Marriages in different types and forms

Everyone knows the “traditional” marriage between a man and a woman. In some countries it is now also possible for gay couples to say yes to each other. Monogamous and heterosexual marriages are the most common worldwide. However, there are also other forms of marriage that are not always well known. Read more about marriages in different types and forms in the article below.


When a man and woman would like to spend the rest of their lives together, they often choose to marry each other. This is also called “getting married”. This is an official procedure that is carried out by a registrar.

Worldwide, marriage is seen as a good foundation for the family, where a man and a woman raise children together. In countries with a Western culture, a monogamous (with one partner) heterosexual marriage is considered normal. Aberrant marriages are often strongly condemned or in most cases prohibited.

Gay marriage

Gay marriage is a marriage between two men or two women, in other words, a marriage between two people of the same sex. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to allow this form of marriage (April 2001). In South America, Argentina was the first country to allow gays to marry each other. In the United States there are strong divisions about same-sex marriage. This form of marriage is recognized in 9 states, but expressly prohibited in 18 states.

However, in most countries, including Europe, same-sex marriage is not allowed and is even punishable, in the most extreme cases punishable by death. Mainly Christians (from different movements) and Muslims are fierce opponents of gay marriage, but conservative governments will also not allow marriage between man-man woman-woman.

Countries where same-sex marriage is allowed:

  • 2001 Netherlands
  • 2003 Belgium
  • 2005 Spain, Canada
  • 2006 South Africa
  • 2009 Norway, Sweden
  • 2010 Portugal, Iceland. Argentina, Mexico
  • 2012 Denmark
  • 2013 France

At the end of 2013, England, Wales, Scotland and Luxembourg can be added to the above list.

Polygamous marriage

In a polygamous marriage, one person is married to more than one person. (poly = many) (gamos = marriage).
Polygamy can be divided into several forms of marriage:


When a man is married to multiple wives this is called polygyny . This is the second most common form of marriage. This is also sometimes called irreverent polygamy. In many African countries and some Islamic countries, polygyny is allowed.


In very rare cases, a woman is married to multiple men. This form is called polyandry . Polyandry is becoming less and less common. In earlier times it occurred in India, Tibet and Nepal, among others. In China it sometimes happened that in very poor families all sons from a family married the same woman. Nowadays polymannery, as it is also called, still occurs in southern China among the Mosuo.


Bi = two. Gamos = marriage.
Bigamy is when someone is married to two partners at the same time. For example, one man is married to two women. In some countries this is allowed, but in the Netherlands it can be punished with a heavy penalty: a maximum of 6 years in prison. The second partner can also be sentenced to prison if he or she is aware of the crime, which can be up to 4 years.

Group wedding

Very rare is a marriage between multiple men and women. These group marriages are mainly found among the Kaingang Indians in Brazil. In April 2009, group weddings were in the news by artist Francisco Camacho . According to Camacho, a citizen should have the freedom to choose how many partners he or she wants to share life with and civil marriage should also be opened to groups. To date, group marriage is prohibited in the Netherlands.

Posthumous marriage

In France, if someone dies before his or her wedding day, it is possible for the wedding to go ahead. The condition is that all formalities have been completed correctly in advance. In a posthumous marriage , one marries a deceased person.

Church wedding

In a church wedding, a man and woman are united in the sight of God and their congregation. In the Netherlands, only a church wedding is not allowed. First a civil marriage must be concluded and only then can a church wedding take place. In some countries, such as Poland, Spain and Ireland, there is no distinction between a civil marriage and a church marriage and only a church marriage is legally valid.

Levirate marriage

If a man marries the wife of his deceased brother and has not produced any children from the first marriage, this is called a levirate marriage . Colloquially, this is also called brother-in-law marriage . The first child to emerge from this second marriage is then supposedly from the deceased brother. In this way the widow still has a child, who can later take care of her. The family properties also end up well in this way because the son or daughter inherits everything. This form is best known in Judaism and the Bible also talks about levirate marriage.

Arranged marriages

When parents arrange a marriage partner for their children, this is called arranged marriage. The children themselves have no say in their future partner. The age at which children are married off varies greatly from country to country. Sometimes a girl is married off before her tenth birthday, while in other countries this happens from the age of 18. The age of the future partner is not always taken into account, there may be a (very) large age difference. In some cases, an (underage) girl has to marry a much older (elderly) man. The parents usually receive money or other valuables, which makes them more likely to agree to the marriage. There are also countries where a peer is chosen. Arranged marriages are legal in many Islamic and African countries, but they cause a lot of sadness and fear for girls and women. In the Netherlands and many other Western countries, arranged marriages are strictly prohibited.