Within Thedas, there are several different views with regard to sexuality and marriage. Common to all groups is that marriage is not primarily regarded as a romantic affair, but a duty to one's family.
According to the Chant of Light, Andraste had a spiritual marriage with the Maker. All Andrastian priests are therefore symbolically wedded to the Maker and sworn to celibacy. In the eyes of the Chantry, marriage is both a celebration of tradition and a practical decision. Through a favorable marriage, one can make valuable connections, improve one's social standing, and secure financial stability for oneself and one's family. Love is not necessary for a successful marriage but is nonetheless desirable, as it makes the union stronger. The Chantry permits annulments but not outright divorce.
Among city elves, marriage is a rite of passage, the single greatest thing that distinguishes children from adults. Elven children are usually matched by their parents and the alienage elders, and the bride and groom often will not have met each other before the marriage ceremony. Betrothals are often made between families from different alienages in order to promote inter-city trade and relations, as well as to bring new elves into the alienage community. Marriage ceremonies require the approval of the Chantry, and are officiated by one of the Chantry priests. In a community where there is mostly little cause for celebration, a wedding is a tremendous affair, and the whole district will turn out to enjoy the feasting and dancing.
Not much is known about the Dalish, and the same holds true for their views on sexuality and marriage. The Dalish appear to be more in line with Fereldan thinking rather than other cultures like Orlais. This means that they tend to take relationships slowly and seriously with each other. Once they have come of age, they may choose a mate of the opposite sex with whom to "bond" for life. It is unknown how they view same-sex relationships, but there seems to be no stigma against it other than for the fact it will not produce a child for the dying race. As with most cultures, the Dalish do not approve of interspecies romance, and it is forbidden by them. To even dally with a human could earn exile from one's clan. This likely stems from both past hatreds and the fact that "pure elves" or Dalish are becoming increasingly rare.
Dwarves of Orzammar
The dwarves of Orzammar are noted for their polyamory (the keeping of multiple intimate partners), especially among the upper classes. While a dwarf has only one legal spouse, many nobles keep concubines, typically noble hunters, who are raised up to be part of the household and have their names recorded in the Memories. A dwarf's caste is determined by that of their same-sex parent, so many casteless dwarves offer themselves to nobles or to other higher caste dwarves as sexual partners in the hopes of producing a child of the noble's gender. As dwarven fertility is in dangerous decline due to chronic exposure to darkspawn corruption as well as because of constant war with them, any noble child is considered a blessing, and such offers are rarely turned down. If such a union produces a child of the commoner's gender, however, the infant will be rejected, as it would be part of the lower caste and an embarrassment to the higher caste parent's house if it's allowed to stay with them.
Although Grey Wardens are not forbidden from marrying, it is rare for them to do so. Their short lifespans make them poor candidates for parenthood or long-term relationships. Even if they are not killed in battle against the darkspawn, they rarely survive past middle age due to the darkspawn taint. Most Grey Wardens dedicate their brief lives to fulfilling their duty, leaving them little time for pursuits such as family life. Furthermore, the taint makes conceiving a child very difficult (nearly impossible if both partners are Grey Wardens).
Grey Wardens may also enjoy a certain reputation for sexual prowess as noted in romance dialog with Morrigan where she will make mention of the famed Grey Warden Garahel's reputation. The allure of Grey Wardens is also intimated in Dragon Age: The Calling in Duncan's brief affair with an awe-struck mage in the Ferelden Circle Tower.
Mages, because of their outsider status, are not bound to traditional social morals and consequently enjoy greater sexual freedom than most, though the exact degree varies from Circle to Circle. For example, Anders expressed surprise that Emile de Launcet of the Kirkwall Circle was still a virgin at 24, and noted that such a thing would be unheard of in the Fereldan Circle. Mages are discouraged (though not actually forbidden) from marrying and reproducing, as the offspring of mages are very likely to possess magical ability themselves. Dialogue between Wynne and Alistair hints at some form of birth control or abortion being readily available to mages, perhaps to discourage the propagation of magically gifted children. If a mage does produce a child, it is taken from the parents at birth and raised under the supervision of the Chantry. Those children who prove to have magical ability are immediately transferred to a Circle of Magi in another country, where they are taught to control their powers away from their birth parents. Mages (and non-mages) who do not wish to be separated from their children will sometimes conceal them from the Chantry and either train the child themselves (as Malcolm Hawke did) or hire an apostate as a tutor (as Arlessa Isolde hired Jowan to tutor Connor Guerrin).
