Segments in this Video

The Institution of Marriage (04:41)


Marriage often begins with an exchange of vows on the wedding day; the relationship is an alliance dictated by cultural, economic, and political interests. The world's cultures have devised marriage rituals that reflect cultural beliefs and values.

The Couple: Evolutionary Development (03:48)

The concept of "the couple" is older than the institution of marriage. Humans form couples as an evolutionary adaptation that favored the survival of early ancestors. Wedding rituals may have developed along with the evolution of language.

The Couple: Monogamy and Polygamy (02:35)

The agrarian revolution made it possible for one man to support several wives; polygamy has genetic and economic advantages. More than 80 percent of human societies allow men to have several wives.

The Couple: Rules of Marriage (03:29)

The most important rule of marriage is the ban on incest; marriages between close kin are universally taboo. Rules of endogamy and exogamy also govern marriage. In cultures such as that of the Sumerians, brides came with dowries and became their husbands' property.

Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage: The Church Takes on Polygamy (03:04)

Polygamy was common among the Germanic tribes who invaded Europe after the fall of Rome. Around 400 A.D. the Christian Church established marriage regulations to break apart the large kin groups that polygamy created.

Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage: Divorce (05:50)

Divorce existed in antiquity and in the early Middle Ages but when marriage became "Christianized" divorce became unthinkable. Rome's inflexible stance on the issue led King Henry VIII to break from the Church, fueled Protestant reforms, and contributed to establishment of civil marriages and legal divorces during the French Revolution.

The Ceremony: Marriage Alliances (03:40)

In all eras and in all cultures marriage has been viewed as an alliance; it is a pact that seals the union between a couple and their families. For generations marriage was a social contract made between fathers of a couple to ensure family advancement.

The Ceremony: Wedding Rituals, Traditions, and Celebrations (05:19)

Wedding ceremonies across cultures contain similarities in symbolism and rituals. In western cultures marriage is based on mutual consent of the spouses; arranged marriages take place in India and in many cultures. In Japan couples marry according to Shinto rites.

Divorce Rules (01:42)

In western societies nearly half of all marriages fail. Sexual problems, infidelity, quarrels, and lack of communication are frequently mentioned as reasons for this phenomenon.

New Forms of Cohabitation: The Wedding Industry (01:46)

In recent decades marriage has become a consumer product marketed by a thriving wedding industry. Couples often find it difficult to reconcile the meaningful and sacred sense of their marriage with the wedding show they are expected to stage.

New Forms of Cohabitation: Contracts and Commitments (02:42)

Some couples still focus on marriage as a spiritual union marked by a traditional ceremony where people exchange promises in front of witnesses. Other couples see no need to commit to each other with a contract; in the United States many couples choose to cohabit rather than marry.

New Forms of Cohabitation: Same Sex Marriages (03:22)

Homosexual couples in Europe and North America claim marriage as a right and wish to enjoy the same social advantages legal marriage brings to heterosexual couples. Some countries recognize same sex marriages but the issue creates controversy around the world.

The Future of Marriage: The Changing Nature of Marriage (03:31)

Over the centuries marriage has been a form of slavery for women in many parts of the world. Marriage relationships in western societies have been transformed by today's educated and economically independent women.

The Future of Marriage: An Evolving Institution (04:06)

Skyrocketing divorce rates in western countries worry many people concerned about the future of marriage. As it has for centuries the institution of marriage continues to evolve in response to societal changes.

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An institution supported by religious and civil authorities, marriage bestows both freedoms and restraints designed to promote social stability. But as divorce rates continue to soar, is marriage getting a bad name? In this program, author Sabine Da Costa and anthropologists Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University, and Peter Lovell, of the University of New Brunswick, track the development of marriage, from ancient times to the current day. Specific topics include cohabitation; arranged marriages; betrothal; dowry; the wedding ceremony; endogamy and exogamy; monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry; same-sex marriages; divorce; and remarriage. (53 minutes)

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL10339

ISBN: 978-1-4213-0620-9

Copyright date: ©1998

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.