If you are married, you may have discovered why marriage is so important and experienced some of the good that comes from it. Or, maybe marriage was hard for some of you, and you’re no longer married. However, there is hope. But that hope starts with realizing that a wedding can be more impressive than you have experienced or even thought.
What is the true meaning of marriage? Finding a universally applicable, true meaning of marriage may be quite a challenge as there are so many different views and understandings of what marriage is all about.
Marriage is the intimate union and equal partnership of a man and a woman. It comes to us from the hand of God, who created male and female in his image, so that they might become one body and might be fertile and multiply (See Genesis chapters 1 and 2). Though man and woman are equal to God’s children, they are created with significant differences that allow them to give themselves and receive the other as a gift.
Marriage is both a natural institution and a sacred union because it is rooted in the divine plan of creation. Besides, the Catholic Church teaches that the valid marriage between two baptized Christians is also a sacrament – a saving reality and a symbol of Christ’s love for his church (See Ephesians 5:25-33). In every marriage, the spouses make a contract with each other. In a sacramental marriage, the couple also enters into a covenant in which their love is sealed and strengthened by God’s love.
The free consent of the spouses makes a marriage. From this consent and from the sexual consummation of marriage, a special bond arises between husband and wife. This bond is lifelong and exclusive. God has established the marriage bond, and so it cannot be dissolved.
In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the priest or deacon, the two official witnesses, and the congregation all witness the couple’s exchange of consent, who themselves are considered the ministers of the sacrament. In the Eastern Churches, the sacrament is conferred by the priest’s blessing after receiving the couple’s consent.
Permanency, exclusivity, and faithfulness are essential to marriage because they foster and protect marriage’s two equal purposes. These two purposes are growth in mutual love between the spouses (unitive) and children’s generation and education (procreative).
The mutual love of a married couple should always be open to new life. This openness is expressed powerfully in the sexual union of husband and wife. The power to create a child with God is at the heart of what spouses share with each other in sexual intercourse. Mutual love includes the mutual gift of fertility. Couples who cannot conceive or are beyond their child-bearing years can still express openness to life. They can share their generative love with grandchildren, other children and families, and the wider community.
As a result of their baptism, all Christians are called to a life of holiness. This divine calling, or vocation, can be lived in marriage, the single life, or the priesthood or consecrated (religious) life. No one vocation is superior to or inferior to another. Each one involves a specific kind of commitment that flows from one’s gifts and is further strengthened by God’s grace. All vocations make a unique contribution to the life and mission of the church.
The family arises from marriage. Parents, children, and family members form a domestic church or church of the home. This is the church’s primary unit – the place where the church lives in the daily love, care, hospitality, sacrifice, forgiveness, prayer, and faith of ordinary families.
Marriage is defined differently and by different entities, based on cultural, religious, and personal factors.
A commonly accepted and encompassing marriage definition is the following: a formal union and social and legal contract between two individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally. The contractual marriage agreement usually implies that the couple has legal obligations to each other throughout their lives or decide to divorce. Being married also gives legitimacy to sexual relations within the marriage. Traditionally, marriage is often viewed as having a key role in the preservation of morals and civilization.
But where did marriage come from? Generally, everyone understands that the meaning of marriage is when two people make a public pledge or commitment to live together and share their lives in a way that is recognized legally, socially and sometimes religiously.
In simple words, the meaning of marriage is nothing but sharing of two lives entails myriad facets involving the bonding of their bodies, souls and spirits in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual union.
So when it comes to finding the true meaning of marriage, which is happy and fulfilling and finding answers to questions like what does God say about marriage? Or what does marriage mean to you?
Table of Contents
- 1 What’s The Purpose Of A Wedding?
- 2 What Is Marriage?
- 3 A Valuable Wedding Ceremony
- 4 Should You Have a Wedding?
What’s The Purpose Of A Wedding?
With weddings so expensive these days, many choose to skip the event and put the money into a down payment on a townhouse or pay down school debt. It sure makes sense when you consider how financially tethered young couples find themselves, even before handing out an average of over $25,000 for a wedding. So are weddings that important? Are they worth the money?
About ten years ago, this topic came up on a Public Radio broadcast that I was invited to join. Since it was a burning issue then, when our economy was in fairly good shape, you can imagine the scope of the issue today with so many facing serious financial burdens. But my perspective on the topic has not changed with the additional financial struggles we all face. I believe that weddings are important even now when so many engaged couples are broke.
