The History of Marriage – How It All Began

It was not always like this – bridal shower, asoebi ladies, online invites, groomsmen and bridesmaids – and all the other shenanigans associated with weddings. The institution of marriage has come a long way, just like everything else.

You may be wondering who the first legally married couple were. Did everyone have to recite the same wedding vows or was it different for every couple? How were the guests invited to weddings? So many questions.

From my research, I can tell you it was not always like this. This article highlights the reason for marriage, as well as cultural, community, fashion, food and ceremonial trends associated with marriage.

How Old Is The Institution Of Marriage?

If I knew the exact names of the first wedded couples, I would have told you, but research suggests that the first wedding took place in Mesopotamia, about four thousand years ago.

There was indeed human interaction and living before then, so how did they live together if not by marriage? Anthropologists believe that families stayed together in small groups, loving and looking out for one another. Lifestyle advancements created the need for structure and this birthed the institution of marriage.

Why Did People Marry?

1. Offspring:

The main purpose of marriage was to raise a family by bearing biological children. It was normal for men to marry as many wives as possible. The Romans and Greeks satisfied sexual urges with prostitutes and concubines. Their children were also counted as part of the family.

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2. Expansion:

People came together under the umbrella of marriage to preserve the family name. A big family was the real deal as it was the quickest way to expand the family labor force. Connections were important and stronger when bonded by family.

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Acquiring in-laws was a huge part of this mission to enlarge family ties. Marriages were based on mutually beneficial arrangements involving exchange of valuables like wealth, money, land or titles.

The tradition of a father giving off his daughter as a wife was valid at the genesis of marriage. If the wife or wives failed to produce offspring, the husband was free to return or replace them. In other words, love was not on the list as a reason for marriage.

Marrying For Love

The idea of marrying for love dates as far back as the Middle Ages by the French. For instance, a princess stuck in the topmost part of the highest tower, caged by a dragon awaits her one true love who is called the knight in shining armor. He slays the dragon and sets her free and they live happily ever after.

For the knight, it was a test of his capability and strength, while the princess in the tower demonstrated her steadfast love and appreciation. After establishing contact , an appreciation of beauty came next. The knight showers praises on the princess who is said to have golden hair, cherry-red lips and comely eyes.

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Dominance and Ownership in Marriage

In the late eighties, the British colonial masters went to America in a bid to imbibe and transform their culture. At this time, polygamy was a thing in America alongside the concept of ownership. This is termed Coverture.

Coverture means that the newly wedded wife is completely sold out to the husband. Rights to have her own opinions, choices, identity, and name are transferred to her husband upon marriage.

Therefore, the husband is acknowledged as the representative of both parties at every place and time. The fundamental human rights of women were limited, and this reflected in marriage laws. American females married to foreigners forfeited their citizenship automatically.

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Evident Change Begins

Gradually, the laws were reviewed. Interracial marriage became accepted. Marital rape was reviewed and put in check. In 1919, formal weddings became the norm. There was a high demand for caterers, florists and wedding planners (imagine what they would have done with access to a platform like Naija Cupid Weddings!)

Fashion was also greatly influenced. Men’s attire evolved from black hats to flowers in chest pockets while wedding gowns sported slightly fitted sleeves in lieu of puffy ones. The next few lines will even interest you more.

There was a certain trend in which brides and bridesmaids dressed the same way, especially in monochrome striped gowns. There was nothing to differentiate the bride from the bridesmaids. It was believed that by doing this, they were able to confuse evil spirits about the real identity of the bride. Haha! What a wawu. This got me laughing hard.

Let’s talk about wedding pictures. Wedding photography began in 1928 during the patent of the first photographic film. Photographers were invited to set up their film developing machines (now called cameras) before the ceremony commenced.

Marriage And The Church.

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Between 1924 and 1927, couples started finding ways to publicize their weddings. The public needed to know who was getting married to who. So, they would announce engagements and upcoming weddings in newspapers.

In Europe, citizens saw marriage as a civil institution and they needed a binding force on the union. This most likely explains why Christians began to conduct their marriages through church ministers. When the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed marriage as a sacred act ordained by God, registry involvement became a part of the marriage rites.

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Some pagan marriage traditions however, managed to evolve with the times. For instance, modern brides throw their bouquets with their backs turned towards the crowd at their wedding reception. This is a tradition that has stood the test of time.

In some parts of 18th Century Europe, a loaf of bread or biscuit is broken over the head of the bride as she walks out of the church. While this happens, the guests scramble on the floor for crumbs. Successful single-and-searching guests hold their crumbs tight till they get home. These crumbs are then put under their pillows until the god of marriage notices them. I wonder if the ants got to them before Cupid.

The rites of marriage seem to get better as time progresses and rites considered to be superfluous have been discarded. The highs and lows of wedding ceremonies are all embellishments to spice up vows, union, and history.

What are some interesting facts you know about marriages and weddings? Do share in the comment section.

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