The answer is completely unromantic – legal protection. Marriages validated by the government through a marriage license give a clear line of succession. They ensure children created in the marriage are valid descendants of both parties, and eligible for any benefits as such. It also gives partners legal rights to medical information, inheritance, tax, and Social Security survivor’s benefits. Marriage licenses also list the partners as dependents of one another for the purpose of insurance benefits through employers.
For a long time through history, the marriage license did not exist. However, marriage licenses were present all the way back to the American colonies where marriages were required to be registered. This process was used to ensure partners were willing participants, were old enough to be married, and were not related to one another. However, some steps took it even further and would not issue licenses to couples where one was an addict or even had been divorced previously!
However, once the Social Security act came about, the marriage license held an extra level of importance to ensure families received the benefits owed to them.
The marriage license is a practical method of legal record–keeping with no romantic undertones. The marriage itself, however, is entirely up to you.