Originally Posted by saudade
As someone about to get married, I'll throw in that there's over a thousand legal benefits to being in that state in the U.S. (no clue worldwide), nevermind the social ramifications. Though there's lots of history leading to women wanting a ring and a white dress, it's also the mainstream model for meeting one's goals. You get a ring, and you have someone to split the bills and the chores and bitch to about your day, with sex thrown in as an added bonus.
Other than the ring, you get all those things with any common-law relationship. And in some cases, marriages doesn't mean splitting the bills, it means taking on someone else's bills, because they're staying at home raising your kids. Of course, you can just as easily financially support your common-law partner, so I guess that's meaningless.
In Canada, common-law status has 99% of the same legal benefits as marriage. Federal-tax-wise it's identical, as with custody, insurance, death, etc. And unless Harper has his way, this holds true even for same-sex common-law relationships. I don't know about other countries.
When we got married, I noticed a slight shift in our level of commitment. We had been talking about "the future" long before we got engaged, we had joint accounts within weeks of moving in together, we had shared investment/retirement planning (which obviously implies a long-term, post-retirement commitment). But for some reason, making a real actual promise to work on, maintain, and protect our relationship no matter what happened, seemed to make it more real.
Random comment: I always balk at people who buy a house together, and then say that marriage is too much commitment. You can get a divorce in an afternoon and one person can take over the lease, but selling and dividing a house is much more involved.