(Closed) What makes a "real" marriage?

posted 8 years ago in Ceremony
Post # 48
9123 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013 - Rocky Mountains USA

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@rosegardener:  No, cohabitating people are not stealing from the government in my own opinion.  But I believe that’s at least part of the rationale behind this kind of “marriage penalty tax” – that you are reaping many benefits, financial and otherwise, from sharing a life together. 

One very interesting point that someone brought up is the estate tax issue.  I think that if one of you dies, you won’t be able to leave your money to the other tax-free.  (Which is why there’s a gay couple challenging DOMA in the Supreme Court right now – a wife left her money to her wife, but because the marriage wasn’t federally recognized, it was taxed at a high rate.)  That seems like one situation where an actual marriage would be really important!

FYI – I’m in a similar position as you in that I have been with my partner for many years and we own a home together.  So I am a firm believer in partnership without legal marriage.  I just don’t think you should try to get many of the benefits from being “married”, to the extent of literally lying to all your favorite people in the world, but try to get out of paying the taxes associated with marriage. 

Maybe you can call it a wedding and still call him your husband, but also tell people that for personal reasons you aren’t registering your marriage with the government?

Post # 49
601 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

I feel like you don’t need to be married legally to consider a person your husband. As long as you make the commitment to being together then thats what matters. I do think you should let your family and close friends know but beyond that its no ones buisness but your own if your legally married or not. But definetely speak to a lawyer to work out all the legal aspects to protect each other.

Post # 50
10635 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: January 2011

I didn’t consider us to be married when the federal government considered us to be ‘common-law spouses’.  For me, married means legally married, along with living as a married couple.

Post # 51
9076 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2012

If you want to do it, do it. I don’t care what you do as long as it doesn’t affect me. Don’t file fradulant taxes and do what makes you happy.

If you want to call it a marriage, that’s fine. To me, it isn’t. To be married, you need to be married. If people are common law wedded (Usually living together for X amount of years), I’d consider that a marriage. But having a ceremony and going “We’re married!” is not a marriage to me.

But, you’re not here to impress me and it isn’t my life. If it makes you happy, absolutely do it. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t.

Post # 52
1176 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

My Fiance and I were in the same boat for many years, which is why we never got married. But there are a lot of legal and financial benefits to being married. You’re just looking at the income taxes, but there’s more to it than that: Social Security, inheritance taxes, etc. And you never know when those things might make a huge difference to you – it could be 60 years from now, but it could also be next year. 

Anyway, if you’re not going to get legally married, don’t have a wedding. Have a commitment ceremony. 




Post # 53
257 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

I wouldn’t consider the OP married. It seems to be cheating in a way. She is in a relationship, but not married and won’t be until the papers are signed. I think of it almost like calling myself a photographer because I bought a camera and can take some pics, or calling myself a chef because I can cook for myself and my family. I can feel like I am those things all day every day, but without the certification its just not true. 

I wouldn’t have people come to my graduation or throw a party to celebrate knowing  full well i didn’t get those last couple of credits and don’t plan to. If I drop out during my last semester I didn’t graduate whether I think I learned as much as those that finished or not. 

Post # 54
3696 posts
Sugar bee

Marriage entails rights and obligations. If you’re not legally married, your obligations to one another are not as weighty (as previously mentioned – the relationship is easier to dissolve) and you won’t enjoy the same rights. You can insist that you are just as morally obligated to one another by your word as if you had the legal paperwork … debatable. Nice theory, but tough to demonstrate with real evidence. And you can’t really insist on the rights – you have no grounds for claiming them without the legal marriage. A PP noted a bunch of them – Social Security, inheritances, hospital visitation, etc. There are other, more basic day-to-day rights as well: your spouse can pick your child up from school, but if he’s not your spouse you have to go through the paperwork to authorize it. If, in the future, you wanted to adopt a child together, as legal spouses you can; as a couple who had a personal ceremony with no legal change of state, your adoption becomes a lot more convoluted. If one of you, God forbid, is incapacitated, a non-spouse doesn’t get to make medical decisions on the other’s behalf. If one of you, God forbid, is arrested and charged with a crime, a non-spouse has an obligation to testify that a spouse is protected from.


What the OP seems to be describing is a common-law marriage … any legal Bees out there able to parse whether this is the case?


So, I guess you could call what you’re planning a “common-law wedding.” But if that’s distasteful to you because it seems somehow less … it’s because it is.


By The Way, a quick check of Wikipedia reveals that common law marriages can be contracted in 9 US states and the District of Columbia. So, depending on where the OP lives (if she’s from the US – I assumed she was, but that may not be the case) she may actually be able to have a “common law wedding.” If she has her ceremony in any of the other 41 states … sorry, but it’s not a wedding.


