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What was the medieval marriage tradition?

Marriage during medieval times was very different from what we know of modern-day weddings. In this era, it was more of a political and economic decision than a romantic one. The decision to marry was not just a personal matter, as it typically involved the exchange of wealth, lands, and social status. Medieval royal weddings were lavish occasions with full traditional regalia, including gold and ermine, gifts, and feasting. But these marriages were usually dynastic arrangements rather than love-matches, and the couple were sometimes still children. In this blog post, we will explore the details of medieval marriage traditions, arranged marriages, ceremony rituals, and more.

Arranged Marriages during the Medieval Era

Arranged marriage was the most common form of marriage during the medieval era. Marriage was not considered an individual choice but a social one. The union between two people was typically arranged by their families, who negotiated the terms, including the transfer of property, gold, gems, or other valuable assets.

While the families were responsible for the arrangement of the engagement and wedding, the church had a significant role to play. During the medieval times, the church controlled most of the aspects of people’s lives, and marriage was one such aspect. The church required the couple to get married in their presence and exchange vows before God.

Upon the exchange of vows, the priest would then bless the rings and put them on each other’s fingers. After that, the priest would declare that the couple was now married.

The Engagement

The engagement period during the medieval era differed from today’s times. For the majority of the time, there were no fancy proposals or engagement rings. Rather, the engagement was a purely practical agreement that occurred between two families.

The engagement was typically informal, with the couple’s parents or guardians sealing the agreement with a contract. The contract would outline the terms of the union, and the assets that each family would bring into the marriage. The dowry and bride price were essential topics of discussion that took place during the engagement period.

The dowry was a payment that the bride’s family gave to the groom’s family, which acted as an incentive for the groom’s family to agree to the marriage. The bride price, on the other hand, was the amount of money that the groom’s family had to pay to his bride’s family for her hand in marriage.

The Wedding Ceremony

Medieval weddings were typically grand affairs, with elaborate preparations and performances. The wedding ceremonies were often religious affairs and had to take place in the church. The priest had to be present and perform the ceremony.

The bride’s father would walk her down the aisle, where the groom would be waiting at the altar. During the wedding ceremony, the bride would have to agree to obey her husband from that day on, and the groom would promise to love, cherish, and protect her.

After the couple exchanged vows, the priest would bless the union and perform the sacred binding ceremony. After this, the couple would have to exchange rings as a token of their love for one another.


Marriage during the medieval era was all about securing economic and political power. Weddings, therefore, were more about business transactions than romantic relationships. Even though they were not romantic, medieval weddings were grand affairs that involved a lot of preparations and performances, and they had religious significance. The church played a significant role in the ceremonies. Today, while some of the customs persist, many aspects of marriage have changed to suit modern times.


How did marriages work in medieval times?

In medieval times, the union of two individuals was not necessarily a matter of love or personal preference, but rather a business agreement between families. Marriage served as a means of social mobility, economic stability, and political alliance.

The age at which individuals got married varied, depending on their social status. Typically, girls were in their teens when they married, while boys were in their early twenties. However, some members of the nobility could get married as young as 12 or 13 years old. Parents chose partners for their children, often based on monetary worth, social class, and political power. Love between the bride and groom was not considered essential, especially among the upper class.

The family of the girl who was to be married would give a dowry, or a donation, to the boy she was to marry. This dowry was usually a sum of money, but it could also include land, livestock, or valuable items of personal property. The dowry was intended to provide financial support for the newlywed couple and to help establish the boy’s household. It could also serve as a safeguard for the wife, as she would retain ownership of her dowry in the event of her husband’s death.

Marriage ceremonies themselves varied depending on social status and religion. Among the nobility and wealthy merchants, a grand ceremony would be held in which the bride was presented to her groom in front of a large crowd. The ceremony would include church blessings and a feast, which could last for several days. Among the lower classes, weddings were often simpler affairs, with a small gathering of family and friends.

