Contrary to this popular opinion, getting married is not simply 'getting a piece of paper'.
Marriage is a legal contract between two people which the Australian Government defines as "the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, entered into voluntarily for life".
As a consequence, marriage partners are financially, socially and emotionally responsible for each other and any children of their relationship.
A body of principles based upon this understanding, underpins an array of arrangements to do with:
* social security
and laws on:
* property settlement
* custody of children
Just as important, are the emotional and social expectations of the marriage partners of the value of their commitment to build a common future and the expectations of their families.
Marriage changes kinship relationships. The marriage partners become each other's next of kin. The groom's parents become the bride's in-laws, and likewise the bride's parents the groom's. Sisters-in-law, brother-in-laws and step-relationships all result from the legal contact of marriage. So marriage affects a wider circle than just the couple.
It is often true that two people together can provide for each other, and their children, a better standard of living and quality of life than one person can achieve alone.
So the time, energy and quality of care put into the relationship and into common resources is huge, but done willingly where the expectation is that this relationship will continue to be a source of common benefit until the end of one's life.
Broken dreams and the financial and emotional impacts of divorce can be incredibly painful and deeply wounding for all parties concerned.
It is because marriage is one of the most important contracts one will sign in one's life that the Australian Government requires the equivalent of a 30 day 'cooling off' period. This is known as the Notice of Intended Marriage.
This is to ensure that anyone entering marriage, no matter how closely they have lived, or are living together, gives due consideration to the seriousness of the commitment they are about to make.