Marriage is a socially or legally recognized contract between spouses which establishes the rights and obligations they have with each other and any children they may produce. Marriage is considered a "cultural universal" because some kind of marriage custom or institution exists in all cultures worldwide.
Matrimony and wedlock are synonyms for marriage.
A wedding is a ceremony in which people are united in marriage.
Courtship refers to attention paid to someone (usually a woman) with the intention of proposing marriage.
An engagement or betrothal is a promise to marry. Engagement and betrothal also refer to the period of time between the marriage proposal and the wedding.
A fiancé (male) or fiancée (female) is a person who is engaged to be married. Recently, the word has sometimes been abused to refer to a person with whom one cohabits and has children, but without any plan to marry.
A marriage license is a document issued by a governing agency which grants permission for a couple to marry. Receiving a license does not mean that the couple is married. They still must undergo a ceremony (before the license expires) and register the marriage. Requirements and regulations vary by jurisdiction.
To consummate a marriage is to make it complete by engaging in sexual intercourse.
A widow (female) or widower (male) is a person whose spouse has died.
Hypergamy, commonly referred to as "marrying up", is the practice of marrying someone who has greater wealth or higher social status than oneself. Hypogamy refers to marrying someone of lower status.
A morganatic marriage is a marriage between a man of high rank (typically a member of a royal family) and a woman who is a commoner, in which the wife and any children produced by the marriage are not allowed to inherit the husband's title and privileges.
Endogamy is the practice of allowing marriage only within a particular ethnic or social group. Exogamy is the practice of allowing marriage only outside of a particular group.
A spouse is a married person, either a husband or wife. The terms bride and groom (or bridegroom) are typically used for those who are very newly married or in the process of getting married.
Common-law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between a couple who has not undergone a formal ceremony or registration of the marriage. Once the norm in Western society, common-law marriage is now rare in the U.S., and is recognized by only a handful of states. Contrary to popular misconceptions, simply living together does not create a common-law marriage. Certain specific conditions must be met. Once properly established, a common-law marriage has all the same rights and obligations as a formal marriage, and can be terminated only by divorce or death.
To elope is to run off and get married suddenly and/or secretly.
Cohabitation means living together for an extended period of time as if married. Cohabitation is sometimes referred to as trial marriage when a couple decides to live together for the purpose of determining compatibility prior to marriage.
In-laws are the relatives of one's spouse, or the spouses of one's siblings or children. For example, your spouse's mother is your mother-in-law. Your son's wife is your daughter-in-law. Your sister's husband is your brother-in-law. Your wife's brother is also your brother-in-law.
Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage.
Annulment is a legal procedure which cancels a marriage. Unlike divorce, which simply terminates the marriage, annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened. Annulments are granted when the marriage was illegal or invalid. Some people seek a religious annulment even when they do not qualify for a legal one.
Legal separation occurs when a married couple lives apart without divorcing, but undergoes a court procedure similar to divorce in which the division of property, child custody, and other terms and conditions are determined.
Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is the legal obligation of one spouse to provide financial support for the other after a legal separation or divorce.
Monogamy is the practice of having only one mate at a time. Sociologists, anthropologists, and biologists often break this down further. Social monogamy refers to a pair's living arrangement. They are partners in life, but may or may not have a sexual (or sexually exclusive) relationship. Sexual monogamy refers to sexual exclusivity. Genetic monogamy means that DNA analysis of offspring confirms that a male-female pair mate exclusively with each other. The term strict monogamy is sometimes used to mean having only one mate for life.
Serial monogamy refers to a succession of monogamous relationships (married or otherwise). Usually this implies sexual exclusivity for the duration of each relationship.
Adultery is a sexual relationship between a married person and someone who is not that person's spouse. Adultery is also referred to as infidelity or cheating.
Bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage contract while still legally married to a prior spouse. This is usually considered a crime in countries whose only legally recognized form of marriage is monogamy.
Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse at a time. Polygyny is polygamy in which one man has multiple wives. Polyandry is polygamy in which one woman has multiple husbands. Polygamy is sometimes called plural marriage, but this term seems to refer mostly to polygyny. Group marriage usually refers to a marriage-like arrangement involving three or more people in a household. In polygyny and polyandry, there is one male or female who has multiple opposite-sex spouses. In group marriage, there may be multiple males and females, and the parties consider themselves all married to each other.
Polyamory is sometimes used as a synonym for group marriage, but it also includes arrangements where the involved parties do not consider themselves married and do not share a household. Polyamory also includes open marriage, an arrangement in which a socially monogamous couple agrees to to be sexually nonmonogamous.
Levirate marriage is a custom in which a deceased man's brother is obligated to marry his widow.
Sororate marriage is a practice in which a man marries his wife's sister, typically after the death of his wife, or if she is infertile.
Companionate marriage was a concept promoted by social reformers in the 1920s. In a marriage of equals, partners would agree not to have children, marrying for companionship, sexual love, and mutual interests. They could divorce through mutual consent, with no subsequent financial obligation.
A marriage of convenience is a marriage motivated primarily by reasons other than the relationship itself. People sometimes marry to gain political, social, or financial advantages.
Posthumous marriage. It sounds bizarre, but in some places, under some circumstances, it is legal to marry a dead person.
I am not a lawyer. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. This article is based on research and is intended solely for informational and entertainment purposes. If you need legal, psychological, or spiritual advice, please contact a qualified professional.