Medieval Marriage Illustration

Middle Ages for Kids
Marriage

 
 

In medieval times, noble marriages were arranged. Husbands and wives often did not know each other until their marriage was arranged. The children of peasants and serfs usually knew each other because they lived on the same manor. With the rise of towns, however, even a peasant girl's marriage might be arranged if someone locally did not wish to marry her. For all classes, girls had to be at least 12 years old, and boys had to be at least 14 years old before they could marry.

A woman brought a dowry, some type of wealth, with her when she married. No matter what happened to their marriage, the dowry stayed with her husband.

Many of the medieval wedding customs in use today began in the Middle Ages. The bride and groom stood facing a priest, with the woman on the left and the man on the right. The actual wedding ceremony took place outside the church doors in the Middle Ages. The priest would ask if anyone knew any reason why this marriage should not take place. The wedding promises in the ceremony were the same as used today - promise to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health. There was a ring exchange, which started in ancient Rome, continued in the Middle Ages. After the ceremony, the bride, groom, their families and guests entered the church for a special mass, and then everyone went back to the manor house for a wedding reception.

A man could get a divorce in the Middle Ages, but it was very difficult. One reason for divorce is if the girl (or boy) was underage. Another reason was if the girl had already been promised to the church, to become a nun, and that information had been hidden from the groom's family. These things occasionally happened if the family wanted the marriage and were willing to lie. If the lie was exposed, the man, if he wished, could get a divorce.

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