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Traditions: The History of Marriage

With our new series announcement in full swing, I wanted to start riiiight at the beginning. One could argue it’s a chicken and the egg situation of course, but I wanted to answer a question that probably wasn’t at the forefront of your mind before accepting that shiny ring of yours!

“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togewer today.” I’m probably dating myself a little bit, but I couldn’t resist! Ten points to whoever can name that movie. Today, we’re talking about the “why” behind the “I do’s”. While engagements and weddings are completely exciting (kind of my jam), today we’ll discuss how marriage came to be…and how far it has come!


By definition, marriage is the legally or formally recognized union between two partners in a personal relationship. However, when beginning to research this concept and where it came from, it became alarmingly clear that not everyone has a solid answer! Most consistent recollections attribute it to Ancient Hebrew law. A woman was somewhat viewed as an asset or property of high value and therefore valued and taken care of as such.

In early nomadic settlements, some women would have tents of their own, remaining completely independent from her husband. This practice was called “beena”. This concept was among many including men having many wives, and seemingly evolved from the need to colonize and procreate. Jumping forward a bit, the actual institution of marriage was recorded about 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. This concept stemmed from legally promising the couple’s offspring to the property of those men.  This helped solidify property, wealth, and power to acquire land and form alliances. The agreement came with the opportunity to send back the wife if she were infertile. (Has anyone watched the Handmaid’s Tale lately?!)

When the imperial system collapsed in ancient Greece as the Roman Catholic church’s popularity in Europe was rising, the overall concept began to elevate once again, turning marriage into a blessed holy union. This change encouraged men to show more respect and care for their wives under the church’s taught morals, and forbid divorce.


Respect, care….what about love? Marriage slowly evolved, but romance was not something involved until much later. Holy matrimony was in fact considered much too serious a topic to involve such silly emotions. Up until the 17th and 18th centuries, many couples were condemned and disgraced for public affections. It wasn’t until the Enlightenment period of the ages came about that society began questioning the idea of marrying for love. (I’d like to think this would be somewhere along the lines of what I’d be rallying for ;)) Men began choosing their wives not based on societal standards, and began paying for weddings without invitation from the bride’s parents.

With the women’s rights movement moving in with the 19th and 20th centuries, women began to insist on equality and to be viewed as an equal part of a marriage. In 1920, women won the right to vote and it immediately influenced the concept of marriage and a union suddenly consisted of two whole entities into one union, though the man still had rule over the household and decisions. By 1960, interracial marriage became more accepted, and 1970 marked the transformation of marriage law becoming gender-neutral, including contraception solutions to choose over having multiple, one, or even no children. The concept of marital rape was also passed as unlawful, whereas previously, the man had complete ownership of the woman and her sexual rights. (Side note: What?! This was only 40 years ago. What a world.)  Though divorce was accepted as well, marriage was still an essential income source for women in this era, and the divorce rates were only about 22%.


Marriage was becoming more recognizable to what we know of it today as it transformed into the acceptance of equal rights for all including same-sex couples as talk in the 1970s and 80s started questioning the ban of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. It was not until the early 2000s that states began recognizing same-sex marriage as legal, though it was not made federally legal until 2015!!! Historically, male bonding ceremonies were found commonplace in Mediterranean churches, and though both parties were of the same sex, did not vary from traditional weddings of that time. These ceremonies included holding hands at the altar, marriage prayers and a kiss to signify the proposal was agreed upon. Some historians believe these ceremonies to be for business deals, while others speculate the ban of homosexual sex due to these ceremonies as the reason for the law to begin with.

In past decades, the average age of bride and grooms ranged from 18-23 respectively, whereas we are now seeing couples wait on average until the couple is in their late 20s, as divorce rates are slowly declining.

Marriage is clearly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of “why”, but as you can see, we have come a long way in just a few decades. With more equality, recognition of rights for all and couples waiting longer to wed on average, things are ever evolving. I hope this blog helped you understand part of your new adventure if you are engaged, as well as reflect and be grateful for how far we have come! I know it made me be more appreciative, and in turn a more knowledgeable Certified Wedding Planner to help you plan the wedding of your dreams! Contact us today to learn more. 🙂


Let’s celebrate soon,


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