Evagardian Marriage Customs: A Summary by Tessa Salmagard, 9T
We will start with how marriage works legally in the Imperium, then get into how it works culturally.
Evagardian marriage customs differ substantially from those in most Galactic cultures. First, a summary of Galactic practices: In the Ganraen Commonwealth, legally-recognized life partnerships are limited to two individuals in both the Frontier and Ganrae Systems. In the Kakugo System, there is no limit to the number of individuals who may join what the Kakugans legally define as marriage, but larger marriages are extremely uncommon in that culture. In the Trigan systems, marriage is allowable between two people, with legal provisions potentially allowing for the addition of a third individual to a union composed of two. In the Golden Worlds, marriage is limited to unions between two individuals. Free Trade space is effectively unregulated with respect to civil unions; ceremonies to formalize partnerships are common, but are materially meaningless. In all of these systems and practices, equal rights are bestowed on each member of the union(s)—in other words, people marry or partner on equal legal footing. This is where Galactics differ from Evagardians.
To start, Evagardian marriage customs aren’t about the union—they are about the Bloodline. In the Imperium, two people do not choose to marry each other; two people agree that one will join the other’s Bloodline. So, who joins who? This varies, depending on the genders of the partners. In a traditional heterosexual union, the man must join the woman’s Bloodline. In a partnership between a man and a woman, the woman is automatically the head of household under Evagardian law, and this does carry some implications with respect to family names and privileges.
A marriage typically occurs this way: following courtship, a woman will invite the man to join her Bloodline—this is what other cultures would think of as the proposal. This should be preceded by several large gifts and a lengthy period during which the woman tries to demonstrate that joining her Bloodline will be to the man’s advantage. The Invitation to Marriage traditionally involves the woman prostrating herself to make her request. If the man accepts, a contract detailing the nature of the marriage is agreed upon, and then there is a wedding.
If the marriage contract allows for a larger family, up to four additional partners may join the Bloodline—the limit of five being the basis for the ubiquitous, bestselling VR simulation series Five Husbands. This practice is so different from what most Galactics are used to that they tend to fixate on it, which is a mistake because marriages of a full six people are almost unheard of outside the most elite circles. However, due to the relative scarcity of men in the Imperium, there is no greater way for a woman to assert her influence than to monopolize five of them. Surveys consistently show that about two-thirds of Evagardian school-aged girls aspire to secure multiple husbands.
So if a man and a woman marry, the woman is the legally dominant partner in that she is the Custodian of the Bloodline; this does not change if additional husbands join the marriage.
Now, what if the woman wants to partner with another woman? In a union between two women, one party must still be the Custodian of the Bloodline, so one woman must choose to join the Bloodline of the other. There is also no legal barrier to a woman joining an existing marriage if invited to join that Bloodline—but she only acquires the legal privileges of a husband in that scenario, which is rare.
A more common practice is for two women to marry each other, then work together to secure a desirable husband.
The same applies to men who want to marry other men: one must be the Custodian of the Bloodline, and one must agree to join it. There is a no legal barrier to a woman joining a marriage with an existing male Custodian—but this is extremely rare. Remember: a woman who joins another Bloodline gives up her chance to be Custodian of her own; this is contrary to everything that women are taught from birth, and Evagardian women almost never give up the chance to start their own family by joining someone else’s.
A man marrying another man is the only way for a male to become Custodian of a Bloodline, and it is seldom done. It’s much more advantageous for a couple composed of two males to simply marry the same woman. This provides them ample opportunities to choose a woman who offers superior social prospects, while it also provides that woman an opportunity to take two men off the market at once, which is to the advantage of all parties. For this reason, male/male couples of this type are highly sought-after.
Gender-nonconforming individuals may legally occupy any Evagardian marital role, including Custodian of the Bloodline.
This scenario is the rarest of all because it carries no social advantage, and by virtue of being so rare, is sometimes looked at askance. For individuals whose anatomy is not in alignment with how they wish to identify, Evagardian subjects may receive bodily modifications at will at any age. While in pre-Unification times there may have been stigma or social baggage attached to his phenomenon, the modern Evagardian perspective is that the anatomy that one was born with is immaterial with respect to the here and now; the right to determine one’s own identity is among the few facets of Evagardian life that truly rests with the subject rather than the Empress. However, it should be noted that it is not uncommon for marriage contracts to include stipulations against parties receiving bodily modifications after marriage. With regard to Bloodline Custodial Rights, it goes without saying that a woman born with male anatomy who receives the appropriate modifications is entitled to the same privileges as any other Evagardian woman.