9 Interesting Truths About 14th Century Weddings

 In Horror Stories

If you were a time-traveller from 1317, you would be mystified by modern weddings. Hen parties? Bridesmaids? Wedding cake? What has any of those to do with getting married? In the less-complicated time of 14th century weddings, it was much simpler. Here are some guidelines for a bride getting married seven hundred years ago.

9 Interest Facts About 14th Century Medieval Weddings.

Age of Consent

If you’re thinking about marriage, you have to be of an age to understand what’s involved. You’ll be at least twelve years old. Don’t worry though, you probably won’t be expected to share your husband’s bed for at least another two years.

Betrothal

If you’re an aristocrat or royalty, you might have been betrothed to your husband-to-be since you were a small child, possibly as young as three. He might not be much older, or he might already be a widower with grown children. If you’re not an aristocrat, your parents might have discussed your prospects with friends and neighbours, but there will be no formal agreement.

Dowry

Unless you’re at the very bottom rung of society, your father will provide a dowry. This could be money, land, property, or a cow. This will go some way to recompensing your husband for taking you off your father’s hands. The dowry will become your husband’s property and you will have no say in how it’s managed.

Marriage with a dowry.

Who You Can Marry

Fortunately the rules about who you can marry changed a hundred years ago. In those unenlightened times, you could not marry anyone who shared a great-great-great-great-great-grandparent with you. Or to someone who shared a great-great-great-great-great-grandparent by marriage with you. I think you’ll agree that it would not have been easy to find out if you were related to your intended to that degree. Nowadays things are much easier. As long as you don’t have a great-grandparent in common, you can marry whomever you like.

Location

Despite the church’s best efforts, being married in a church or by a priest is neither fashionable nor necessary. You can get married wherever you want, indoors or out. You can even get married in bed. This last might not be advisable, however, as there might be some disagreement later about whether or not you really are married.

That Special Dress

A young woman should look her best on her wedding day, but there are no rules or fashions. You can wear your prettiest kirtle and gown. If you ignore the advice of those older and wiser than you and marry in bed, you can wear nothing at all.

14th century commoner dresses.

Wedding Guests

It’s a good idea to have as many witnesses as possible at your wedding. This means that there can be no dispute later about the validity of the marriage. The church suggests two, but these are harsh times and both could easily die before they’re needed. Choose the most public place that you can. In most villages, this will be the church porch. Modern church porches can accommodate twenty or more people. If your church does not have a porch, standing outside the door will suffice. Everyone in the village who is released from their labours at the time will be able to get into the churchyard to hear your vows and those of your husband.

Party

The quality of the feast will depend on the time of year you marry. You won’t be marrying in Lent or on a fasting day, so you’ll be able to eat meat if any is available. Other than that you’ll make use of whatever is ready to be harvested in the garden or the field. Or what has been stored from last year. You, or your mother, will have brewed a strong beer for the occasion, so your guests might be more drunken than you’re used to seeing them. Don’t worry, you and your husband will leave early, for there is one more thing to do before you’re properly married.

Now You’re Married

Depending on your circumstances, it might prove difficult to consummate your marriage. Your husband is unlikely to have a house to which to take you and even more unlikely to have a bed. If you’re going to live in his parent’s house, you might have a corner somewhere where you can spread a blanket over a couple of straw-filled sacks. You will not have your own bedchamber and you might be sharing a room with his parents and siblings.

Once the marriage is consummated, you are well and truly married and cannot be separated this side of death…unless one of you is a bigamist. If that’s the case, things will become very complicated. But that is a whole other story…

The Heirs Tale by author April Munday.

Author

April Munday is the author of romances set in the fourteenth century. She lives in Hampshire, where many of her stories are set. In her head, she lives in the fourteenth century, but only in her head; she has learned far too much about life in the Middle Ages to want to live there in reality. She is inspired by the remnants of the past which are part of her local landscape. Her latest series, The Soldiers of Fortune, is set after the Battle of Poitiers, which changes the lives of four brothers.

