Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws. It is considered a cultural universal, but the definition of marriage varies between cultures and religions, and over time. Typically, it is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged or sanctioned. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. A marriage ceremony is called a wedding.
Individuals may marry for several reasons, including legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious purposes. Whom they marry may be influenced by gender, socially determined rules of incest, prescriptive marriage rules, parental choice, and individual desire. In some areas of the world arranged marriage, child marriage, polygamy, and forced marriage are practiced. In other areas, such practices are outlawed to preserve women's rights or children's rights or as a result of international law.