What started in the ancient times, as a way to keep the agricultural lands intact within certain groups and ensure social and economic stability, marriage today has acquired a wholly new meaning. During the agricultural economy, marriage was between two families decided by elders, with absolutely no say for the young boy and girl involved.
Interestingly, to keep alliances and the wealth within the family, those days most marriages were between second cousins and third cousins. At times, it was not uncommon for the brother to marry a widowed sister in law. It was a normal thing those days. Polygamy was widely prevalent until later some kings ensured monogamy by decree.
As the institution evolved, the religious powers (Churches, temples, mosques) began to play a key role in marriage with a view that the man-woman relationship had to be sanctioned by God.
Things changed further when the agricultural economy moved to the industrial economy. It was then that people could find jobs on their own away from family lands and that new empowerment changed relationships forever.
The young men and women now had the power to make their decisions independently. That was the start of “love marriages”. But it wasn’t until 50 years ago that women started getting equal rights.
Today men and women have equal rights to choose their partners, although in many countries families still play a major role in marriage.