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Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that establishes rights and obligations between the spouses, between the spouses and their children, and between the spouses and their in-laws. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal. In many cultures, marriage is formalized via a wedding ceremony. In terms of legal recognition, most sovereign states and other jurisdictions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples or two persons of opposite gender in the gender binary, and a diminishing number of these permit polygyny, child marriages, and forced marriages. In modern times, a growing number of countries and other jurisdictions have lifted bans on and have established legal recognition for same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and interfaith marriage. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. People marry for many reasons, including: legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious. Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved. Some cultures allow the dissolution of marriage through divorce or annulment. Polygamous marriages may also occur in spite of national laws. (via Freebase)