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Cultural pressures to marry within one’s social, economic, and ethnic group are still very strongly enforced in some societies.

(By the 21st century the nature of marriage in Western countries—particularly with regard to the significance of procreation and the ease of divorce—had begun to change.

In 2000 the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriages; the law came into force on April 1, 2001.

Until the late 20th century, marriage was rarely a matter of free choice.

In Western societies love between spouses came to be associated with marriage, but even in Western cultures (as the novels of writers such as Henry James and Edith Wharton attest) romantic love was not the primary motive for matrimony in most eras, and one’s marriage partner was carefully chosen.

Marriage ceremonies include symbolic rites, often sanctified by a religious order, which are thought to confer good fortune on the couple.

Because economic considerations play an essential role in the success of child rearing, the offering of gifts, both real and symbolic, to the married couple are a significant part of the marriage ritual.Marriage, a legally and socially sanctioned union, usually between a man and a woman, that is regulated by laws, rules, customs, beliefs, and attitudes that prescribe the rights and duties of the partners and accords status to their offspring (if any).The universality of marriage within different societies and cultures is attributed to the many basic social and personal functions for which it provides structure, such as sexual gratification and regulation, division of labour between the sexes, economic production and consumption, and satisfaction of personal needs for affection, status, and companionship.Marriage has historically conferred a legitimate status on the offspring, which entitled him or her to the various privileges set down by the traditions of that community, including the right of inheritance.In most societies marriage also established the permissible social relations allowed to the offspring, including the acceptable selection of future spouses.These traditions are, to a certain extent, shaped by the religious beliefs and practices found in societies throughout the world.

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