forced marriage, may be practiced as a cultural tradition. Conversely, such practices may be outlawed and penalized in parts of the world out of concerns of the infringement of women's rights, or the infringement of children's rights (both female and male children), and because of international law. In developed parts of the world, there has been a general trend towards ensuring equal rights within marriage for women and legally recognizing the marriages of interfaith, interracial, and same-sex couples. These trends coincide with the broader human rights movement.
Marriage can be recognized by a state, an organization, a religious authority, a tribal group, a local community, or peers. It is often viewed as a contract. When a marriage is performed and carried out by a government institution in accordance with the marriage laws of the jurisdiction, without religious content, it is a civil marriage. Civil marriage recognizes and creates the rights and obligations intrinsic to matrimony before the state. When a marriage is performed with religious content under the auspices of a religious institution it is a religious marriage. Religious marriage recognizes and creates the rights and obligations intrinsic to matrimony before that religion. Religious marriage is known variously as sacramental marriage in Catholicism, nikah in Islam, nissuin in Judaism, and various other names in other faith traditions, each with their own constraints as to what constitutes, and who can enter into, a valid religious marriage.
Some countries do not recognize locally performed religious marriage on its own, and require a separate civil marriage for official purposes. Conversely, civil marriage does not exist in some countries governed by a religious legal system, such as Saudi Arabia, where marriages contracted abroad might not be recognized if they were contracted contrary to Saudi interpretations of Islamic religious law. In countries governed by a mixed secular-religious legal system, such as in Lebanon and Israel, locally performed civil marriage also does not exist within the country, preventing interfaith and various other marriages contradicting religious laws from being entered into in the country, however, civil marriages performed abroad are recognized by the state even if they conflict with religious laws (in the case of recognition of marriage in Israel, this includes recognition of not only interfaith civil marriages performed abroad, but also overseas same-sex civil marriages).
The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved, and any offspring they may produce or adopt. In terms of legal recognition, most sovereign states and other jurisdictions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and a diminishing number of these permit polygyny, child marriages, and forced marriages. Over the twentieth century, a growing number of countries and other jurisdictions have lifted bans on and have established legal recognition for interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, and most recently, gender-neutral marriage. Some cultures allow the dissolution of marriage through divorce or annulment. In some areas, child marriages and polygamy may occur in spite of national laws against the practice.
Since the late twentieth century, major social changes in Western countries have led to changes in the demographics of marriage, with the age of first marriage increasing, fewer people marrying, and more couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry. For example, the number of marriages in Europe decreased by 30% from 1975 to 2005.
Historically, in most cultures, married women had very few rights of their own, being considered, along with the family's children, the property of the husband; as such, they could not own or inherit property, or represent themselves legally (see for example coverture). In Europe, the United States, and other places in the developed world, beginning in the late 19th century and lasting through the 21st century, marriage has undergone gradual legal changes, aimed at improving the rights of the wife. These changes included giving wives legal identities of their own, abolishing the right of husbands to physically discipline their wives, giving wives property rights, liberalizing divorce laws, providing wives with reproductive rights of their own, and requiring a wife's consent when sexual relations occur. These changes have occurred primarily in Western countries. In the 21st century, there continue to be controversies regarding the legal status of married women, legal acceptance of or leniency towards violence within marriage (especially sexual violence), traditional marriage customs such as dowry and bride price, forced marriage, marriageable age, and criminalization of consensual behaviors such as premarital and extramarital sex.
The word "marriage" derives from Middle Englishmariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 CE. This in turn is derived from Old French, marier (to marry), and ultimately Latin, marītāre, meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married. The adjective marīt-us -a, -um meaning matrimonial or nuptial could also be used in the masculine form as a noun for "husband" and in the feminine form for "wife". The related word "matrimony" derives from the Old French word matremoine, which appears around 1300 CE and ultimately derives from Latin mātrimōnium, which combines the two concepts: mater meaning "mother" and the suffix -monium signifying "action, state, or condition".
