Marriage also known as matrimony or wedlock is defined by wikipedia as a socially or ritually recognised union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between those spouses as well as any resulting biological or adopted children and affinity.
The definition of marriage varies across cultures and religions evolving to both expand and constrict in who and what is encompassed. Principally, it is an institution in which interpersonal relationships usually sexual acknowledge or sanction.
Individuals marry for several reasons including legal, social, sexual, emotional, financial, spiritual and religious purposes. In some part of the world, arranged marriage, child marriage, polygamy and sometimes forced marriage may be practiced as a cultural tradition.
From history it can be noted that the definition of marriage has changed to meet social and economic needs while for others it remains the fixed. Let’s take a look down history lane to see just how much this great institution has evolved over time:
1. Strategic Alliances –
The Anglo-saxons saw marriage as a strategic tool to establish diplomatic and trade ties says stephanie coontz author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. ” you established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them” Coontz says. Here parents where no longer contents to marrying their children off to just anyone in a neighbouring group but two people as wealthy and powerful as themselves.
2. Consent –
During the 11th century, marriage is about securing an economic or political advantage. The wishes of the couples much less their consent little or no importance. However, a monk by name Gratian brought consent into the fold of a formalized marriage. His canon law required couples to give not just their verbal consent but also consummate the marriage. P. S. This book formed the foundation for the church’s marriage policies in the 12th century.
3. The sacrament of marriage –
The 12th century had Roman Catholic theologians and writers refer to marriage as a sacrament, a sacred ceremony tied to experiencing God’s presence. But it was until 1563, the marriage was officially deemed one of the seven sacraments.
4. Wedding Vows –
These have been around as far back as 1549 where Thomas Cranmer laid out the purpose for marriage and scripted modern wedding vows nearly 500 years ago in his Book of Common Prayers.
5. Divorce –
Prior to 1967, the script was that marriage was for life. However, the gates for divorce opened with The Divorce Reform Act 1969 where emphasis on marriage shifted from a long-term commitment at all cost to a personal relationship where individual fulfillment is important.
6. State Control –
The Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753, marked the involvement of state in marriages. The Act required couples to get married in a church or chapel by minister otherwise the union was void. They also had to issue a formal announcement called ‘banns’ or obtain a licence. Most couple already observed this through the Canon law although, here the penalty for not complying was much harsher.
7. Civil Marriages –
This era allowed for non-religion civil marriages to be held in registered offices. Hence, the birth of eloping.
8. Love Enshrined –
Love became acceptable as a foundation for marriage only in the Victorian era where they insisted and invested in the idea of love – the marriage should actually be based one love or companionship.
9. More than baby making –
This is the area where procreation is decoupled from marriage at some level. This began in the late 19th century. However, for the Catholic Church, the procreation of children remains one of the essential things a marriage is all about.
10. Civil Partnership –
The first ceremonies under the Civil Partnership Act 2 plates in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales in December 2005 where same-sex relationships were accorded the same sort of rights and responsibilities to married couples of the opposite sex.
From the above outline, it is glaring to see that although marriage has evolved over the centuries, several things still remain same and are worthy of note. Firstly, no matter the era, the need to be joined to another either for social, political, civil or love reasons is obvious an isn’t going away anytime soon.
Secondly, there is an invincible thread or string that connects these eras to present day as most if not all are still obtainable today. There will still be people who get married for political, economic and social reasons; while others would marry by means of exchanging vows and consent. Also divorce and same-sex marriage isn’t going away anytime soon.
Lastly but most certainly not the least, the evolution of marriage over the last century brings something new and different. With new Laws, Acts and Reforms, people are shaping marriage to suit their needs.
As we look forward to the 22nd century, one thing is certain – the institution of marriage will still remain and that invincible thread ever so present. However, in terms of morality, needs, and reasons concerning marriage, we can only wait to see the next era of this great institution!
Regardless of whatever the 22nd century brings there would still be people who’ll consider marriage sacred and uphold its values in an ever changing world!!!