A wedding has three purposes, each with its price tag. But only one of the purposes is so valuable that it should not be ignored.
One purpose of a wedding is to celebrate the marriage. In some cultures, that celebration can go on for a week or more with the couple’s parents (or the couple) supporting the lavish living of friends and relatives as they party on. The celebration usually lasts only one evening in our culture, but it can still be very expensive.
Another purpose that isn’t often stated but usually exists is the showcasing of the bride. It’s her day. She grabs the centre of attention, and the more that’s spent, the more valuable she will appear to be to the guests — and presumably, to the groom.
But it’s the third purpose of a wedding that is the most valuable of the three. It’s to provide a ceremony of spoken promises. Before God and witnesses, a bride and groom recite their vows to each other.
So if you are thinking of saving money by skipping the marriage, I’d like you to consider a worthy option: Have only a wedding ceremony.
What Is Marriage?
Marriage means agreeing.
What is the true meaning of the concept of marriage?
A saying says, ‘how can two people go on a journey together unless they have agreed to do so?’ And it is the same with marriage. When two individuals decide to get married, there has to be some level of agreement between them.
In the past, this agreement may have been reached by the family members in the case of an arranged marriage. Nowadays, however, it is generally the couple themselves who decide and reach the agreement to spend the rest of their lives together.
After the fundamental question ‘will you marry me?’ has been asked and answered in the affirmative, then there are lots of further questions and agreements to be reached.
The couple needs to agree on what kind of legal marriage contract they will use, such as the community of property or an ante-nuptial contract. Some other important agreements would include whether or not to have children together, and if so, how many.
They need to agree on how they will practice and express their faith and what they will teach their children.
But at the same time, if an agreement cannot be reached, both partners should agree to disagree maturely or try to reach a compromise in case agreements can’t be reached to avoid letting these things build up into conflicts in the long run.
Marriage means letting go of your selfishness.
Once you get married, you realize that it is no longer all about you. This is the true meaning of marriage in which ‘I’ becomes ‘We’.
In your single days, you could make your plans, come and go as you chose, and make most of your decisions according to your wishes and desires.
Now that you are married, you have a spouse to consider twenty-four seven. Whether it is what to cook or buy for dinner, what to do over weekends, or where to go on holidays – both of your opinions now carry weight.
In this sense, a happy marriage is one of the best antidotes to selfishness.
Marriages that work the best and render the most satisfaction are those where both partners are one hundred percent committed, wholeheartedly seeking their spouse’s happiness and well-being.
The philosophy of a fifty-fifty marriage does not lead to fulfilment and contentment. When it comes to finding the true meaning of marriage, it is all or nothing. And incidentally, if one of you is giving all and the other is giving little or nothing, you may need some help to find the balance and to get on the same page.
The meaning of marriage is to become one.
Another facet of the true meaning of marriage is that one plus one equals one. It is a blending of two lives on every level, the most obvious physical, where sexual intimacy creates profound bonds as the marriage is consummated.
And, this is the most important purpose of marriage.
These bonds reach way beyond the physical though, as the emotional, psychological and spiritual levels are also touched. However, the true meaning of marriage, which is to become one, does not imply that you lose your own identity.
On the contrary, the meaning of marriage implies completing and complementing one another to such an extent that you can both be better together than you could have been as singles.
Oneness does not happen automatically as you start living together – it requires a determined effort and considerable time spent together, getting to know one another deeply.
As you learn how to communicate effectively and resolve your conflicts sooner rather than later, you will find your oneness and intimacy increasing. It is also important to define your expectations clearly and find the middle ground in decision making.
Marriage means sharing a new Generation.
What is the purpose of marriage for most couples?
For most couples, the answer to what is marriage lies in one of the most profound and wonderful privileges given to a married couple – it is the privilege of bringing forth children into this world. A secure and happy marriage is the best context in which to raise a child.
A couple, who are united in loving and teaching their offspring, will train them to become mature adults who are ready to make a valuable contribution to society. This facet of shaping the future generation can and does indeed bring true meaning to marriage.
But again, child-rearing, like the other facets, does not come automatically or even easily. The challenges of parenting are renowned for placing a certain strain on the marriage relationship.
But, you do understand the real meaning of marriage and love once you become proud parents to your doting children.
That is why it is essential to keep your priorities firmly in place when children start arriving – remember your spouse always comes first, and then your children.
By keeping this order clear, your marriage will be able to survive intact and blessed even when the nest is empty again.
