Religion during the Renaissance

The Church of Rome

The Catholic Church during the early Middle Ages had a much more relaxed attitude towards the wedding ceremony. Renaissance wedding ceremonies may not have had clergy present at the time of the betrothal. Ceremonies called handfastings were popular in some parts of medieval Europe, with the couple exchanging vows as simple as, "Would you marry me?" Some ceremonies would be held outside, in a parent's home, or even a tavern, where vows and gifts would be exchanged. The couple would later go to the Church door to have the marriage blessed by the clergy, or the priest would stop by the newlyweds' house and bless the union there.

The Renaissance brought more control over the ceremony and decrees were issued that only marriages performed with a church official present would be declared valid. Nuptial Masses made Sunday the traditional wedding day. The processional would lead the newlyweds into the church. Women would sit on the left side of the church and men sat on the right. The bride would be blessed under a "Pall," a silken cloth traditionally carried by four unmarried persons. The "Bride's Blessing" was only allowed only once in her life and only if the woman was of childbearing age. This blessing has Roman pagan origins, and used to prepare the bride for her new life.

Wedding customs meant agreements or contracts were drawn up describing the rights of both the bride and groom. Medieval marriage ceremonies and celebrations depended largely on the social class of the bride and groom. Inheritance and property were usually two reasons why arranged marriages were contracted.