Anthropologists have proposed several competing definitions of marriage in an attempt to encompass the wide variety of marital practices observed across cultures. Even within Western culture, "definitions of marriage have careened from one extreme to another and everywhere in between" (as Evan Gerstmann has put it).
Relation recognized by custom or law
In The History of Human Marriage (1922), Edvard 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." In The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization (1936), he rejected his earlier definition, instead provisionally defining marriage as "a relation of one or more men to one or more women that is recognized by custom or law".
Legitimacy of offspring
The anthropological handbook Notes and Queries (1951) defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman such that children born to the woman are the recognized legitimate offspring of both partners." In recognition of a practice by the Nuer people of Sudan allowing women to act as a husband in certain circumstances (the ghost marriage), Kathleen Gough suggested modifying this to "a woman and one or more other persons."
In an analysis of marriage among the Nayar, a polyandrous society in India, Gough found that the group lacked a husband role in the conventional sense; that unitary role in the west was divided between a non-resident "social father" of the woman's children, and her lovers who were the actual procreators. None of these men had legal rights to the woman's child. This forced Gough to disregard sexual access as a key element of marriage and to define it in terms of legitimacy of offspring alone: marriage is "a relationship established between a woman and one or more other persons, which provides a child born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited by the rules of relationship, is accorded full birth-status rights common to normal members of his society or social stratum."
Economic anthropologist Duran Bell has criticized the legitimacy-based definition on the basis that some societies do not require marriage for legitimacy. He argued that a legitimacy-based definition of marriage is circular in societies where illegitimacy has no other legal or social implications for a child other than the mother being unmarried.
Collection of rights
Edmund Leach criticized Gough's definition for being too restrictive in terms of recognized legitimate offspring and suggested that marriage be viewed in terms of the different types of rights it serves to establish. In 1955 article in Man, 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. Those rights, according to Leach, included:
- "To establish a legal father of a woman's children.
- To establish a legal mother of a man's children.
- To give the husband a monopoly in the wife's sexuality.
- To give the wife a monopoly in the husband's sexuality.
- To give the husband partial or monopolistic rights to the wife's domestic and other labour services.
- To give the wife partial or monopolistic rights to the husband's domestic and other labour services.
- To give the husband partial or total control over property belonging or potentially accruing to the wife.
- To give the wife partial or total control over property belonging or potentially accruing to the husband.
- To establish a joint fund of property – a partnership – for the benefit of the children of the marriage.
- To establish a socially significant 'relationship of affinity' between the husband and his wife's brothers."
Right of sexual access
In a 1997 article in Current Anthropology, Duran Bell describes marriage as "a relationship between one or more men (male or female) in severalty to one or more women that provides those men with a demand-right of sexual access within a domestic group and identifies women who bear the obligation of yielding to the demands of those specific men." In referring to "men in severalty", Bell is referring to corporate kin groups such as lineages which, in having paid brideprice, retain a right in a woman's offspring even if her husband (a lineage member) deceases (Levirate marriage). In referring to "men (male or female)", Bell is referring to women within the lineage who may stand in as the "social fathers" of the wife's children born of other lovers. (See Nuer "ghost marriage")
Types of marriage
Main article: Monogamy
Monogamy is a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse during their lifetime or at any one time (serial monogamy).
Anthropologist Jack Goody's comparative study of marriage around the world utilizing the Ethnographic Atlas found a strong correlation between intensive plough agriculture, dowry and monogamy. This pattern was found in a broad swath of Eurasian societies from Japan to Ireland. The majority of Sub-Saharan African societies that practice extensive hoe agriculture, in contrast, show a correlation between "bride price" and polygamy. A further study drawing on the Ethnographic Atlas showed a statistical correlation between increasing size of the society, the belief in "high gods" to support human morality, and monogamy.
In the countries which do not permit polygamy, a person who marries in one of those countries a person while still being lawfully married to another commits the crime of bigamy. In all cases, the second marriage is considered legally null and void. Besides the second and subsequent marriages being void, the bigamist is also liable to other penalties, which also vary between jurisdictions.
