Historical evidence suggests that most marriages throughout history were arranged marriages to first and second cousins, and the reason for this was to strengthen alliances within the family. This was necessary in order to keep the peace, but it was also necessary to create a labor force.
If a man married a woman who proved to be infertile, then he was free to dissolve the marriage and to marry another woman. It was also common for men to have many wives, something that is considered immoral and illegal among most modern societies.
According to uscatholic.org:
Jesus lived and preached in a world that saw marriage primarily as an economic contract. Jews considered marriage a commandment, but one intended to benefit the wider community by ensuring stability and economic prosperity.
Proverbs 31, today proclaimed at weddings as a poetic tribute to wifely virtue, would have sounded to its original audience like a job description. Can she oversee slaves? Does she understand viniculture? Can she spin both wool and flax? Not only were these skills worth more than rubies, they were far more practical.
By contrast, early Christian communities promoted celibacy and often scorned marriage, since marrying and establishing a household distracted people from preparing for the kingdom of God. Still, limiting the community to only celibate followers had some obvious drawbacks. Instead, early Christians outlawed divorce, polygamy, and incest.Initially procreating was optional, but the early Christian Church was a "trailblazer" in urging people who were capable of procreating to do just that. Regardless, guidelines among western civilizations encouraging monogamy were not encouraged until sometime between the sixth and ninth centuries.
During this time there was a battle between the Catholic Church who thought it was important to establish rules for how many wives a man could take, and kings who thought they should be allowed to marry whomever they chose. Yet in the end the Church won out, and monogamy became the law of the land, at least among western civilizations.
By this time a marriage was considered legal and binding, but only between a man and a woman. Parents who had children that were procreated by extramarital affairs had to pretend these children were their own, or face serious consequences. Yet by the 19th century people started to become increasingly tolerant to treating all kids as equals.
Prior to the 1500s the Church stayed out of marriage vows, and generally took the word of the couple that they had exchanged vows. After this time, and until the 1980s, the Church required the couple to wear banns indicating that they were indeed married, and had documents and witnesses.
Massachusetts was the first state to require marriage licenses in 1639, and by the 19th century most states required them.
The idea of marrying for love and sexual desire did not enter the marriage picture until about 250 years ago (about 1750). Yet mutual attraction in marriage did not begin didn't truly begin until about 100 years ago, or around the turn of the 20th century. It was at this time that family arranged marriages started to give way to love marriages, whereby a man and a woman fell in love and wed.
What played a key role in this transition was the transition from an agricultural economy to a market economy. The reason for this was that, in an agricultural economy, parents maintained access to inheritance of agricultural land. Since land was essential for economic growth, and the security of the family, arranged marriages continued to be of importance. Yet this all changed with the market economy, thus ending the arranged marriage. For the first time ever people could marry whomever they chose.
The transition from monarchies and totalitarian dictatorships to democracies may also have played a role in the transition. This was because as people democracies allowed people to utilize their natural right of free choice. Over time people realized that freedom meant the right to choose whoyou spend the rest of your life with.
So, you see, it is only a modern notion that marriage is about love and sexual desires.