The word "marriage" derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 CE.
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The adjective marīt-us -a, -um meaning matrimonial or nuptial could also be used in the masculine form as a noun for "husband" and in the feminine form for "wife".
The related word "matrimony" derives from the Old French word matremoine, which appears around 1300 CE and ultimately derives from Latin mātrimōnium, which combines the two concepts: mater meaning "mother" and the suffix -monium signifying "action, state, or condition".
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.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.For example, the number of marriages in Europe decreased by 30% from 1975 to 2005.Historically, in most cultures, married women had very few rights of their own, being considered, along with the family's children, the property of the husband; as such, they could not own or inherit property, or represent themselves legally (see for example coverture).In some areas, child marriages and polygamy may occur in spite of national laws against the practice.