(Closed) What makes a "real" marriage?

posted 9 years ago in Ceremony
Post # 77
132 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

@rosegardener:  FWIW I think the standing up in front of your loved ones and publicly declaring your commitment to each other is what makes it a real marriage (although it looks like I’m in the minority on that). I completely understand why you would want to have a wedding even if you didn’t file the legal paperwork right now and I wouldn’t be offended at all if I went to a wedding like that. Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Post # 78
6317 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2013

@rosegardener:  Interesting question. I can totally see your point of view, but I think I’d just do the whole shebang if I was getting married, though. Like you take the good and the bad. If you don’t want to make it official (i.e. file paperwork), don’t get married. What happens if you need to divorce? How do you explain that it’s not technically a divorce? I don’t live in the US so I don’t know the legalities of what marriage gets you, but stuff like if he gets sick and you need to be the power of attorney, can that happen if you’re not actually married? Also re: children, are you going to explain to them you’re not really married (you said you have a daughter, what if you have more kids? etc.)? It just seems kinda complicated.


Post # 79
9168 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

marriage is a legal institution – if you don’t “file the paperwork”, you aren’t married.  It’s as simple as that in my opinion.  Have a committment ceremony if you’d like but at the end of the day in the definition I use in life, you aren’t married.  Not to say your relationship is any less serious or committed than those who are married, it’s just not a marriage. I have known a few people who did not want to get married but had committment ceremonies – basically had a close friend perform a ceremony they wrote that mimicked a marriage ceremony, but no marriage license was obtained or filed.  Then, they had a big party after to celebrate. They all called it a committment ceremony.

Post # 80
175 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: March 2012

I think this discussion is quite interesting! Like @canarydiamond:  said, if you want the benefits of being married, then get married. If you don’t want to get married, don’t get married. I don’t think you can pick and choose which aspects of marriage you want – for example, having a celebration but not being married legally.


Post # 81
504 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

I think that the religious/ spiritual/ social aspect of marriage is much more important than the legal.  DH and I had our wedding a few months after we were legally married, and we didn’t consider ourselves to be married until we said our vows in front of our family and friends.  

However, I think you’re overlooking all the benefits of legal marriage.  For example, under FMLA, if your partner gets sick, you won’t be able to take leave in order to care for him.  I have a friend whose father died, and she traveled to a different country to go to the funeral and be with her family.  Because she and her boyfriend weren’t married, his work wouldn’t let him take time off to go with her.  They broke up, in large part because he wasn’t able to physically be with her and support her through such a major ordeal.


Marriage means being there for your spouse in every way possible, and nowadays that requires a legal certificate.  I don’t like the fact that the government regulates marriage either, but I think that jumping through a few hoops and paying extra to Uncle Sam is worth it to know that you’ve done everything you can to be there for your spouse.


Post # 82
305 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

@rosegardener:  I don’t think it is the government certicate that makes you married.  I think it is the exchange of matrimonial consent that makes you marriage.  The witnesses of your marriage sign the document giving testemony that you are married.  As such, to not go through that process is, at the very least, along the level of hiding some of your income from the government to avoid being taxed.

That said, I think many people use marriage laws for their own benefit without actually validly marrying.  An obvious instance of this would be a couple getting civilly married so that one can get a visa.  I’ve heard of people in the military getting civilly married just to get benefit.  Then there are people, I think, who just want a wedding.

Post # 83
286 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@rosegardener:  I don’t know if the same rules apply where you live as they do in Canada, but it’s not the couple who files paperwork after the marriage – it’s the officiant. So, if you do not intend to be legally married, don’t even get an application form in the first place. Otherwise you might be opening yourself up to a big issue later on if someone files some paperwork for you.

I do find it interesting that a lot of bees here say that filing the legal paperwork is what makes the marriage legal in the eyes in the government. In Canada (at least my province – Ontario), it’s not only having the paperwork, but it’s also the ceremony wording too. The vows have to include “lawfully wedded wife” and “lawfully wedded husband”, the officiant has to ask the couple if they know of any reason they can’t be legally married, and the officiant has to ask the witnesses of the ceremony if they know any reason why they can’t be legally married. All of this is covered under the Marriage Act of Ontario.

I’m not too sure how it works, but it’s my understanding if you miss some of these ceremony components, that even if the paperwork is filed, technically it’s still not “legal”.

Post # 84
1611 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: Central Park

I thought that nothing would really change and I was just so wrong. Your entire world view changes when you say those vows and exchange the rings and the reverend files the paperwork. There’s a weight to it all. If you want to just have a non-legal ceremony then I think that would be close, but I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. That’s why I’m pro marriage equality.

If you go the power of attorney and non-legal ceremony route make sure that you get a durable power of attorney. A regular one doesn’t give rights over end of life decisions, you need a durable PoA for that.

Post # 85
131 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017 - Baltimore. MD.

well I think marriage has so many definitions.

I live in a developing country so we don’t do taxes the way it’s done in the US.there’s nothing like joint taxes in my country.

Being married is just a commitment to spend your life with a person. Living together is as good as getting married here. Just have your family’s blessing and a small or large ceremony to celebrate the union(if you want)

Post # 86
615 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: December 2016

Do what makes you happy.

I went out of my way to make my guests happy at my wedding….BUT the only things they got to know about my personal life is what I chose to tell them. I didnt send out a mass email when all the paperwork was signed and it was “legal”.

How many people on there say “it’s your wedding do what you want”….

Post # 87
5229 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: March 2012 - Pelican Grand Beach Resort

I’m really confused why so many people think that government has not always been involved in marriage and that requiring governmental recognition is some new phenomenon. It’s not. Maybe the confusion arises from the fact that relegion and state used to be intertwined, but marriage has been connected with goverment for as long as we have a historical record for marriage. Marriage was legally recognized and there were priviledges and duties associated with that recognition and very real downsides to not gaining that legal recognition (for inheritance, trials, citizenship, etc.).

Post # 88
2478 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2014 - Manhattan Church Rec Center

I havent read all the comments…but what it sounds like what you want is a Peasant Handfasting. You commit your love and devotion to one another but it isn’t legal.

If you want to do that and don’t want to tell your guest I would sugest you skip the registry all together.

other then that. just start calling him your husband

Post # 89
385 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

To me, the most important thing about a wedding is the promises you make to each other during the ceremony. If their are no legal and financial benefits, and you don’t want to sign the papers I think that is fine. You can still make vows and exchange rings to show your committment to each other! Is it really important to have a piece of paper with a stamp on it? 

I do think it is an excellent idea to have a laywer draft alternative paperwork that covers all the legal eventualities just incase. 

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