You can find April at the following places:

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest

 

What do you think about weddings in the 14th century? Share with us in the comments.

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Showing 25 comments
  • Hannah
    Reply

    I love this post because I’m fascinated with medieval times and the history of it!

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      Me too! That is why I was so excited to have April share on the blog.

  • Em Linthorpe
    Reply

    Love this collab!! When I work on my family history, my mind often wanders to the weddings my ancestors had – how very different they must have been. And indeed, having our own bedrooms as couples is a relatively new thing – the wedding night must have been an eye-opener!! ??

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      I can’t even imagine not having your own space as newlyweds. Eeek!

    • April Munday
      Reply

      On the plus side, Em, privacy wasn’t high on the list of things people wanted in the fourteenth century. They were used to sharing their most intimate moments with others.

  • candy
    Reply

    Totally enjoyed reading about long ago wedding rituals. The commoner might night have been allowed to marry a close relative but that didn’t bother the royals who tend to keep it in the family.

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      Isn’t it so true!? Makes me think of Game of Thrones… haha!

    • April Munday
      Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Candy. Royalty also had their problems, though. Marrying a ‘close’ relative required special permission from the pope, which wasn’t always given. In the fourteenth century the popes, mostly French, tended not to agree to English requests of this nature. The Black Prince was very fortunate to get permission to marry his father’s cousin, Joan of Kent, since her grandfather was his great-grandfather. If they had married without that permission, there was a good chance that his heirs would have been declared illegitimate, which was not ideal if you were the Prince of Wales.

  • Claire Ady
    Reply

    interesting, and many of them quite terrifying!

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      So terrifying!

    • April Munday
      Reply

      They were terrifying times, Claire. Life was short for most people and you just had to get on with it. Which isn’t to say that people didn’t know how to enjoy themselves. They did, perhaps all the more because they knew they didn’t have much time.

  • Cathy
    Reply

    This was so interesting! I am now wondering if they had bridesmaids and groomsmen back then. It’s so funny to think how things have changed!

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      They only had witnesses, as April said, but I do believe I read that is one reason the bridal party was invented. I think this needs to be another article to answer that, so thanks for the idea!

    • April Munday
      Reply

      Hi Cathy, no bridesmaids and no groomsmen. Often there weren’t even witnesses. Although a wedding was something to be celebrated, it was also quite an ordinary event. All that needed to happen was for the man and the woman to say to one another that they were married. It was sensible to have witnesses, but not necessary. It was a very different way of looking at things.

  • Babies to Bookworms
    Reply

    They would not know what to think about the insanity that is weddings today!

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      Isn’t that the truth, lol.

    • April Munday
      Reply

      They would be totally confused by the fuss and the cost. They would understand the party, though.

  • Harmony, Momma To Go
    Reply

    The wedding doesnt sound that bad, I figured you couldnt actually pick and date your potential spouse, BUT the wedding night doesnt sound too fun! What about a honeymoon? When did that tradition start?

    • April Munday
      Reply

      Privacy wasn’t something that people worried too much about. Nobody really had any privacy, not even the king.

  • Heather
    Reply

    I seriously love this post. I studied a lot of medieval literature and used to plan weddings. It’s amazing how things change.

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Heather! I have always loved learning the history of people, places, and traditions. To have April guest post was really fun.

  • Mimi
    Reply

    Is it weird that this reminded me of game of thrones mixed with sleeping beauty? XD I didn’t know any of these, so fascinating

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      I was really intrigued by all of this as well. It was just like… okay we’re married. Ha!

  • Gabriella
    Reply

    This was so interesting. I really like learning about history, even about the somewhat weird customs. I’m very glad marriage doesn’t look like that anymore.

    • Theresa | Bridesmaids Confession
      Reply

      I’m glad you liked it! I’m more for marriage as we look at it today. Although, there is something nice about not having to go through too many hoops to be married. Just I love you, let’s do this!

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