Governments that support monogamy may allow easy divorce. In a number of Western countries divorce rates approach 50%. Those who remarry do so on average three times. Divorce and remarriage can thus result in "serial monogamy", i.e. having multiple marriages but only one legal spouse at a time. This can be interpreted as a form of plural mating, as are those societies dominated by female-headed families in the Caribbean, Mauritius and Brazil where there is frequent rotation of unmarried partners. In all, these account for 16 to 24% of the "monogamous" category.
Serial monogamy creates a new kind of relative, the "ex-". The "ex-wife", for example, remains an active part of her "ex-husband's" or "ex-wife's" life, as they may be tied together by transfers of resources (alimony, child support), or shared child custody. Bob Simpson notes that in the British case, serial monogamy creates an "extended family" – a number of households tied together in this way, including mobile children (possible exes may include an ex-wife, an ex-brother-in-law, etc., but not an "ex-child"). These "unclear families" do not fit the mould of the monogamous nuclear family. As a series of connected households, they come to resemble the polygynous model of separate households maintained by mothers with children, tied by a male to whom they are married or divorced.
Main article: Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, the relationship is called polygyny, and there is no marriage bond between the wives; and when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry, and there is no marriage bond between the husbands. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and/or wives, it can be called group marriage.
A molecular genetic study of global human genetic diversity argued that sexual polygyny was typical of human reproductive patterns until the shift to sedentary farming communities approximately 10,000 to 5,000 years ago in Europe and Asia, and more recently in Africa and the Americas. As noted above, Anthropologist Jack Goody's comparative study of marriage around the world utilizing the Ethnographic Atlas found that the majority of Sub-Saharan African societies that practice extensive hoe agriculture show a correlation between "Bride price," and polygamy. A survey of other cross-cultural samples has confirmed that the absence of the plough was the only predictor of polygamy, although other factors such as high male mortality in warfare (in non-state societies) and pathogen stress (in state societies) had some impact.
Marriages are classified according to the number of legal spouses an individual has. The suffix "-gamy" refers specifically to the number of spouses, as in bi-gamy (two spouses, generally illegal in most nations), and poly-gamy (more than one spouse).
Societies show variable acceptance of polygamy as a cultural ideal and practice. According to the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry. However, as Miriam Zeitzen writes, social tolerance for polygamy is different from the practice of polygamy, since it requires wealth to establish multiple households for multiple wives. The actual practice of polygamy in a tolerant society may actually be low, with the majority of aspirant polygamists practicing monogamous marriage. Tracking the occurrence of polygamy is further complicated in jurisdictions where it has been banned, but continues to be practiced (de facto polygamy).
Zeitzen also notes that Western perceptions of African society and marriage patterns are biased by "contradictory concerns of nostalgia for traditional African culture versus critique of polygamy as oppressive to women or detrimental to development." Polygamy has been condemned as being a form of human rights abuse, with concerns arising over domestic abuse, forced marriage, and neglect. The vast majority of the world's countries, including virtually all of the world's developed nations, do not permit polygamy. There have been calls for the abolition of polygamy in developing countries.
Main article: Polygyny
See also: Concubinage
Polygyny usually grants wives equal status, although the husband may have personal preferences. One type of de facto polygyny is concubinage, where only one woman gets a wife's rights and status, while other women remain legal house mistresses.
Although a society may be classified as polygynous, not all marriages in it necessarily are; monogamous marriages may in fact predominate. It is to this flexibility that Anthropologist Robin Fox attributes its success as a social support system: "This has often meant – given the imbalance in the sex ratios, the higher male infant mortality, the shorter life span of males, the loss of males in wartime, etc. – that often women were left without financial support from husbands. To correct this condition, females had to be killed at birth, remain single, become prostitutes, or be siphoned off into celibate religious orders. Polygynous systems have the advantage that they can promise, as did the Mormons, a home and family for every woman."
