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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 cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity.
When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.
Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union 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.
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.
Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting via a wedding ceremony.
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.
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.
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.