A Medieval French Wedding

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During medieval times in France, there were no standardized religious rites practiced by the church. Each region maintained their own traditions. Fortunately we have a manuscript from the cathedral of Bordeaux which narrates the ritual of the archdiocese in 1460.

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The priest presiding over the ceremony would dress in his vestments and accompanied by his attendant, meet the couple at the door of the church. In a mixture of Latin and the local French dialect, he would bless the bride and groom with holy water and then unite them on the spot. The foremost portion of this ceremony was the blessing of the thirteen coins which denoted the dowry and of the ring which the groom gave the bride.

After the blessing of the ring, the groom would place it on the bride’s thumb and say “In nomine Patris” (In the name of the father), then on the index finger “et filii” (the Son) and then on the middle finger saying “et Spiritus Sancti” (and the Holy Spirit). The groom would then put the ring on her wedding ring finger saying in his local dialect “Io te esposy, molher” (I marry you, wife). The priest would lead the couple by the hands into the church, up to the high altar where mass would be celebrated. At some point during the service, a veil would be held over the couple and the priest would bless them again. The use of this veil was customary throughout medieval France and the use of it only began to fade during the seventeenth century.

If nobility were celebrating the marriage, the ceremony would be followed by sumptuous celebrations that might last for several days. There would be banquets and dances. Sometimes jousts would be performed going into the late fourteenth century and during the fifteenth century. Surviving household accounts from many royal and ducal houses reveal many details of the expenses for these events. While the ceremony itself was simple, no expense was spared for the celebrations afterwards.

Further reading: “Tales of the Marriage Bed from Medieval France (1300-1500)” by R.C. Famiglietti

 

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