Once married, the wife took on the domestic responsibilities of running the household, while the husband provided financial support by working. The husband had control over all of the property and money in the household, while the wife was expected to manage the household finances and ensure that the domestic duties were taken care of.

Divorce was not considered acceptable during medieval times and was only granted in exceptional circumstances, such as adultery or abuse. Annulment, or the declaring of a marriage as invalid, was possible, but it was a long and difficult process that was reserved for cases in which a marriage was considered to be illegal.

Marriages in medieval times were arranged based on monetary and political considerations rather than love or personal preference. Once married, the husband provided financial support while the wife managed the household responsibilities. While the ceremony and life would vary depending on social status and religion, weddings were usually grand for the upper class and simple for the lower class.

Who performed the marriage ceremony in the medieval times?

In medieval times, the marriage ceremony was a significant social and religious event. However, the role of the officiant or person who performed the marriage varied among different regions and cultures.

In the Christian church, marriage was considered a sacrament, and it wasn’t until around the 16th century that marriages were required to be performed by a priest. Before then, marriages were typically solemnized by a member of the clergy or a lay person in the presence of witnesses. The role of the priest was to bless the union and offer prayers for the couple’s happiness and fertility, but the actual exchange of vows was between the couple.

In some cases, particularly among the lower classes, the local lord or ruler would perform the marriage ceremony. This was seen as a way to assert the lord’s authority over his subjects and to ensure that marriages were conducted in a way that was acceptable to society.

For the nobility, it wasn’t required to get married in a church as long as the wedding was blessed by a priest. This allowed for greater flexibility in the choice of venue and the type of ceremony that could be performed. Some royals and nobles opted for elaborate and grandiose ceremonies that involved multiple priests and lasted for several days.

The person who performed the marriage ceremony in medieval times depended on various factors, such as social class, religion, and regional traditions. However, regardless of who performed the wedding, the ceremony was always an important and significant event that marked a couple’s commitment to each other and their future together.

Was it normal to marry at 14 in the 1800s?

In the 1800s, it was not uncommon for girls to marry at a young age, including 14 years old. Marriage in the 1800s was influenced by several factors, including religious beliefs, economic status, and cultural traditions. During this time, marriages were primarily arranged by families, and love wasn’t always the primary reason for marriage. Families viewed marriage as a way to secure financial security, social standing, and alliances with other families.

In the early United States, the legal age for marriage varied by state and region. Most states went by British common law, which allowed girls to marry at 12 years old and boys at 14. However, most people in the 1800s did not know their exact birth date, and birth records were not widely kept. Therefore, it was challenging to identify a person’s age accurately.

Marriages between young girls and adult men were not unusual in the early United States, especially in rural areas. One reason for this was that life expectancy was much lower than it is today, so people needed to start families early to ensure that their lineages would continue. In addition, religion played a role in the acceptance of young marriages. Many religious groups believed that marriage was an essential part of life and that young girls would be better off married than single.

Despite the early acceptance of young marriages in the 1800s, attitudes began to change during the late 19th century. Child labor laws, compulsory education, and changing cultural norms contributed to this shift. The average age of first-time brides began to increase as more people gained access to education and women’s rights improved. By the early 20th century, most states had raised the legal age of marriage to 16 or 18 years old.

While it was normal for girls to marry at the age of 14 in the 1800s in many parts of the United States, this was influenced by various factors, including religious beliefs, economic status, and cultural traditions. However, as society changed, attitudes towards marriage shifted, and laws surrounding marriage evolved, so did the average age of marriage. Today, the legal age of marriage in the United States is 18 years old, while some states may allow it at the age of 16 or 17 with parental consent.

Did people fall in love in medieval times?

Yes, people did fall in love during medieval times. However, the concept of love and romance during the medieval period differed significantly from the modern understanding of love. The idea of courtly love was prevalent during these times, which essentially involved a highly ritualized and chaste form of love between a knight and a lady.

