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What Are Types Of Marriage?

Marriage is one of the universal social institutions established and nourished by human society. It is closely connected to the institution of the family. According to Gillin and Gillin, “Marriage is a socially approved way of establishing a family of procreation.” Westermarck says that marriage is rooted in the family rather than the family in the marriage. Marriage is an institution of society with different purpose, functions and forms in different societies but is present everywhere as an institution. According to Malinowski, “marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children.” According to Robert H Lowie,” marriage is a relatively permanent bond between permissible mates.”

As an institution, marriage is designed to satisfy the biological needs, especially the sexual needs of the individual in a legal, customary, culturally defined and socially approved man. Unilateral descent rule Cognitive non-unlineal

It also admits men and women to family life and fixes certain rights and duties regarding children born of their union. As a stable social institution, it binds two opposite sexes and allows them to live as husband and wife. It also confers on them social legitimation to have sexual relations and have children.

The standardized form of sex relations is called marriage. It is closely associated with the institution of family and women to family.

But the term marriage or vivaha is a combination of two terms, i.e. ‘Vi’ and ‘Vaha’, which means the ceremony of carrying away the bride to the bridegroom’s house. It is considered a religious sacrament in some society, whereas, in other society, it is a social contract.

Ever wonder what type of marriage you have? If you talk to couples about their marriage style, they probably say they either have a traditional or a companionate marriage. However, there are quite a few other marriage styles, including the types of unions your parents and grandparents may have had.

Two theorists have much to say on the topic. Psychologist Judith Wallerstein describes four distinct marriage models that focus on how partners relate to one another in their relationship. Researcher and PhD. E. Mathis Hetherington offers four more unique perspectives on types of marriages.

Different scholars and sociologist have tried to define it. They differ from each other.

  • According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Marriage is a physical, legal and moral union between man and woman in complete community life for the establishment of a family.”
  • According to Malinowski, “Marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children.”
  •  Edward Westermark, in his famous book ‘History of human marriage’ defined, “Marriage is a relation of one or more men to one or more women which is recognized by customs or law and involves certain rights and duties both in case of parties entering into the union and in the case of children born of it.”
  • According to H.M. Johnson, “Marriage is a stable relationship in which a man and a woman are socially permitted without loss of standing in the community to have children.”
  • According to Lowie, “Marriage is a relatively permanent bond between permissible mates.”
  • According to Horton and Hunt, “Marriage is the approved social pattern whereby two or more persons establish a family.”
  • According to Hoebel, “The complexes of social norms that define and Control the relations of a mated pair to each other their kinsmen, their offspring and their society at large.”
  • Thus from the above analysis, it is concluded that marriage is both a biological, psychological, cultural and social affair. Marriage is a special type of relationship between permissible mates involving certain rights and obligations. That is why Lundberg is right when he opines that “Marriage consists of the rules and regulations which define the rights, duties and privileges of husband and wife concerning each other.”

Characteristics of Marriage:

  • Marriage may have the following characteristics.
  • Marriage is a universal social institution. It is found in almost all societies and at all stages of development.
  • Marriage is a permanent bond between husband and wife. It is designed to fulfil social, psychological, biological and religious aims.
  • Marriage is a specific relationship between two individuals of the opposite sex and based on mutual rights and obligations. The relationship is enduring.
  • Marriage requires social approval. The relationship between men and women must have social approval. Without which marriage is not valid.
  • Marriage establishes a family. Family helps in providing facilities for the procreation and upbringing of children.
  • Marriage creates mutual obligations between husband and wife. The couple fulfils their mutual obligations based on customs or rules.
  • Marriage is always associated with some civil and religious ceremony. This social and religious ceremony provides validity to marriage. Though modern marriage performed in courts, still it requires certain religious or customary practices.
  • Marriage regulates sex relationship according to prescribed customs and laws.
  • Marriage has certain symbols like a ring, vermillion, special clothes, special sign before the house etc.

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Types of Marriage:

As a universal social institution, marriage is found to exist in all societies and at all development stages. Types or forms of marriage varies from society to society. Types or forms of marriage in different communities, societies, and cultural groups differ according to their customs, practices, and thought systems. In some societies, marriage is a religious sacrament, whereas, in others, it is a social contract. However, several types of marriage are classified on different bases.


Polygyny is a form of marriage in which one man married more than one woman at a given time. Polygyny is more popular than polyandry but not as universal as monogamy. It was a common practice in ancient civilizations. It may be present in primitive tribes like Crow Indians, Baigas and Gonds of India. 

Polygamy is a type of marriage in which a man marries more than one wife at a time. In this type of marriage each wife has her separate household, and the husband visits them in turn. It was a preferred form of marriage in ancient Indian society. But now, it was not in practice among the majority of the population.

But it is now found among a few tribal’s such as Naga, Gond and Baiga. The economic and political cause was mainly responsible for polygamy. Besides man’s taste for variety, enforced celibacy, the Barrenness of women, the more women population etc., are some of the cause of polygamy. Polygamy is further divided into two types, such as Sororal polygyny and non- sororal polygyny.

Sororal polygyny

It is a type of marriage in which the wives are invariably the sisters. It is often called sorority. The Latin word Soror stands for sister. When several sisters are simultaneously or potentially the same man’s spouses, the practice is called sorority. It is usually observed in those tribes that pay a high bride price.

Non-sororal polygyny

It is a type of marriage in which the wives are not related to the sisters.


Polyandry is the marriage of one woman with several men. It is practised among the Marquesan Islanders of Polynesia, The Bahama of Africa and tribes of Samoa. In India, among tribes of Tiyan, Toda, Kota, Khasa and Ladakhi Bota, it is still prevalent. Polyandry is of two.

