Medieval wedding customs
Here's an overview of medieval wedding traditions, for inspiration!
Medieval wedding ceremonies
Medieval weddings didn't necessarily take place at church – at this time a wedding was a social and legal business rather than a religious one. The couple might get a priest to bless them afterwards, though. So if the wedding was performed by a priest, it was done on the steps of the church rather than in the church, then afterwards they went in to take mass.
In medieval times, once the couple were engaged they were considered as good as married. (Because of this, a lot of brides were already pregnant!) So an informal handfasting ceremony would fit a medieval theme just as well as a church wedding.
Medieval wedding celebrations
Medieval wedding celebrations were a mixture of ancient British and Roman customs. Some of our modern customs started here: for example, crusading knights brought back orange blossom, which is still a favourite for bridal flowers.
The core of the medieval wedding celebrations was the same as weddings everywhere – a big feast. Obviously alcohol was involved. In fact, the word 'bridal' is really a corruption of 'bride-ale' – in medieval times, the word 'ale' was used for any kind of celebration involving drinking, so the 'bride-ale' was the wedding feast.
In terms of the food, medieval people were big on meat, and not so fond of vegetables. Good news for the boys!
Medieval wedding entertainment
Dancing was a big part of any historical celebration, and weddings were no exception. Medieval music is relatively simple, and just a couple of musicians can provide wonderful medieval music for your wedding. The dancing can be really simple, too. One popular kind of medieval dance is the farandole, which is basically just like playing 'train' – everyone takes hands in a long line, and the person at the front leads off, running or skipping round the room, in waves, or spirals, or circles – they can go under the arches of hands as well if they like, weaving in and out.
The bedding ceremony
If you want real authenticity, this is a good way to go! But it's not for the faint-hearted…
At the end of the night, the wedding part would take the bride and groom off separately to get ready for bed. The women would take the bride to the bed chamber, where they would undress her, comb her hair, and then put her into bed, all the while giving friendly advice. The men would take the groom, who would undress and get into a dressing gown, and then they would bring him in to the bedroom, and make sure he got into bed with the bride. There would be a lot of joking and teasing; if there were a priest present he would bless the marriage bed for fertility, and then everyone would depart, leaving the bride and groom to consummate the marriage.
Medieval wedding flowers
Wreaths are the classic thing here. A medieval bride wore her hair loose – it symbolised virginity – and wore a wreath of flowers on her head.
Another interesting custom – pieces of the bride's attire were considered lucky, and so brides often wore ribbons tied to their dress, so that people could take away a ribbon for luck.