Nonetheless, polygyny is a gender issue which offers men asymmetrical benefits. In some cases, there is a large age discrepancy (as much as a generation) between a man and his youngest wife, compounding the power differential between the two. Tensions not only exist between genders, but also within genders; senior and junior men compete for wives, and senior and junior wives in the same household may experience radically different life conditions, and internal hierarchy. Several studies have suggested that the wive's relationship with other women, including co-wives and husband's female kin, are more critical relationships than that with her husband for her productive, reproductive and personal achievement. In some societies, the co-wives are relatives, usually sisters, a practice called sororal polygyny; the pre-existing relationship between the co-wives is thought to decrease potential tensions within the marriage.
Fox argues that "the major difference between polygyny and monogamy could be stated thus: while plural mating occurs in both systems, under polygyny several unions may be recognized as being legal marriages while under monogamy only one of the unions is so recognized. Often, however, it is difficult to draw a hard and fast line between the two."
As polygamy in Africa is increasingly subject to legal limitations, a variant form of de facto (as opposed to legal or de jure) polygyny is being practised in urban centres. Although it does not involve multiple (now illegal) formal marriages, the domestic and personal arrangements follow old polygynous patterns. The de facto form of polygyny is found in other parts of the world as well (including some Mormon sects and Muslim families in the United States). In some societies such as the Lovedu of South Africa, or the Nuer of the Sudan, aristocratic women may become female 'husbands.' In the Lovedu case, this female husband may take a number of polygamous wives. This is not a lesbian relationship, but a means of legitimately expanding a royal lineage by attaching these wives' children to it. The relationships are considered polygynous, not polyandrous, because the female husband is in fact assuming masculine gendered political roles.
Religious groups have differing views on the legitimacy of polygyny. It is allowed in Islam and Confucianism. Judaism and Christianity have mentioned practices involving polygyny in the past, however, outright religious acceptance of such practices was not addressed until its rejection in later passages. They do explicitly prohibit polygyny today.
Main articles: Polyandry, Polyandry in Tibet, and Polyandry in India
Polyandry is notably more rare than polygyny, though less rare than the figure commonly cited in the Ethnographic Atlas (1980) which listed only those polyandrous societies found in the Himalayan Mountains. More recent studies have found 53 societies outside the 28 found in the Himalayans which practice polyandry. It is most common in egalitarian societies marked by high male mortality or male absenteeism. It is associated with partible paternity, the cultural belief that a child can have more than one father.
The explanation for polyandry in the Himalayan Mountains is related to the scarcity of land; the marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife (fraternal polyandry) allows family land to remain intact and undivided. If every brother married separately and had children, family land would be split into unsustainable small plots. In Europe, this was prevented through the social practice of impartible inheritance (the dis-inheriting of most siblings, some of whom went on to become celibate monks and priests).
Group marriage (also known as multi-lateral marriage) is a form of polyamory in which more than two persons form a family unit, with all the members of the group marriage being considered to be married to all the other members of the group marriage, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. No country legally condones group marriages, neither under the law nor as a common law marriage, but historically it has been practiced by some cultures of Polynesia, Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Americas – as well as in some intentional communities and alternative subcultures such as the Oneida Perfectionists in up-state New York. Of the 250 societies reported by the American anthropologist George Murdock in 1949, only the Kaingang of Brazil had any group marriages at all.
Main article: Child marriage
A child marriage is a marriage where one or both spouses are under the age of 18. It is related to child betrothal and teenage pregnancy.
Child marriage was common throughout history, even up until the 1900s in the United States, where in 1880 CE, in the state of Delaware, the age of consent for marriage was 7 years old. Still, in 2017, over half of the 50 United States have no explicit minimum age to marry and several states set the age as low as 14. Today it is condemned by international human rights organizations. Child marriages are often arranged between the families of the future bride and groom, sometimes as soon as the girl is born. However, in the late 1800s in England and the United States, feminist activists began calling for raised age of consent laws, which was eventually handled in the 1920s, having been raised to 16-18.
Child marriages can also occur in the context of bride kidnapping.
In the year 1552 CE, John Somerford and Jane Somerford Brereton were both married at the ages of 3 and 2, respectively. Twelve years later, in 1564, John filed for divorce.