Courtly love was characterized by several rituals which were perceived as essential components of true love. These included the notion of the lady as the object of the knight’s admiration, devotion, and respect. The knight was expected to display his love for the lady through acts of chivalry, such as jousting tournaments and questing in her honor. These acts were not only declarations of love but also served to showcase the knight’s skill and prowess. The lady, on the other hand, was expected to bestow her favor and reward the knight for his achievements.

However, while these practices may appear to be romantic, the reality was far from it. The concept of courtly love was often used by the upper classes as a means of suppressing natural sexual desires. Sex outside of marriage was considered taboo during this time, and courtly love provided an outlet for romantic expression without the risk of tarnishing one’s reputation.

It is also important to note that the idea of marriage for love was uncommon during medieval times. Marriage was primarily seen as a political and economic arrangement between families, with little regard for the feelings of the individuals involved. This is not to say that couples did not develop genuine feelings of love for one another, but the emphasis on romance and passionate love was not as prominent as it is today.

While people did fall in love in medieval times, the ways in which love was expressed and understood were significantly different from modern times. The concept of courtly love allowed for romantic expression within the confines of strict social norms, while marriage was primarily seen as a practical arrangement rather than a personal expression of love.

How were wives treated in the Middle Ages?

Throughout the Medieval period, women were viewed as second class citizens, and their needs always were an afterthought. Women in general had very limited rights and opportunities in Medieval times, including those who were wives. The duties and roles assigned to women were determined by their social status and the period they lived in, which meant that wives often had a different life experience depending on their social class.

Women who were wives of the wealthy or nobles were fortunate enough to live a life of luxury, but this was also coupled with certain restrictions and expectations. One of the primary roles of wives was to bear children, especially males, who were seen as having higher value in society. Wives were kept at home, where they were responsible for tidying up, cooking, and taking care of their children. They also had to follow strict codes of behavior as unbecoming behavior could lead to ruin their family’s reputation.

Meanwhile, lower-class wives often had to work, alongside doing household chores. They were mainly responsible for agricultural work, such as looking after cattle and the farming, as their husbands worked in other industries. Unfortunately, wives at this level also had to grapple with the risk of sexual harassment from their employers due to the lack of legal protection.

Throughout the Middle Ages, women, including wives, weren’t treated well, as the male gender dominated society. They were seen as inferior beings and not equal to men. In many ways, their lives were often overshadowed by their husbands. However, the roles that wives played during the Middle Ages laid foundations for contemporary gender relations and opened paths to broader opportunities available for women in modern times.

Why was it so unusual for a woman not to get married in the 1500s?

During the 16th century, society viewed marriage as a crucial stage in a woman’s life. The primary reason for marriage was to create a familial alliance between two families. Women were seen as the primary caretakers of the household, and hence, their role in marriage was fundamental. Noblewomen, in particular, were expected to marry men of equal or higher status who could provide for them and their future families.

For families who had daughters, the status of her future husband was essential to the family’s reputation. Therefore, her marriage was viewed as a business transaction that would solidify their social standing. Additionally, in most cases, the groom’s family would provide the bride’s family with a dowry, further emphasizing the point that marriage was seen as an economic transaction.

Due to the importance placed on marriage, remaining unmarried for life was almost unheard of for noblewomen. If an elite woman did not marry, or her parents could not support her dowry, a monastic life was her only option. Women who entered into religious orders could evade marriage and were often considered more pious and virtuous. Furthermore, taking the veil was viewed as the only way for women to gain formal religious education and assume positions of authority within the church.

Consequently, the idea of a woman remaining unmarried for life in the 1500s was socially unacceptable and would cause considerable suspicion and gossip. Women who remained unmarried were viewed as being unfeminine and unnatural. In fact, sexual stereotypes at the time suggested that women were incomplete without a husband and that their primary role in life was to provide companionship and bear children.

The primary reason why it was so unusual for a woman not to get married in the 1500s was the importance placed on marriage as an economic and social transaction. Marriage was viewed as the only legitimate way for women of noble status to secure a position in society. Therefore, women who remained unmarried for life were practically unheard of, and if it did occur, would have caused considerable scandal and suspicion.