Marriage in middle ages had a different conception than what it was before or what it became later. The medieval society had its own cultures and tradition concerning marriage.
Condition of women
The women in the medieval times had limited opportunities open for them. The women in rich class had two opportunities in life-marriage and nunnery. The fathers of bride and groom generally arranged marriages to safeguard or increase the family wealth. Child brides were frequent and the maximum number of girls got married at the age of 14.
For a girl belonging to a low or peasant class, marriage was a difficult issue to deal with. Her father was not a free man to decide about her marriage. Her fate was hard as they need to take permission from the feudal lord for the marriage. In some countries, the feudal lord enjoyed the main right to decide and even to sleep with the bride for the first wedding night.
Customs of Marriage in Middle Ages
The wedding customs or marriage in middle ages meant contracts or agreements. They were drawn up basically to identify the rights of both bride and groom. The medieval marriage ceremonies were based mainly on the social class of bride and groom. The property and legacy were two main reasons for the arrange marriages to be contracted.
During the middle ages, the laws concerning marriage also began to evolve. In 1706, the Council of Westminster ruled that no father should arrange the marriage of his daughter or any other female relative without hieratic blessing.
Some years later, the councils also ordered that marriage must not be kept a secret. It should be declared in public.
Again in the 16th century, the Council of Trent made a rule that a priest will carry out the engagement ceremony. The separation of couples was allowed but no legal divorce was not in picture. The ceremony of marriage in middle ages between the couple too closely related could be avoided.
The wives were asked to seriously obey the orders of their husbands. They were expected to be very docile and faithful in the absence of their husbands. In order to make sure that they acted right, some men forced their wives to wear a chastity belt.
When a woman’s husband died and she became a widow, she was sent to the convent. Their lands were taken over. Yet, by the late middle ages, the widow of the guild master became able to run the business of her dead husband.
During the 12th century, marriage in middle ages was affected by the art of courtly love. Began by Duke William IX, this kind of love was meant to show passion and be romantic for the married women. The lovers expressed their love in songs.