Marriage: What is it?
The man commits (at least to his bride, and for some, to God) that he will take on (what God has ordained as) the role of the husband. Hopefully, the couple agrees as to what this means, and it can mean different things in different cultures.
The woman commits that she will take on (what God has ordained as) the role of the wife. Again, hopefully they have agreed to what this is between themselves. The better their mutual understanding of what they expect of each other, the better the odds that they will enjoy the union.
They also commit to (God and) each other, that if blessed with children they will take on (what God has ordained as) their role as parents. Here, because other lives are involved, they do best to take these roles not just from discussion with each other, but from their society as well. They are raising the future!
Some politician said that there really is a conspiracy in our country. There really is a group that is planning on taking over our government at the state, local and federal levels. They plan to take over the school systems, the local businesses. They plan to take over the court system, the health care system and the military. They plan to take over our communities. Even more amazing is that we are willing, no more than that, we are eager to let them do this. Who are they? Our youth, the next generation.
They also are committing, to their children (usually not yet born) that they will do everything possible to prepare their children for adulthood. Wild animals, by instinct, do what their young need to be prepared for adulthood. Humans would do well to take the same task on voluntarily, and responsibly.
Hopefully, they also both admit that neither of them is 'perfect for the job'. Neither can do their share very well without help, and they hope and promise to be some of the help for each other. Also, I hope they realize that a whole bunch of in-laws comes in this package deal, and find a way to handle that as well. While we try to 'leave mother and father' and 'cleave to each other', it is not always easy for both to do it together.
They DO NOT necessarily commit to a church, even though the ceremony very often takes place in a church. They commit to God and each other with a church as a possible witness. If they are not committing to God, because they do not believe in God, then they are committing to each other. Hopefully, someone in the church is an expert witness on relationships, and is an expert witness to the marriage certificate.
I didn't use the words 'marriage license' because governments give out licenses as legal permission to engage in an activity. (Doctor's license, hunting license, fishing license, business license, driver's license, etc.) Since I am addressing the issue between the husband and wife in this article, I stay away from what the government thinks about all this.