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Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged.
When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.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 for women's rights 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 or 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. Civil marriage, which does not exist in some countries, is marriage without religious content carried out by a government institution in accordance with the marriage laws of the jurisdiction, and recognised as creating the rights and obligations intrinsic to matrimony.
Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting via a wedding ceremony.
The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved, and any offspring they may produce.
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, same-sex marriage.