Marriage and Pairbonding
In the Realms, marriage is a common element in all humanoid cultures, and mate-bonds between non-humanoid races are practiced often. This may happen between any two individuals regardless of gender, sex, or race; the vast majority of species are accepting of same-sex couples, and marriage practices range across the board.
Marriage may be done for love, out of necessity, or for political reasons; arranged marriages and betrothals are uncommon, but not unheard of, and have largely fallen out of favor in most species over the last several centuries.
Marriage is distinct from pairbonding, which is defined below.
True pairbonding is seen as a spiritual bond of mutual love between two individuals - a twining of the golden threads of connection tying a pair together for as long as such love exists. These may be formed in both married and unmarried couples, of any sex and any compatible race.
Most often, a pairbond is formed over time - often multiple months or years - as love grows between two individuals. Often romanticized as 'true love' in popular tales and stories, it is never formed over short periods of time and does not stem from simple infatuation. This may happen between individuals of any gender, and is also possible between multiple races. One-sided pairbonds are not possible to be formed, though true pairbonding may go unrecognized by one or both individuals for quite some time.
Many cultures have marriage ceremonies, both for true pairbonds and traditional marriage. The most well-known and widespread of these are located in the Realm of Evylon, where the Halgians and the elves have specific marriage rituals. A true pairbond needs no ceremony, though some cultures may hold something at the couple's request; while this is most prolific among Halgians and elves, it may be done by any race humanoid or not. Other cultures or individual couples may hold a small ceremony, often an exchange of gifts, with wedding jewelry being the most common. Some may have another preside over the ceremony, and tie a ribbon about the hands of the wedded.
Animalistic species - such as dragons, gryphons, and wolves - may also pairbond, and many do for lifelong partners. However, very few are called 'pairbonded', and are instead known simply as mates. There is no existing terminology for mated pairs of animalistic races, pairbonded or not, regardless of species. Most have no true marriage ceremonies, though this varies from race to race.
Breaking a pairbond is a very rare, and often incredibly painful ordeal - there are a number of sources that say to attempt such is to court death, and the broken pair is often left heavily depressed no matter their reasons for splitting. Though a broken pairbond may be repaired, it is an arduous ordeal, and may not succeed.
The abrupt severance of a true pairbond is devastating; often, it can be both physically and mentally debilitating for varying periods of time. When the bond is suddenly, violently severed, the threads of the mind may snap back and damage one's mind, and in many cases the damage done may be irreparable. Recovery from this break can be many years long, and the pain may linger for many years more.
The death of a pairbond may have a similar effect, depending on how sudden such a death is. Death from old age may be nearly painless for the surviving member; death from known and expected illness carries none of the horrific agony associated with unexpected and rapid death. After recovery, individuals may pairbond again - if they find another in which the same love may be fostered and true-bonded.