Kinship. Past Mari settlements were made up of "corners," or neighborhoods, each inhabited by families belonging to the same patronymic group. Awareness of a common forefather was the main basis of kinship communities of a higher order as well—on the levels of lineage cluster, village, group of villages, and so on. Ancestor worship and joint rites during sacrificial ceremonies helped maintain a shared consciousness within kinship communities.
Marriage. Traditionally, marriages were arranged, often without the consent of the couple being wedded. It was a common habit to marry off sons at the age of 14 to 16 years but to postpone the marriage of the daughters.
Mari marriage involved transfers of property in two directions. The bridegroom's parents paid for the bride, usually with money; the payment was made during the wedding, at the latest. The bride's family paid a dowry—usually consisting of cattle to a large extent—which typically were not delivered until after the wedding, sometimes a year or more later. Compared to what the bridegroom's parents paid, the dowry used to be worth more. Traces of this custom have now disappeared, and the parents' word is no longer final in matters of marriage and divorce. In pre-Revolutionary times, the portion of marriages contracted across ethnic lines was quite small. After World War II intermarriages greatly increased. Russians are, overwhelmingly, the partners with whom the Maris intermarry.
Domestic Unit. Patriarchal extended family households continued in some places until the outset of the twentieth century. Families of this kind consisted of three to four generations of close relatives, and the maximum number of members in them was around 40. By 1900, however, smaller families with 3 to 12 members had already become predominant. Since then nuclearization has proceeded further: according to the 1979 data, 84 percent of Mari families in the titular ASSR consisted of 2 to 5 members, and two-generational families were by far the prevalent type. The average number of members per family was 4.4 in rural areas, and 3.4 in urban ones.