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You mean, what marriage is to YOU.

No, I mean what marriage IS, as established by the nature of the universe. You might as well cease the Clintonesque distortion of the English language because I'm not going to buy into it.

Whether your marriage is... a need to unite two powerful families, the desire for dowry income, or the need to produce an heir really isn't a concern of mine.

Such dynamics rarely produce real marriages. Rather, they usually produce public facade of "marriage" behind which the supposed "husband" has a "mistress" and the supposed "wife" has a "consort," both probably known to the other supposed "spouse." Such relationships are shams.

If you ask me, the REAL way to preserve marriage as something sacred is to get the government OUT of the marriage business. Let the government say that two people may unite their finances and resources under the law. Leave it at that. They can change resource partners every X months, if it strikes their fancy. It doesn't matter if the partners live together, are related, whatever. If two 50 year old sisters want to be partners so they can share benefits, so be it. Get "united" by the state just like you'd select a beneficiary. Sign on the line, and maybe pay for an attorney to draft the paperwork.

I have no problem with laws that establish domestic relationships other than marriage and that provide certain rights, privileges, and benefits for individuals who choose to enter such relationships. Further, I see no reason to limit such relationships to only two adults. I object only to the use of the term "marriage" to refer to such relationships because such relationships are not really marriages.

That said, I do think that our civil society has a real interest in promoting, supporting, and strengthening real marriages because a real marriage is the natural environment -- and the best envirnoment -- in which to bear, nurture, and raise children.

Let each religion & denomination sanction whatever type of marriage they believe to be appropriate before God.

If you had used the term "relationship" rather than "marriage" in this sentence, I would agree with it.

Catholics can insist on the 6 month waiting period and pre-cana counseling.

The Catholic Church actually does not require any "waiting period" whatsoever for marriage. In response to the high rate of failed marriages in the United States, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has instituted a requirement that each couple who wishes to marry in the dioceses of the United States must complete an approved preparation program before the celebration of their marriage may take place. The bishops of the United States have approved several preparation programs, range from "Engaged Encounter" retreat weekends to various series of weekly seminars, sometimes called "pre-Cana," offered within many parishes, that fulfill this requirement. The practical reality, though, is that these programs are so heavily subscribed in many dioceses that a couple who wish to marry may have to wait several months for the next available opening. Additionally, some pastors require advance notice so they can ensure the availability of the oratory and the ministers who assist in the service.

Marriage has changed from one-man-many-women to man-and-a-woman-purchased-by-the-mans-family to man-and-woman-he-lusts-after to man-and-his-dead-brothers-wife to man-and-woman-he-loves to man-and-woman-that-his-mother-approves-of.

Actually, that is not accurate at all. In societies that permit polygamy, each marriage is between one man and one woman. Where a man has two or more wives concurrently, his two wives are related only through their husband. The other situations that you describe are also "one man and one woman" relationships.

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