The Evolution of Marriage: Cavemen, Same-sex Marriage, and Married at First Sight

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In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a passionate supporter of all things wedding, and this week was no exception.  Last Saturday morning we awoke to the news that the Supreme Court of the United States of America had ruled striking down same-sex marriage bans.  As a practising lawyer, this news appeals to me from a legal point of view, but mostly, I’m just thrilled at this ruling in favour of love and equality, which means that all states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, and must now recognise marriages that took place in other states.

The ruling will have wide-ranging consequences, and bring to the fore questions of adoption, religion such as the ability of homosexual couples to marry in religious venues, de-facto laws and the need to contract out of the law in some cases, insurance coverage for IVF/fertility treatment for same-sex couples, and more.

And if you were thinking the wedding industry couldn’t get any bigger or better, I disagree – gay-marriage in America will surely correlate with more fantastic, fancy and fabulous weddings, and that’s something else to be celebrated, too!

Marriage is an ancient institution, but it’s no longer just an ancient ritual.  Like everything else in today’s world, it’s the subject of evolution.  If you’re getting married (or are married), you might be interested in how marriage has evolved:

– The cavemen-lifestyle now emulated by Paleo followers included “pair bonding” for 3-4 years as a kind of marriage, a way of organising sexual conduct and providing structure for child-rearing (not so different from today, hey?).
25,000 years ago, when we started growing our own food, women realised they’d rather stay indoors baking cookies, so they paired up with a man strong enough to pull his own plough, and the era of the recognised union was born.
Ancient hebrews engaged in polygamy, but still married, with King Soloman having around 700 wives and 300 concubines (but history is written by victors, and he would say that, wouldn’t he?).

– For better or worse, people started ‘marrying’ as we’d understand it now, as long as 4,000 yearsago.  Kings and the ruling class marryied off their daughters as property to preserve power and produce good heirs.
– However, monogamy came into popularity only a couple of centuries ago – until then it being just a tiny portion of the population in Western Europe and parts of North America.

– In modern times, though, marriage became about love.  We’ve got 17-18th century Enlightenmentthinkers to thank for that, who pioneered the idea that life was about happiness, and marrying for love.  This grew through the Industrial Revolution and 19th century growth of the middle-class, during which young men chose a spouse and paid for a wedding, without their parent’s approval.

– The 20th Century changed things still, as wives slowly became their husband’s equal, rather than property, and contraception meant that sex (and/or accidental pregnancy) need not lead to nuptials.  Once women didn’t require husbands to take care of them and legitimise their child-bearing, traditions broke down.  Marriage became even more about love and equality, so it makes sense, then, that homosexual couples sought the right to marry too.
– We’ve moved away from approval, be it by the ruling class, the parents, religious institutions and (now anti marriage-equality lobbyists, thank goodness) and marriage is now based on love, mutual sexual attraction, equality and a flexible division of labour.
– Strangely enough, another of the most recent developments in the evolution of marriage takes us back to where we started, with the “arranged” marriages in Married at First Sight, a show where participants’ partners are pre-selected by relationship experts, and couples meet at the altar.  It’s strange to think that before same-sex couples (who have built a life together, possibly reared children together, and are in love) were able to marry, we allowed television networks to set strangers’ marriages up for the viewing pleasure of the masses.

Marriage has come so far, but surely still has further change to come.  For now, marriage is still mostly monogamous, and undertaken ‘as long as we both shall live’, but those elements too are being left out by some modern marrying couples.  It’s a fascinating evolution, and one that will shape our lives for years to come.  I’d love to hear what you think of the Evolution of Marriage; and how you think it’s evolving next.

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