While child marriage is observed for both boys and girls, the overwhelming majority of child spouses are girls. In many cases, only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female, due to the importance placed upon female virginity. Causes of child marriage include poverty, bride price, dowry, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, and perceived inability of women to work for money.
Today, child marriages are widespread in parts of the world; being most common in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with more than half of the girls in some countries in those regions being married before 18. The incidence of child marriage has been falling in most parts of the world. In developed countries child marriage is outlawed or restricted.
Girls who marry before 18 are at greater risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, than those who marry later, especially when they are married to a much older man.
Same-sex and third-gender marriages
Main articles: Same-sex marriage and History of same-sex unions
As noted above, several kinds of same-sex, non-sexual marriages exist in some lineage-based societies. This section relates to same-sex sexual unions. Some cultures include third gender (two-spirit or transgender) individuals, such as the berdache of the Zuni in New Mexico. We'wha, one of the most revered Zuni elders (an Ihamana, spiritual leader) served as an emissary of the Zuni to Washington, where he met President Grover Cleveland. We'wha had a husband who was generally recognized as such.
While it is a relatively new practice to grant same-sex couples the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly granted to mixed-sex couples, there is some history of recorded same-sex unions around the world.Ancient Greeksame-sex relationships were like modern companionate marriages, unlike their different-sex marriages in which the spouses had few emotional ties, and the husband had freedom to engage in outside sexual liaisons. The Codex Theodosianus (C. Th. 9.7.3) issued in 438 CE imposed severe penalties or death on same-sex relationships, but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex relationships in that culture exist. Same-sex unions were celebrated in some regions of China, such as Fujian. Possibly the earliest documented same-sex wedding in Latin Christendom occurred in Rome, Italy, at the San Giovanni a Porta Latina basilica in 1581.
Several cultures have practiced temporary and conditional marriages. Examples include the Celtic practice of handfasting and fixed-term marriages in the Muslim community. Pre-Islamic Arabs practiced a form of temporary marriage that carries on today in the practice of Nikah mut‘ah, a fixed-term marriage contract. The Islamic prophet Muhammad sanctioned a temporary marriage – sigheh in Iran and muta'a in Iraq – which can provide a legitimizing cover for sex workers. The same forms of temporary marriage have been used in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran to make the donation of a human ova legal for in vitro fertilisation; a woman cannot, however, use this kind of marriage to obtain a sperm donation.Muslim controversies related to Nikah Mut'ah have resulted in the practice being confined mostly to Shi'ite communities. The matrilineal Mosuo of China practice what they call "walking marriage".
See also: Cohabitation and Common-law marriage
In some jurisdictions cohabitation, in certain circumstances, may constitute a common-law marriage, an unregistered partnership, or otherwise provide the unmarried partners with various rights and responsibilities; and in some countries the laws recognize cohabitation in lieu of institutional marriage for taxation and social security benefits. This is the case, for example, in Australia. Cohabitation may be an option pursued as a form of resistance to traditional institutionalized marriage. However, in this context, some nations reserve the right to define the relationship as marital, or otherwise to regulate the relation, even if the relation has not been registered with the state or a religious institution.
Conversely, institutionalized marriages may not involve cohabitation. In some cases couples living together do not wish to be recognized as married. This may occur because pension or alimony rights are adversely affected; because of taxation considerations; because of immigration issues, or for other reasons. Such marriages have also been increasingly common in Beijing. Guo Jianmei, director of the center for women's studies at Beijing University, told a Newsday correspondent, "Walking marriages reflect sweeping changes in Chinese society." A "walking marriage" refers to a type of temporary marriage formed by the Mosuo of China, in which male partners live elsewhere and make nightly visits. A similar arrangement in Saudi Arabia, called misyar marriage, also involves the husband and wife living separately but meeting regularly.
There is wide cross-cultural variation in the social rules governing the selection of a partner for marriage. There is variation in the degree to which partner selection is an individual decision by the partners or a collective decision by the partners' kin groups, and there is variation in the rules regulating which partners are valid choices.
