Elizabethan woman were raised to believe that they were
inferior to men and that men knew better. Disobedience was
seen as a crime against their religion. Marriages were
frequently arranged so that both families involved would
benefit. Marriages would be arranged to bring prestige or
wealth to the family - a surprising fact is that young men
were treated in a similar way as to women. Many couples
would meet for the very first time on their wedding day.
This particular Elizabethan custom usually applied to the
nobility but the married or religious life were the only
real options for the Elizabethans ( a career for a woman was
absolutely unheard of.) Regardless of their social standing
women and men were expected to marry. Single women who were
thought to be witches by their neighbours...
Elizabethan Marriage and Weddings -
The Dowry or Marriage Portion
Elizabethan women were expected to bring a dowry to the marriage. A
dowry was an amount of money, goods, and property that the bride would
bring to the marriage. It was also referred to as her marriage portion.
After marriage Elizabethan women were expected to run the households and
provide children. The law gave a husband full rights over his wife. She
effectively became his property.
Marriage and Wedding Customs - The Age of Consent
With parental permission the legal age for Elizabethan marriages was as
was not usual or traditional for marriages at such young ages. The
actual age of consent was 21. Elizabethan men would generally not
marry until this age.
it was legal for boys to marry at 14
- it was legal for girls to marry at the age of 12
Church Marriage and Wedding Information
Arrangements for Elizabethan weddings would have been with the local
church. Weddings were always a religious ceremony, conducted by a
minister. The religions varied but the legal process prior to the
wedding was always the same. There were no Registry Office marriages or
marriages conducted by a Justice of the Peace. The first stage was
Crying the Banns, announcing a couples intention to marry. The same
procedure still applies to Church marriages in England today. The
Elizabethan Wedding custom dictated that the couple's intention to marry
had to be announced in the church three times on three consecutive
Sundays or Holy days. This allowed time for any objections to be raised
or pre-contracts to be discovered. Any marriage not published beforehand
was considered clandestine and illegal. Wedding invitations were not
issued. People lived in small communities and knew what was happening in
common life. If there was an Elizabethan wedding then people would just
attend. Gifts were occasionally given to the Bride and Groom.
Marriage and Wedding Contracts
Should a couple need to marry in haste an alternative, faster, route to
legalising a marriage required a Marriage Bond which acted as a
contract, security and proof to a Bishop that the issue of a Marriage
Licence was lawful. The Marriage Bond was accompanied with a sworn
statement that there were no pre-contract. The issue of a Marriage Bond
would require only one reading of the Banns - thus saving a couple of
weeks. Such a Marriage Bond was required by Anne Hathaway and William
Shakespeare - Anne was 26 years old and pregnant. William Shakespeare
was only 18 and under the age of consent. Elizabethan wedding customs
and contracts would have required that his father would have had to
agree to the marriage.
Marriage and Wedding Customs - Preparing for the wedding ceremony
The Bride and Groom would be attended by their family and close friends.
The color of the wedding clothes were varied - the tradition of wearing
white came much later. A bridal procession would move from the family's
house to the church. This was a particularly festive event and the
procession would be accompanied by musicians. Additional information may
be accessed from Elizabethan
Marriage and Wedding Customs - The ceremony
Once at the church the ceremony would be a solemn one. In Elizabethan
times everyone would stand as there were no pews in the churches. When
the marriage ceremony was over the wedding procession would return to
their homes. The families of the couple would sometimes enjoy a wedding
feast and were wished a long and happy life.
Marriage and Wedding Reception & Food
It was an Elizabethan Wedding custom to celebrate the marriage with a
wedding feast. The special feast had to be carefully planned. The menu
was discussed and arrangements for acquiring the content of the more
exotic dishes, such a peacock, had to be made. The Elizabethans were
keen on presenting dishes as attractively as possible - in the case of
the peacock its colorful feathers would adorn the dish. Bread and
sweetmeats would also be prepared. Sweet and Spicy foods were extremely
popular and many of the dishes would be highly flavored. The staple
drink of the Elizabethans was ale (water was unclean) but wine was also
available and would have been ordered for the wedding feast.
Life after Marriage
Large families were the norm as the mortality rate for
children and babies was so high. Many Elizabethan woman made arrangement
for the care of their children in case they themselves died during
Elizabethan Elizabethan Marriages and Weddings
Details, facts and information about Elizabethan Life can be accessed via the Elizabethan Era Sitemap
click the following link for information about
Elizabethan Wedding Dress.