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In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity.
Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting via a wedding ceremony.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).The word "marriage" derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 CE.This in turn is derived from Old French marier (to marry) and ultimately Latin marītāre meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married.Individuals may marry for several reasons, including legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious purposes.
Whom they marry may be influenced by socially determined rules of incest, prescriptive marriage rules, parental choice and individual desire.In Europe, the United States, and other places in the developed world, beginning in the late 19th century and lasting through the 21st century, marriage has undergone gradual legal changes, aimed at improving the rights of the wife.These changes included giving wives legal identities of their own, abolishing the right of husbands to physically discipline their wives, giving wives property rights, liberalizing divorce laws, providing wives with reproductive rights of their own, and requiring a wife's consent when sexual relations occur.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".These changes have occurred primarily in Western countries.