As we all know, marriage is an institution that is beneficial to men and detrimental to women. Married men live longer than single men, while married women live shorter lives than married women. Married women still do most household chores for the family, so while men gain a cleaner and a cook, married women lose time and energy needed to serve two people instead of one. As Susan Faludi demonstrated in her great book Backlash (which reads like a mystery novel, so I highly recommend to any one), single men suffer a much higher rate of depression and neurosis than married men because of their single status. Single women, however, suffer from depression due to their single status a lot less than single men.
Since the institution of marriage is so detrimental to women and beneficial to men, ideological devices needed to be created in order to make it seem desirable to women. In our societies, marriage is presented as the only way for a woman to gain an acceptable status and a certain legitimacy as a member of society and a representative of her gender. We are bombarded with TV shows, movies, articles, books, etc. that show us an endless succession of women desperate for a marriage proposal. Why that proposal is a good and a necessary thing for a woman is never explained. The way ideology works is by presenting something as simply existing. As a result, it never occurs to most people to question why these movie and book characters are so desperate to enter an institution that will shorten their life span and bring them a lot more boring housework.
These ideological devices often go to ridiculous lengths to make their point. We have all watched Sex and the City, a profoundly patriarchal show that has no connection to reality. In real life, beautiful accomplished women like the characters of this show receive marriage proposals by the bucketful from a very early age to the day when they die. Never would women like Carrie, Miranda and Samantha have to humiliate themselves for the sake of getting some loser to validate their existence by an offer of a relationship. Still, the television and the movies create an alternative reality where women are desperate to get a proposal pretty much from anybody. As a result, women see themselves as incomplete without being married and consent to getting married so much more readily.
Of course, there is always another side to this story. Women would not participate in the "get-married-or-society-will-see-you-as-worthless" ideology if they didn't gain something from it. Marriage is such a nifty little institution that it manages to accomodate everyone. What women as a group gain from it occurs precisely at the point where they lose something else. We have known at least starting with Aristotle that human beings are social animals. We all need to feel socially accepted and validated by our peers. Getting married is pretty much the only way for a woman to feel that she has been successful as a member of society and a representative of her gender. As limiting as this is, it is also very easy. Proving your social value through working, through having a career, through having enough money to maintain yourself and your family (which is the only way that men have to prove their social and gender worth) is a lifelong enterprise. It is something you have to engage in on a daily basis. No matter how successful you were yesterday, if you lose your job today, you will feel like a lesser citizen and a lesser male. Getting married, however, is a one-time thing. You do it once, prove your worth as a member of society and a woman, and you are pretty much done. If you lose your job, or fail to graduate, for example, it will be painful for you, but no woman (that I know of, at least) feels less of a woman because of unemployment.