Marriages were Arranged in Elizabethan Wedding Customs but No formal invitation was made to Guests
In Elizabethan wedding customs, the woman and the man had no say in their marriages and most weddings were arranged by their families. Their emotions were given no weight at all. The main goal of the marriages was the mutual betterment of the families concerned.
Under the circumstances, you will not be surprised that many men and women met each other for the first time on their wedding day! The wealthy men were sometimes given a miniature of the woman he is to marry to give him an idea of how she would look. Unfortunately, the women were given no such consideration. She was a second class citizen irrespective of social standing. Sometimes a girl was engaged the moment she is born and is not introduced to her future husband till the day of her wedding.
The entire expenses of the wedding were borne by the bride’s father or the bride may raise funds by selling ale to her friends and family for the occasion at the church. This was known as the bride ale.
The legal age for marriage
The legal age for marriage for boys was 14 and that for girls was 12. Sometimes marriages were conducted as soon as the boy or girl attained the legal age. Surprisingly, you will note that in a few families, the marriage was not conducted till the boy reached the age of 21 which was the age of consent.
The Dowry in the Elizabethan wedding customs
You will note that the woman in Elizabethan wedding custom and tradition must come to her marriage endowed with a dowry or portion. The husband would have full rights over the finances of the wife and she becomes his property along with the dowry that she brings.
The Wedding as per the Elizabethan wedding customs
The Elizabethan wedding custom demanded that the intention of the couple to marry must be announced three times in the church. This was known as the banns. Anyone who wished to
object to the union could do so during the time gap between the announcement of the banns and the wedding. Marriages that did not follow this procedure were regarded as illegal.
If the couple had to marry at a short notice, a Marriage bond or marriage license issued by the Bishop was a must. In such cases the banns were read once and the father had to agree to the marriage if the groom was under the age of consent.
Did you know as per the Elizabethan wedding customs, invitations were not issued for the wedding? Since communities were very small and everyone knew what was happening, everyone would just turn up for the wedding with gifts (optional) or otherwise. The wedding ends with a specially planned wedding feast and the menu is discussed elaborately. You will appreciate that the arrangements for exotic dishes required time and effort. Bread, sweetmeats and ale would be served in attractively decorated dishes.
The Wedding Dress in Elizabethan wedding customs
The bride and the groom were appropriately dressed for their wedding. In the Elizabethan era white was not the preferred color for a wedding dress. The bride would come in her best clothes—whatever the color. The only stipulation was that the gown must cover the body and must be full length. A cloak of Velvet, Satin or Corduroy was worn by the nobles. Common people wore dresses of Flax, cotton or wool. Corsets and a shift were worn under the dress, but other undergarments were unheard of. Brides were allowed to wear flowers in their hair and gown. Wealthy brides wore jewels. The bride also carried a bouquet. You will find that the bridesmaids are too dressed in the same fashion as the bride.
The groom often wore a doublet, breeches, hose, box pleated neck ruff and a codpiece. He may or may not wear a cloak and a pair of boots. You will note that it was common for grooms to wear a short shift as an undergarment. The material for the dress was determined by the status of the groom. While nobles wore velvet, satin or corduroy, commoners wore flax, cotton or wool. The colors could be red, blue, green, yellow, white, grey, black, orange and tan. Yellow was considered a sign of mourning.
The wedding ceremony
The wedding procession, you will note, used to start from the bride’s house and move towards the church. The groom will await the bride at the church altar and all the guests would stand on either side of the aisle as there were no pews in the church. The priest would conduct the marriage and the wedding procession would then leave for the wedding feast if one is arranged.