Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Question from tudor fanatic - Tudor wedding ceremony

Can anyone tell me anything about the Tudor style wedding ceremony? I read somewhere that the bride would have bridemen as well as bridesmaids, and that it wasn't traditional for the bride to wear white as it is now, but I was just wondering if there were any specific customs/traditions etc. that have got lost through time. Also, if anyone knows the actual words of the ceremony, then that would be great. Thanks!

PS This isn't for a homework or anything; it's just out of interest.


  1. I can comment on "the actual words of the ceremony." Prior to the reign of Edward VI, every marriage ritual followed the prescribed liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church.

    In 1549, the English Church adopted the First Book of Common Prayer. A facsimile of the rather lengthy "Forme of Sylemnization [Solemnization] of Matrimonie" with the exact words spoken can be seen here:

    The Second Book of Common Prayer was adopted in 1552, but the ritual for matrimony changed only slightly:

    During Mary's reign (1553-1558), the Roman Catholic ceremony was restored. Following Elizabeth's accession in 1558, the Book of Common Prayer was re-instituted and the ceremony was unchanged until well after the Tudor period.

  2. "The Tudor Housewife:
    ct=result&resnum=8 (is there some way to get qa more compact address?) has a chapter on weddings.

    Traditions, customs, and fashions varied widely and were mostly optional. Some differences from a modern formal wedding: No "engraved invitations" people were invited by word of mouth, or sometimes, if at a distance, by letter. Members of the wedding party wore the best clothes they had or could borrow. Sometimes the husband wore white as well as the bride. Any color was alright, including red, green, and black. If the clothes were new, they would be worn for "best" for years to come. The idea of clothing to be worn only once would have seemed strange. Homemade clothing took a lot of work, boughten clothing was expensive. Even coronation robes might be reused by the next monarch (Mary's were renovated for Elizabeth.)

    A bride's male attendants might be boys (older than the modern ring-bearer, but not yet grown.)

    All but the poorest would serve wine or ale in the church or churchyard after a wedding. Those who could afford it gave a wedding feast, at the bride (or less often the groom's) family home. These might include entertainments like music, dancing, masques, or even whole plays (like Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night' Dream). At the end of the day the couple was usually "put to bed" together before witnesses, who then left the room to give thee couple a chance to "consumate" the marriage. (That is, to have potentially reproductive sex.) This made the marriage officially binding (unless one or both of the partners could be shown to already be married to someone else.) I go into so much detail because Henry VIII notoriously changed signals on the validity of some of his marriages.

  3. Was the Roman Catholic Church marriage ritual in Latin pre-Edward VI and during Mary I's reign?

  4. Yes, Kathy, it was. In the Roman Catholic liturgy, both pre- and post-Council of Trent, the marriage ritual was called the "Nuptial Mass," or more properly "Missa pro sponso et sponsa" ("Mass for Husband and Wife"). The liturgical ritual was a modified version of the "regular" Mass, which was itself always said or sung in Latin. Modifications for a wedding mass usually included elimination of the Gloria and the Credo, and the addition of the Velatio nuptialis, a blessing reserved for use only in a nuptial mass.

    One important caveat: The precise ritual form that Masses took, the words actually spoken, the hymns sung, etc., could vary between dioceses. Thus there were a variety of Missals, also known as "Uses." The Use of Sarum developed at the Cathedral of Salisbury and became the dominant Use in England before the Reformation. But there were other Uses or Missals utilized in England also, including the Use of York (developed at York Minster), the Roman Use, and many others.

  5. Thanks for all the info, everyone. Something that struck me when I looked at the words for the wedding ceremony, PhD Historian, was how different the vows were for men and women. The man has to promise to "love her, comfort her, honour and keep her" whilst she must promise to "obey him, and serve him". It just seems really sexist, but I know it was in those days, what with men being the dominant gender. It just really hits home how differently women were treated from men, I suppose not even having the same basic human rights as men, when it came to marriage, anyway.

  6. tudor fanatic -

    It is true that women had significantly lower legal status than men. At the time it wasn't considered sexist - just the natural order of things.

    Some historians believe that it actually got worse for women after the Reformation as church careers were no longer an option and female saints as role models were dismissed as unnecessary. Also, there was even more emphasis on the father as the head of the household.

    The thing to remember is that individual women, especially elite women frequently circumvented the legal chains of sexism.

  7. Tudor Fanatic, women did not have "the same basic human rights" as men in Tudor England, even outside of marriage. Unmarried women in particular had no legal standing ... they could not sue in court, they could not serve on juries, they were not recognized as participants in any portion of the political process, and so on.

    Within marriage, they lost control over their own property. That is, if a woman already happened to own any property at the time she got married, total control over that property went to the husband during his lifetime. And under many (but not all )circumstances, married women could not leave wills.

    There were women who challenged the system, of course, many of them very successfully. But in the main, women had very few "rights" of any kind during the Tudor period.

  8. The words of the wedding ceremony are supposed to have a biblical basis. Ephesians in particular I believe speaks of how a wife and a husband should behave. The female passage is quite short 'submit to your husband' and later the word respect is used but the male passage is quite lengthy and talks a lot about loving your wife as you do your own self and looking after her well. So while the vows seem harsh they are only supposed to remind you of Ephisians look at gender roles. I mean if a man looked after you as well as he did himself and was willing to give his life for yours in all things how hard would it really be to submit to him? Unfortunately of course men, espeically entiled men that the laws protect, don't really behave that way...


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