Roman Weddings

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Before The Wedding Ceremony

  • After she turned 14, a girl was considered eligible for marriage.
  • Many Roman's married for financial, social or political reasons, not love.
  • In wealthy families, marriages arranged by girl's father but consent had to be given to make the union official e.g. through holding hands in public.
  • When both families agreed to the wedding, the engagement took place and an informal contract was drawn up before witnesses.
  • Gifts exchanged and groom's family gave fiancée a ring, worn on third finger of left hand as believed a nerve ran directly from that finger to the heart.
  • Since the bride was accompanied with a dowry, marriage into a noble family could be a way of achieving wealth and social status.
  • A sponsalia (party) was held to celebrate the engagement.
  • However, as many of these weddings were based on social, financial or political purposes, they could quickly be broken off for the same reasons.
  • Emperor Augustus was engaged three times before his first marriage.
  • The day was carefully chosen as many dates were unlucky so most marriages took place in the second half of June (May and February were forbidden).
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The Wedding Ceremony

  • In older, traditional ceremonies, women were simply property that the husband would take over from her former paterfamilias.
  • As time went on and women played a more influential role in society, instead, women stayed in power of her own family (so she'd keep her own property).
  • The day before the ceremony, the bride dedicated her toys to the household god (lares) and changed her girls clothes into a bridal gown.
  • On the day itself, the house would be decorated with flowers and coloured ribbons whilst the mother helped the bride prepared herself.
  • First her hair was made into a special up-do with a headdress made of flowers.
  • The dress was a plain white tunic fastened at the waist with a special belt.
  • The wedding veil was yellow as were her shoes.
  • The guests assembled and the groom arrived.
  • Ceremony began with a sacrifice+signing a marriage contract, before witnesses.
  • The bridge led forward by pronuba (bridesmaid) joining their right hands.
  • When the words were said, the couple sat on stools, facing the altar, to make an offering (usually of cake) to Jupiter.
  • Then guests shouted good luck and the wedding feast began.
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After The Ceremony

  • Celebrations were held and a banquet went on until the evening.
  • The groom seized the bride and led her to his house after the bride and the bride's mother would pretend to resist him.
  • Torchbearers and musicians would lead the way to his house which was essential to the completion of the marriage and anyone could join the procession - just for fun.
  • The bride carried a spindle+distaff (to symbolise new responsibilities) and was accompanied by three boys - one carried a hawthorn branch set alight.
  • Crowds followed shouting good luck/offensive jokes (thought to bring luck).
  • The groom would scatter nuts and coins to following children.
  • On arrival at the groom's home, nuts were thrown by participants and the bride smeared fat on the door posts and was carried over the threshold with the invited guests following.
  • The torch was blown out and thrown to guests (like a bride's bouquet).
  • In earlier years, divorce was virtually unknown but changes in the marriage law allowed women to keep control of their dowry. This made divorce and self-sustenance easier.
  • Not all marriages took this form, second marriages were quieter and many families could not afford the expense involved.
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