About 54% of couples who subsequently marry had cohabited before tying the knot. And in college communities, unmarried couples living together is too common, with or without benefits, to warrant comment.
As a consequence, society more or less tends to be less reproachful of those who live together without explicit sanction by either church or state. Even parents, except among the extremely religious, possibly fundamentalist, parents. Even grandparents seem to grudgingly accept this new reality.
Will this result in new social institutions? After all, for a long time society has favored the married state as the ideal; yet it seems to grudgingly accept the reality of a couple (whether two sexed or single sexed) living together without official status by using certain descriptive terms. Now let's see: "live with," "be roomates with," "have relations," "play house," "share an address," "take up housekeeping," "share light housekeeping," "shack up," "live illegally," "live in sin, " and so on. Only the last two carry negative valences.
Well, this is 2014, last time I looked. People are more accepting of this practice. Do you ever remember anyone fined or jailed for fornication? Even the word has an old-fashioned sound to it!
When a couple decides to move in together, they ought to do it in style. Celebrate it with a party, and serve a fine prosecco and cheese. Or maybe a red velvet cake! The male roommate should carry the female roommate across the threshold of the door, to the applause of all! She should, of course, wear a long white dress!
I have a further modest proposal: Develop a simple cohabitation ceremony, where the happy couple exchange apartment or house keys to mark their newly-acquired cohabitation status. Naturally, the father of the female cohabitee could give her away at the ceremony.
And her girl friends could have a lingerie shower for her!
And maybe sympathetic aunts that do needlepoint can make a sampler suitable for hanging in their apartment: