In the past few decades, legal marriage rates have declined in the Western world. Many heterosexual and same-sex couples today are living together or cohabitating for several years before tying the knot. The changing nature of intimate relationships and the very meaning of marriage haveresulted in a period of extended intimate partnership that may - or may not - result in marriage.Sociologists Maureen Baker and Vivienne Elizabeth present a cutting-edge discussion of contemporary ideas about marriage and living together. They explore the reasons why certain couples who cohabitate eventually decide to formalize their long-term relationship, and whether formalization actuallymakes a difference for the couple and those around them. While the decision to marry has evolved from previous generations, so have the practices surrounding wedding rituals. The authors discuss aspects of the wedding industry, examining which traditions couples are retaining and which they arepersonalizing, such as writing non-patriarchal vows and sharing personal stories about their relationship. The authors also compare the cohabitation and wedding rituals practiced by same-sex and different-sex couples. Baker and Elizabeth draw on a wide range of international studies - from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States - as well as their own research, in which they interviewed marriage celebrants and long-term cohabitants who are heterosexual and gay/lesbian, aged from28 to 63, and from a variety of social backgrounds. The result is a fascinating, multi-generational study of the lives of couples around the world as they negotiate their relationships in the twenty-first century.