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A combination of social forces has thrown marriage into question in westernised societies at the end of the millennium. This uncertainty creates space for new ways of thinking about marriage. In this context, we examine the idea of marriage as friendship. We trace its genealogy in the work of Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor and then subject it to critical scrutiny using some of Michel de Montaigne’s ideas. We ask how applicable the ideal of higher friendship is to marriage and what might be gained and lost by a synthesis of marriage and friendship. Grounding the discussion in historical sources is valuable because the topic is so little explored in the contemporary philosophical literature. This approach also allows any enduring value in these historical texts to be elicited