Roman Weddings

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Marriage in Roman times began as a sacred institution with divorce being unknown. However by the time of the late republic and early empire, divorce was common and often used as a tool for disposing of a less "fortunate" political or economic bond in favour of a better one.

Manus- who controlled the wife?

Cum Manu

In a *** manu union the wife legally and ritually became a member of her husband's family. She stood under the control of the husband's potestas or that of his father, and was thus no longer under the control of her father. This change of status was referred to as capitis demunutio minima, and the wife received the title of materfamilias, meaning "mother of the household"- a title only reserved in a *** manu union. Legally, the wife was "adopted" by her husband and assumed the status of a daughter in the family. This granted her the same entitlements as the other children family-over-matters of intestate succession. Therefore, the wife no longer inherited from her father but from her husband. However, the husband held a limited power over her in comparison to his children. For example, the husband did not have the legal right of life and death the way he would his daughter, or that of noxal surrender and sale. The wife in a *** manu marriage held no proprietary capacity meaning she could not own any property. Everything acquired prior to *** manu was thus transferred into the husband's property or his paterfamilias. During Cicero's time property such as dowry was recognised as distinguishable and therefore recoverable. Liabilities the wife may have acquired before marriage was erased. A widowed or divorced woman would become sui iuris. For a widowed wife two significant benefits came from *** manu marriage: the husband could grant the wife the ability to select her tutor and she was able to create a will. Cum manu (i.e. the woman enters into manus) was procured by one of three ways: Confarreatio, Coemptio and Usus.

Sine Manu

In a sine manu union the wife legally and ritually remained a member of her father's family, standing under the control of her father's potestas. A sine manu marriage did not change the legal status of the bride after the marriage, in regards to property rights. In other words, the bride is not under control of the husband. This form of marriage held no ceremonial formalities led by a public official. Ultimately it involved a husband and wife living together under the intention of a marriage, in conjunction wth the legal capacity of marriage under Roman law. Although no official ceremony was held, it was customary for the bride to be escorted to her bridegroom's house. The children of this union were legally members of the husband's agnatic kin. They held no legal connection with the mother's paterfamilias, and could not make claims on her intestate. It was only when the woman's father died that she became sui iuris. This union allowed…


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