No one could marry more than one person at a time. For the first 500 years in Rome,
divorce was unknown. So, a great deal of care was taken selecting a
Both parties had to be adults, or at
least considered adults in the ancient roman world. Most probably, the groom had to be at least 14
years old, and the bride had to be at least 12 years old.
The bride and
groom could not be closed related. In general, marriage was forbidden
between relatives four times removed, and between anyone connected by
marriage. Thus, in ancient Rome, if you happened to fall in love with
your fourth cousin, or your sister's husband's brother, too bad!
Consent to the marriage had to be
shown. Consent was very important and consisted of three steps. First,
consent had to be shown in public prior to the wedding ceremony. One way
to show consent was for the future bride and groom to appear in public
holding hands! Consent was shown again during the wedding
ceremony, and once again at the door of her new home, before she
entered. More on consent below!
engagement period before the wedding was considered good manners, but it
wasn't a legal requirement. An engagement ring was usual, when
affordable. This ring was worn on the third finger of the left hand, as
it is today, because the ancient Romans believed that a nerve ran from
this finger directly to the heart! The ancient Romans invented the use
of rings as tokens of friendship and engagement.
woman brought into her marriage what goods her family could supply, or
goods she could supply herself. The bride's family might provide slaves,
clothing, jewels, furniture. These belongings became the property of her
Preparations: On the night before her
wedding day, the bride-to-be gave her bulla (her birth locket) to her
father, and gave her toys away to her family. She tried on her wedding
dress, which was straight tunic, woven in one piece, which had to be
long enough to reach her feet.
On the morning of her wedding day, the
bride was dressed by her mother. The most important part of her wedding
dress was a belt, tied around her waist in the "knot of
Hercules". (Hercules was the guardian of wedded life.) Only the
husband could untie this knot. Over her tunic wedding dress, the bride
worn a flame colored veil. The veil was topped with a wreath of flowers,
which the bride had to gather herself.
Ceremony: Only the three acts of
expressing consent were necessary. Everything else varied. The actual
ceremony was held usually at the bride's father house, with guests
There had to be witnesses to the ceremony
to make it legal, typically at least ten witnesses. The bride and groom
would stand before a priest, hold hands. The bride had agreed to the
wedding by appearing in public holding hands with her future
Once again, the bride had to consent to
the marriage during the wedding ceremony, this time by saying words of
consent in public. These words were a chant, and were the same words for
all brides and grooms. The bride would say: "Quando tu Gaius,
ego Gaia." (When-and where-you are Gaius, I then-and there-am
Gaia.) This chant may have been chosen for the lucky meaning of the
After the words of consent, the bride and
groom sat on stools, facing the alter. An offering was made to the god
Jupiter, which usually consisted of cake. Once the priest had made the
offering, this cake was eaten by the bride and groom. Then followed
congratulations by the guests.