While attending weddings, many of us don't realize that they are among the oldest
traditions which have come down to us from rituals so ancient that their origin emerges
only vaguely from the myths of history.
Some form of marriage has existed as far back in antiquity as history can penetrate and
there is no doubt that some sort of pairing existed even before recorded history.
From the most primitive cultures through our present civilization, a ceremony has marked
the union between a man and a woman. Usually the ceremony was religious in character, in
some cases magical and today, more and more simply social.
We have come a long way in the choice of marriage evolution. In primitive times, the
selection of a mate seems to have been a matter of free choice with the male as wooer, and
the female accepting or rejecting. Among warlike tribes, marriage by capture was common
because of social and military honor attached. Then a wife-purchase custom developed among
ancient tribes. A marriage pact was arranged by the parents of girls and boys on a
business deal basis. Property and valuables were exchanged under the term
"bride-pride". This custom has survived through the years, and still exists
today in some cultures.
The Romans early recognized three forms of marriage. First, the patrician families were
granted a religious form which was solemnized by the Pontifex Maximus in the presence of
ten witnesses. The second form took place among the plebeians. The marriage was in the
form of a mock sale of both parties. The third form was the usus. It started among the
lower class but eventually prevailed in all strata of society. Through this form, the
woman was given in marriage into the hands of her husband who acquired thereby all rights
over her person and property.
And finally a word about one of the oldest traditions: the honeymoon.
In the caveman era, once the man had abducted his bride, he kept her carefully hidden
until her fathers tribesmen gave up the pursuit and permitted their tempers to cool.
Among certain northern European peoples in early centuries, a newlywed couple drank a wine
made of mead and honey for a month after their marriage. In those days, a month was also a
"moon" and therefore this period of time became known as the honey-moon.