The United Nations World Fertility Report of 2003 reports that 89% of all people get married before age forty-nine. The percent of women and men who marry before age forty-nine drops to nearly 50% in some nations and reaches near 100% in other nations.
In other cultures with less strict rules governing the groups from which a partner can be chosen the selection of a marriage partner may involve either the couple going through a selection process of courtship or the marriage may be arranged by the couple's parents or an outside party, a matchmaker.
Main article: Hypergamy
Some people want to marry a person with higher or lower status than them. Others want to marry people who have similar status. In many societies women marry men who are of higher social status. There are marriages where each party has sought a partner of similar status. There are other marriages in which the man is older than the woman.
The incest taboo, exogamy and endogamy
Further information: Prohibited degree of kinship, Cousin marriage, Affinity (canon law), and Avunculate marriage
Societies have often placed restrictions on marriage to relatives, though the degree of prohibited relationship varies widely. Marriages between parents and children, or between full siblings, with few exceptions, have been considered incest and forbidden. However, marriages between more distant relatives have been much more common, with one estimate being that 80% of all marriages in history have been between second cousins or closer. This proportion has fallen dramatically, but still more than 10% of all marriages are believed to be between people who are second cousins or more closely related. In the United States, such marriages are now highly stigmatized, and laws ban most or all first-cousin marriage in 30 states. Specifics vary: in South Korea, historically it was illegal to marry someone with the same last name and same ancestral line.
An Avunculate marriage is a marriage that occurs between an uncle and his niece or between an aunt and her nephew. Such marriages are illegal in most countries due to incest restrictions. However a small number of countries have legalized it, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Malaysia, and Russia.
In various societies the choice of partner is often limited to suitable persons from specific social groups. In some societies the rule is that a partner is selected from an individual's own social group – endogamy, this is often the case in class and caste based societies. But in other societies a partner must be chosen from a different group than one's own – exogamy, this may be the case in societies practicing totemic religion where society is divided into several exogamous totemic clans, such as most Aboriginal Australian societies. In other societies a person is expected to marry their cross-cousin, a woman must marry her father's sister's son and a man must marry his mother's brother's daughter – this is often the case if either a society has a rule of tracing kinship exclusively through patrilineal or matrilineal descent groups as among the Akan people of West Africa. Another kind of marriage selection is the levirate marriage in which widows are obligated to marry their husband's brother, mostly found in societies where kinship is based on endogamous clan groups.
Religion has commonly weighed in on the matter of which relatives, if any, are allowed to marry. Relations may be by consanguinity or affinity, meaning by blood or by marriage. On the marriage of cousins, Catholic policy has evolved from initial acceptance, through a long period of general prohibition, to the contemporary requirement for a dispensation.Islam has always allowed it, while Hindu texts vary widely.
Main article: Arranged marriage
In a wide array of lineage-based societies with a classificatory kinship system, potential spouses are sought from a specific class of relative as determined by a prescriptive marriage rule. This rule may be expressed by anthropologists using a "descriptive" kinship term, such as a "man's mother's brother's daughter" (also known as a "cross-cousin"). Such descriptive rules mask the participant's perspective: a man should marry a woman from his mother's lineage. Within the society's kinship terminology, such relatives are usually indicated by a specific term which sets them apart as potentially marriageable. Pierre Bourdieu notes, however, that very few marriages ever follow the rule, and that when they do so, it is for "practical kinship" reasons such as the preservation of family property, rather than the "official kinship" ideology.
Insofar as regular marriages following prescriptive rules occur, lineages are linked together in fixed relationships; these ties between lineages may form political alliances in kinship dominated societies. French structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss developed alliance theory to account for the "elementary" kinship structures created by the limited number of prescriptive marriage rules possible.
A pragmatic (or 'arranged') marriage is made easier by formal procedures of family or group politics. A responsible authority sets up or encourages the marriage; they may, indeed, engage a professional matchmaker to find a suitable spouse for an unmarried person. The authority figure could be parents, family, a religious official, or a group consensus. In some cases, the authority figure may choose a match for purposes other than marital harmony.
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