The Old and New testaments provided early church leaders with conflicting views regarding marriage. Biblical writings had clearly indicated men and women relationships outside confines of marriage, multiple partner marriages, and use of concubines.
The Bible was also rampant with stories of lust as in story of David and Bathsheba. St Augustine defended this by writing that God said it pleased him that certain individuals amongst Patriarchs of Bible have many wives, specifically for multiplication of their offspring. He further suggested that only reason women would need more than one husband would be for lustful gratification.
To give old guy his due, he also is credited with saying, "Let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and wife see that she reverence her husband." Augustine considered marriage a sacrament, a permanent union of faith.
Now that marriage was declared a sacrament, church leaders thusly made a declaration that men and women should pursue marriage with only one partner. They added that sexual relations with confines of a marriage should be for procreation and not for lust alone. Once marriage had become a sacrament, it soon followed that church needed legislative power over marriage and that a priest should perform a nuptial blessing.
Something as important as deciding on a marriage partner was not left in hands of bride and groom, for bride and groom were usually children. Parents arranged marriages in Middle Ages when their children were still very young. If love was involved at all, it came well after wedding had taken place. Girls were as young as twelve and boys as young as 17. The arrangements were not considered complete until a wedding notice was posted on door of church.
Marriages continued to be arranged during Renaissance. Boys could marry at age 14 and girls at 12, with their parent’s permission. The families from groom and brides side would come together and work out dowry.
In middle ages, marriages were arranged to improve socioeconomic status of parties involved. The brides family provided a dowry to boy she would marry. The dowry could be quite substantial, including cash, lands, or other valuable assets. Her future husband would have complete control over dowry forever. In
Italian marriages during Renaissance, dowry was most important part of pre-marriage ritual, but in Florence besides gifts from bride's family there were counter-gifts from her husband and his family. The ritual would go back and forth, giving gifts to those who gave gifts in response to previous gifts. The expense was so great that some men gave up on marriage or married at a much later time in their life when they could afford expense.
Unlike Medieval times, Renaissance dowry remained with bride her entire life. If she was widowed, she could return to her family with her dowry, but she would have to leave her children with her husband’s family.
In England, a marriage contract included provision both for bride's dowry and for a jointure, or settlement, in cash and property by husband's family, that guaranteed her welfare should her husband die first.
For most part church was involved in ceremonies that took place. The Council of Westminster had decreed in 1076 that no man should give his daughter or female relative to anyone without priestly blessing.
Weddings during middle ages were considered family and community affairs. It was important that both parties consented to marriage; this could be substituted with consent of parents. The ceremony was performed in church. Vows were exchanged outside church before everyone moved inside for mass. There was a procession both from and to bride’s home.
It was a custom in Medieval time that if groom was not from area he would buy a round of drinks for local young men to make amends for removing a local girl from marriage market. Guests would often bring cakes from home that would be stacked on top of each other. The newly weds would have to try to kiss over cakes without toppling them. This is origin of modern multi-tiered wedding cake.