Now there’s a conflicting belief that when it comes to the spouse and kids, the children should come first because adults require less attention and can make their own decisions, but at the same time, many couples also believe that it’s the other way round.
They know that children may ask for more attention but making them the centre of your universe is not the right thing. A healthy marriage where each partner pays adequate attention to the other contributes to healthy relationships and healthier parenting attitudes.
Understanding your priorities which change with time, is the true meaning of marriage, which is the secret to a happy married life.
Marriage means changing, learning and growing.
Understanding the marriage definition is not easy unless you are married. When you search the web for the marriage meaning, you will get many definitions for it. But, it is only the married couples who truly understand the meaning of it.
Right from the moment you say, ‘I do’, your life takes on a different route. Everything you knew before the marriage changes.
Change is one of the most certain things about life, including the institution of marriage. Change is also a sign that something is alive as only inanimate objects never change.
So enjoy all the changing seasons of your marriage, from the honeymoon to the first year, the baby years, the teenage and then college years, and then your golden years as you progress to retirement and the blessing of spending your old age still holding each other’s hands together.
Think of your marriage as an acorn that gets planted on your wedding day.
After that, it begins to sprout and push up bravely through the dark soil, proudly displaying a few leaves. Slowly but surely, as the weeks, months and years pass, the little oak shoot becomes a sapling that grows stronger and stronger.
Eventually, one day you realize that your acorn has become a sturdy and shady tree, giving shelter and pleasure, not only to yourselves but also to others.
A Valuable Wedding Ceremony
A wedding ceremony’s prime function is to provide the bride and groom an opportunity to make promises to each other. Those promises form the basis of their marriage and give the officiating clergy the right to pronounce them man and wife. So care should be taken to be certain that the promises if kept, will make their marriage fulfilling and secure. And the entire ceremony should emphasize and clarify those promises to the friends and family that attend.
Traditional wedding promises go something like this:
Will you take this (woman, man) to be your (wife, husband), to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love (her, him), comfort (her, him), honour and keep (her, him) in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others be faithful to (her, him) so long as you both shall live.
These and similar vows emphasize three core elements of marriage that have proven to be very valuable over the centuries:
- A marriage is a permanent relationship (as long as you both shall live).
- It is sexually exclusive (forsaking all others be faithful).
- It is a relationship of extraordinary care (love, comfort, honour, and keep in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health).
I encourage a bride and groom to write these promises in their own words and expand upon them. Their marriage will be permanent — they are in this relationship for life. They will guard their marriage from outside threats, ensuring they will never have a romantic relationship with anyone else. And they will care for each other far more than they will care for anyone else — they will be first in each other’s lives.
Extraordinary care means that they will do what they can to make each other happy by meeting each other’s most important emotional needs, especially the needs of affection, intimate conversation, sexual fulfilment, and recreational companionship. And they will take the necessary time to be sure that those needs are met, regardless of how busy they become.
Extraordinary care also means that they will avoid making each other unhappy. They won’t be demanding, disrespectful, angry, or dishonest. They will consider each other’s feelings and interests before making decisions. If one objects to what the other wants to do, that person simply won’t do it until a mutually enthusiastic agreement is reached. They will protect each other from their selfish instincts.
The entire marriage ceremony should reflect on those vows. The music and the minister’s sermon should focus attention on what the bride and groom will promise each other. By the time the couple speaks the vows, no guest should doubt the meaning of their promises to each other. And the ceremony should be a guide for guests who may have forgotten their promises. Many who attend weddings find themselves recommitting themselves to each other when the ceremony’s purpose is made clear.
Should You Have a Wedding?
The primary objection to having a wedding these days is the cost. But the cost of a wedding ceremony, the most important part, is negligible. Anyone can afford one. It’s the other parts that put a wedding outside of the financial reach of so many.
So consider having a wedding without the celebration and showcasing of the bride. I know that for some, that advice may seem out of touch with what people expect, especially the bride. But when you consider the alternatives (no marriage or no ceremony until every expectation can be afforded), a ceremony by itself begins to sound reasonable.
One advantage to a wedding ceremony only, or a ceremony with a very limited celebration (cake and punch in the church’s reception area), is that you can invite as many guests as you want. The cost is almost the same whether 50 or 500 attend. And the more who witness your marriage, the more support you will have in the years ahead. These are the people who heard your vows and will hold you accountable to fulfil them. Ultimately, that’s the real purpose of a wedding.