Fraternal polyandry

When several brothers share the same wife, the practice can be called fraternal polyandry. This practice of being mate, actual or potential to one’s husband’s brothers, is called levirate. It is prevalent among the Todas in India.

Non – fraternal polyandry

In this type, the husbands need not have any close relationship before the marriage. The wife goes to spend some time with each husband. So long as a woman lives with one of her husbands, the others have no claim over her. Polyandry has its own implications. It gives rise to the problem of determining the biological paternity of the child. Among the Todas, one of the husbands goes through a bow and arrow ceremony with the woman and thereby becomes the legal father of her child. Among the Samoans, after the first few years, the children are given the liberty to choose their parents for their permanent stay. The selected parent becomes the actual father of the children.


 It is the union between two individuals, is the most common form of marriage. While monogamy traditionally referred to one man and one woman’s union, some countries recognize same-sex unions. As of early 2015, The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, Brazil, France, Uruguay, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, and Finland legally allow same-sex marriage. In other countries, the debate continues over whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage or guarantee rights to homosexuals. For instance, certain states in Mexico allow same-sex marriage, but not the entire nation. Serial monogamy, where an individual has multiple spouses over their lifetime, but only one at a time, is common in industrial societies.

Monogamy is a form of marriage in which one man marries the woman. It is the most common form of the marriage found among societies around the world. According to Westermarck, monogamy is as old as humanity. Monogamy is universally practised providing marital opportunity and satisfaction to all individuals. It promotes love and affection between husband and wife. It contributes to family peace, solidarity and happiness. Monogamous marriage is stable and long-lasting. It is free from conflicts that are commonly found in polyandrous and polygamous families. Monogamous marriage gives greater attention to the socialization of their children. Women are given a very low position in polygyny, where their rights are never recognized. In monogamy, women enjoy better social status. There are two types of monogamy.

Serial monogamy

In many societies, individuals are permitted to marry again, often on the death of the first spouse or after divorce, but they cannot have more than one spouse at the same time.

Straight monogamy:

In straight monogamy, the remarriage of the individuals is not allowed.

Endogamy or Group Marriage

Endogamy is otherwise known as group marriage. In this type of marriage a group of men marry a group of women at a time. Every woman is the wife of every man belonging to the particular groups. Sociologist, like Dr. Rivers, call it a kind of sexual communism. This type of marriage is found among some tribes of New Guinea and Africa,

Group marriage means the marriage of two or more women with two or more men. Here the husbands are common, and wives are common wives. Children are regarded as the children of the entire group as a whole.

Group marriage is a rare form of marriage where several males are married simultaneously to several females. The Toda once practised this form of marriage; however, it is no longer known in any extant society.

There are a few other types of marriage. A symbolic marriage does not establish economic or social ties, e.g., a Catholic nun marrying Jesus Christ. Fixed-term marriages are temporary marriages that are entered into for a fixed period. Once the period is ended, the parties go their separate ways. There may be a financial gain for the woman. However, there are no social ties once the marriage has ended. Fixed-term marriages legitimize sexual relationships for individuals whose culture may forbid sexual relationships outside of marriage, e.g., soldiers during times of war or students attending college in a foreign country.

Some cultures have developed special rules for marriage if a married family member dies. The levirate obliges a man to marry his deceased brother’s wife, e.g., Orthodox Judaism (although rarely practised today, the widow must perform the chalitzah ceremony before she can remarry). The brother is then responsible for his brother’s widow and children. This helps keep the children and other resources the deceased had collected within the family. The sororate is the flip side of the levirate. In this system, a woman must marry the husband of her deceased sister. The Nuer practise a form of the levirate called ghost marriage. If an elder brother dies without fathering children, one of his younger brothers must marry his widow. Children resulting from the ghost marriage are considered the offspring of the deceased brother (Bonvillain 2010).

Pratiloma marriage or Hypogamy

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Pratiloma or hypogamy marriage is just the opposite of Anuloma or hypergamy. When a lower caste or status man marries a woman of higher caste or status, it is known as pratiloma or hypogamy marriage. This is not an approved form of marriage. Ancient Hindu lawgiver, a lower caste or status, marries a woman of higher caste or status; it is known as pratiloma or hypogamy marriage. This is not an approved form of marriage. Ancient Hindu lawgiver Manu denounced Pratiloma is still practising among the people.

Cross-cousin marriage

When marriage occurs between one’s mother’s brother’s daughter/son with father’s sister’s son/daughter, we called it a cross-cousin marriage. The marriage of Abhimanyu with Sashikala is an example of this cross-cousin type of marriage. This type of marriage was supposed to be practised in Orissa, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, etc. This type of marriage occurs to avoid high bride price and maintain one’s family property.

The secret to a great marriage is deciding what you want your marriage to be about – and don’t just give me that gauzy, dreamy poetry about love. Be practical. Be specific. For example: Maybe you want to try it out. Or, admit it – maybe you do want to marry for money. Or maybe you care about the kids or companionship, and you don’t give a hoot about the sexual intimacy. Or maybe you know you don’t want to be monogamous. Or maybe you want the most committed, faithful, traditional version of marriage imaginable.

Whatever you want from your marriage, be sure you are on the same page as your potential spouse (or your current one, if you are interested in redefining your marriage). Then put it in writing. Make it legal. Because that’s what marriage is – a legal contract!

If you and your spouse get out of your marriage what you two decided together was what you actually wanted from your marriage, then guess what? Your marriage is a success! It doesn’t matter if other people turn up their noses at the kind of marriage you choose – it’s your marriage, not theirs. 

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