Whatever you decide to do, please don’t lie to yourself or your guests. If you’re actually getting legally married (common-law or not), it’s a wedding. If not, not.


Post # 55
628 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

@rosegardener:  I know many people that engage in this form of marriage. Commonly it’s called handfasting where you make your vows to get married (one ceremony)…and if you choose to divorce, you make your vows to divorce (another ceremony). These marriages aren’t always legally filed (but can be).

Post # 56
9076 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2012

Common law isn’t recognized in most states. It is still a “governmental thing” and you’d have no rights to anything if your state doesn’t allow it.

Post # 57
27 posts
  • Wedding: April 2013

Well, you are a grown woman and you can do what you want. You’ve already made up your mind. I think, perhaps, you are using this post as a way to shore up your arguments with friends and relatives.

I hope you understand that there are rights that you will never have as a domestic partner. By definition marriage is a formal consensual contract. If domestic partnerships were so fantastic and binding, why are same-sex couples lobbying so hard to be legally married?

Personally I think you just want public acknowledgement, but that’s okay. Just remember, the level of your commitment won’t ever be based on the fancy things you say in front of people. Sure, it’s nice to say stuff in front of folk but most of them won’t remember what you said anyway. It will be based on how you treat each other and the depth of your personal relationship. This is why so many couples have private (or civil) ceremonies and receptions at a later date or none at all.   

In the end, you are the only one that has to live with your decision and I wish you all the best. I also hope you find the answer you are looking for and that you do not get your feelings bruised because many do not share what you feel is right for you.

P.S. While the legalities of marriage may turn you off, it is a bit cheeky to say so on a site called WEDDINGBEE.





Post # 58
9948 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2012

I consider marriage to be a serious (yes even a lifelong) commitment between two people.

If nothing else, it is a commitment that is meant to protect / take care of the relationship and the two individuals…  that two people have to one another in their lives (not the same as my opening statement)

It certainly can be a commitment that can be made in private without the Government’s consent (as a Canadian that is even more true… as our Laws recognize Common Law Marriage in the same context as a full marriage)

BUT I also know, that as far as Goverments are concerned Living Together & Common Law Marriage are NOT THE SAME as a legally recognized Marriage

(Which is the whole reason that Same Sex Couples are fighting for the right to marry in the USA)

I think too many people don’t fully understand the legal aspects of marriage (I certainly did not until I was seperated and in a battle of my life for my Divorce)

A legal marriage is extremely different from a civil or religous commitment (marriage) between two people.

I suggest you do some more reading on the subject… so you fully understand what rights you’d be giving up in life by NOT BEING MARRIED (things you might not otherwise realize until there is a life-changing tragedy… such as an Illness, Death etc)

Hope this helps,

EDIT TO ADD – As a Canadian I can speak to something other Bees have brought up.  Mr TTR and I were considered “common law married” in Canada… BUT yet when we travelled to the USA… we were considered as singles.  Because the USA Federally doesn’t recognize Common Law Relationships (as well as some States).  This was one of the factors that made us want to marry … as we travel to the US a lot… and are over 50 & 60 respectively.  Our rights as a couple were important to us when travelling outside of Canada (no problem inside of Canada).  If one of us had gotten sick in the USA… or died… there was no guarantee that the other would be considered as the next of kin… because we aren’t married.  I have known family members where this has happened… and the “life partner” was cast aside, until a blood-relative could be contacted / fly in be consulted for medical treatment / release of the body.  It was very disturbing for the life-partner to be treated like a “stranger”.  If your state recognizes Common Law then perhaps you’d be ok in YOUR STATE forever… bu don’t count on travelling anywhere else, and being treated equally.  In the USA at least for now… ONLY HETROSEXUAL Legally Married Couples are recognized with full married rights.  Something to think about.


Post # 60
10635 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: January 2011

@rosegardener:  Here, governments are changing to make common-law relationships more similar to legal marriages.  BC recently made them almost legally the same.

I’m not judging, but what would you do if similar things happened to where you live?  Would you lie about your legal status, stop living as a common-law couple, or just deal with the loss of money?

Post # 61
109 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: December 2013

Theres a reason why gay/lesbian couples fight so hard to have homosexual marrage legalized. A real marrage means something. 

But I dont think that “it would make it harder to break up” is a good reason. Thats not very optimistic is it? If you going to leave then leave. Frankly, with that mindset, its probably best you dont get legally married and have to pay a ton to get divorced.

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