Have you ever read a science fiction or fantasy book, where nothing is at all like our human world as we know it, and than it ended with a blatantly Christian marriage ceremony (often with a priest, vows, and rings) and the couple living happily ever after? What's wrong with this picture? Alien world... everything is different, than suddenly BAM! a wedding straight from our world? huh? What gives? Does this ever bother you?
Or even worse, what about those Medieval weddings where the bride walks down the aisle in her long white dress - in the 1200s... you know, almost a thousand years before Queen Victoria shocked the world by doing the unthinkable and wearing WHITE at her wedding.
Did you know that Queen Victoria's was the FIRST white wedding dress in the world?
Did you also know that walking down an aisle was an invention of the 1870s?
And did you know to that in REAL Medieval times, a wedding was a man publicly raping a pre-teen girl in front of the village in a big show of: "Look I fucked her, now she's my wife!" - You did know that was how a real life, real world Medieval marriage ceremony took place, right?
Too busy watching the movie Camelot and writing those Medieval princesses in white gowns bases completely, and historically inaccurate off that one movie?
Why do writers put so much details into creating their world, yet not one ounce of into creation goes into a non-human marriage? Way yo pull your readers out of the story, huh? Built up this amazing fantasy world, then - boom, crack your reader over the skull with a good old white wedding that matches absolutely nothing of your people's culture and screams of "lazy author".
In my sci-fi books my aliens live on earth and have adopted several earth customs, however marriage was not one of them. They use the words husband and wife because otherwise humans wouldn't understand them, but never have I ever included a wedding or a ceremony or a church/priest etc. It bothered me that these people who were so different in other things would suddenly get married in a traditional human-style wedding.
Likewise my fantasy characters are rarely human, and more often faeries (usually Sirens or Phookas), and like my aliens, (who are Space Elves) they do not follow after human traditions.
Here are things you will never find my sci-fi/fantasy characters with/doing:
How do I deal with this in the stories?
Churches & Religion vs Fantasy
God & Satan vs Fantasy
often my characters Roderic, (both alien and faerie) well say they are married, but rarely they are married has humans call marriage... my main character (in several books) for example has had 4 wives, the first of whom he idolizes to the extreme, and when she dies he morns her for the rest of his 500+ years.
I had a story where he was required by a human law to give the humans a copy of a marriage certificate, at that point he was at a loss, because he had never heard of a marriage certificate and had no idea what the humans were asking for. When the humans said that it was a piece of paper that proved he was married, he responded with an answer that she had borne his children, therefore they were married.
This resulted in an uproar from the humans, who than wanted details of the wedding ceremony, the church, the priest, etc... my poor confused alien had no idea what they were talking about and in the end the humans came to the conclusion that my alien was never married in spite of his claims that he was, because no ceremony had ever been performed and the children were born out of wedlock.... to which my alien scoffed at the humans and there silly unimportant rituals and said their inferior laws didn't apply to him since he wasn't human anyways... he continued to maintain that he was married.
The Exchange of Rings vs Fantasy
Wearing wedding rings
the above mentioned alien and his wife never had wedding rings... though he did at one point, around the time that he first began to call her his wife, give her a very large ruby hung on a pendant... the ruby later on became very important to the story, as it was stolen after her death, and he went crazy trying to track it down and get it back... though it is never actually said in the story, it is assumed/understood that it was upon giving her that ruby that he claimed her as his wife, and therefor, on his home planet there must have been some tradition of giving the "bride" a stone of some sort to symbolize that she was "claimed" or married. I have used this stone giving with other alien couples from this same planet, though this was the only time I used a ruby. Other times I used sapphires, emeralds, or opals. This character is said to be the wealthiest man on his planet, he is the son of a king, and therefor the ruby was something that had more value than anything else he (or anyone else on the planet) owned. It seemed that he man had a stone of great value, which told others his standing in the community, and would trust no one to touch it... by giving it to a woman, he told the world, he valued her as much as the stone: in other words he was saying "she's mine, touch her and die"
My "world" actually is a galaxy, with 3 populated solar systems, each with multiple planets and moons that are inhabited, each mapped out to varying degrees, and each with LOTS of native and non-native cultures, so to answer this question, I'll pick one culture, because each culture has its own traditions and taboos and there are around 75 cultures fleshed out, and it'd be impossible to try to answer with a "my world does this" because there is no one size fits all cultures answer to this one.
Because it's the culture most fleshed out, I'll go with my main character's culture:
So Marriage in Moon Elf Culture (a type of High Elf).
Citizens can pretty much pick who they want, but royal class and nobles usually have arranged marriages.
For citizens, marriage is very basic and has not much legality to it. Two (or more) adults just decide to live together and that is generally seen as them becoming spouses after that. Basically the act of sex = marriage.
For royals it's the same, only they are not allowed to pick their spouses, and consummating the marriage is not private, and done in front of witnesses (often against the will of the couple, who often has never meet prior to this day, and often doesn't want to be with the one picked for them.)
Moon Elves are not very ceremonial. They don't celebrate things like birthdays, weddings, or anniversaries, nor do they have holidays or holy days. They tend to look on those things are "frivolous Human activities". They thus have no weddings, no exchanging of vows, no rings, no receptions, or any of that type of stuff.
Their culture as a whole is not prone to being religious. Once in a while an individual is religious (such as the series' main character who is a wizard-priest), but it is unusual. They tend to have a more logical and scientific outlook on things. They don't believe in a god-creation, for example. Because of this non-religious outlook, they don't have any of the typical "wedding activities" we Humans think of as wedding stuff, because most Human wedding traditions are based off religious ideas.
While some are monogamous, most are not. Most family units consist of a "Male Head of the Family" who is a protective alpha male. He will then have multiple spouses, usually 3 or 4 or so females and 1 or 2 lesser/beta males. Each family unit is usually made up of 5 to 7 adults, all of whom are allowed to be sexualy active with any of the others in their group. Any children born into the family unit, are seen as the alpha male's, regardless of which male is the biological father.
Their culture does not have a concept of divorce. Once someone is accepted into the family unit, they are part of that family until they die... unless they commit a crime that gets them cast out of the tribe, and thus also cast out of their family unit.
Moon Elves have a hive mind ability, and become psychically connected to their sex partners. It is this psychic connection that is seen as the act of marriage. Divorce is not possible as this bond can not be broken. Each member of the family unit feels the thoughts, emotions, and physical pain of each other member of the unit.
Because the Moon Elves value family over everything, the only way a person can get cast out of their family unit, is if they murder or attempt to murder one of the spouses or one of the children. They are then seen as a threat to the family and are cast out (of both the family and the tribe) in order to protect the family from harm.
Interspecies couples are frowned upon, but are allowed if the Elf already has other Elf spouses. Elves have been known to take Human, Faerie, and Demon spouses from time to time, though it is unusual. Usually the non-Elf is accepted into the family unit, but not welcomed by the rest of the tribe.
Members of the royal family are usually disinherited (no longer considered royalty) if they take a non-Elf spouse, as it is expected the royal family keep the bloodline pure.
Half-Elves that result of such unions often have difficulty finding spouses, as most Elves will not take a half-Elf spouse, and most non-Elves shun half-Elves.
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