Aristocrats in Orlais are notorious for their hedonism and extravagance, and sexual relations with multiple partners of either sex are not uncommon. The peasantry is much less tolerant of such behavior, at least in public. According to The Stolen Throne, Emperor Florian is rumoured to have had an affair with his cousin Meghren, which resulted in Meghren being banished from Orlais to Ferelden. The scandal surrounding their relationship was likely due to their being related, however, not to the fact that they were both men.
Qunari do not marry or choose romantic partners. A Qunari's most important relationship is that with his or her colleagues. They do not generally associate mating with love. They are capable of feeling and forming emotional bonds with one another, but do not express it sexually, as those who do are re-educated by the Ben-Hassrath.
The Tamassrans keep detailed genealogical records and choose who will mate with whom. They do not allow cross-breeding between races. Familial bonds are not present in Qunari society. Children are raised by the Tamassrans, evaluated, and assigned a job.
Prospective grooms also appear to enjoy bachelor parties prior to their weddings.
Tests of worth
There appears to be some form of a dowry system used in Andrastian courtship, as mentioned by Aveline Vallen when she is courting Donnic. She notes that three goats and a sheaf of wheat, taken to his mother, would be dowry tradition.
Among the city elves the dowry tradition is even more important. Marriages are arranged between alienages and a dowry is paid to the alienage which is losing a member, in order to compensate for the loss to the community. Cyrion Tabris mentions to the City Elf that a dowry was provided for their marriage.
Matchmaking is practiced in many cultures in Thedas, from the socially engineered pairings of the Qunari to the arranged marriages of human nobility to the matchmaking of the city elves. City elves in particular make use of matchmakers to locate mates in distant alienages. It helps to strengthen ties between separate alienages. The City Elf, notably, is implied to never have met their betrothed prior to their wedding day.
Same-sex relations are generally considered strange in Ferelden, but Fereldans do not consider it immoral, and place no particular stigma upon it. Orlesians regard homosexuality as a mere quirk of character, and the Antivan Crows show a winking tolerance for relations with multiple partners of either sex. The Chantry does not seem to have an official view on the subject. There is pressure in certain circles, such as the elves and the human nobility, to marry an opposite-gendered partner, but this is motivated by pragmatism rather than morality; a homosexual couple cannot have biological children. For a dying race like the elves or dwarves, it is vital that every fertile individual produce offspring, and human noble families place great stock in the continuity of bloodlines in order to have clear heirs to noble titles and fortunes, and thus avoid the conflicts that often erupt when succession is not clear.
Interspecies relationships are possible, but frequently frowned upon by most societies. The fertility rate between two parents of different race are very low compared to that of the same race. In particular, elves are bound only to produce elven children with their own kind because their offspring with a human would be Elf-blooded, appearing physically human. Similarly this also happens with dwarves. Subsequently elves mating with humans is considered traitorous by the rest of their kind and any elf who conceives a child with a human risks expulsion from their community.
A child between a dwarf and a human is a half-dwarf, which would be taller than dwarves but shorter than humans. Such children are extremely rare, as dwarves are comparatively few in number and those living underground are reclusive to outsiders; mating with other species would bring great shame to the dwarf as well as their family. In addition, the dwarven fertility rate is very low due to the close proximity to the darkspawn taint for many generations.
Nobody in Thedas has any idea what a qunari half-breed might look like, since the Tamassrans prohibit interspecies mating among qunari and there is no evidence of interbreeding between Tal-Vashoth and other races.
Brothels are legal in Ferelden, Kirkwall and in the dwarven city of Orzammar. Although they are not considered respectable institutions, it is no more taboo to visit them than a seedy tavern or gambling house. Prostitutes would usually cost 10 Gold pieces at the time
- If romanced, Leliana will tell the Warden the literally star-crossed (and likely analogous) tale of Alindra and her soldier lover. Class differences served to separate the pair in life and prevent their desired love match, but the gods ultimately brought the lovers together again after death as stars in the sky.
- David Gaider. Dragon Age: Origins Forum Activity GameBanshee.
- As conversation with Cyrion Tabris would indicate if the City Elf balks at their arranged marriage.
- As Gheyna refers to marriage among the Dalish in the quest Cammen's Lament.
- Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 34
- As mentioned by Isabela regarding a crew member's bachelor party in Dragon Age: The Silent Grove.
- As Hahren Valendrian helped to arrange Soris's marriage in the City Elf Origin.
- David Gaider (January 9, 2010). "Where are the half-races?" . The BioWare Forum. Retrieved on June 10, 2014.