Through the Ages – Elizabethan Brides (16th Century)
A brief history
Can you imagine being able to get married at the age of 12?
In Elizabethan England girls could marry at this age and boys at the age of 14. Parents had to give their permission however and it was more likely that poorer families would allow their children to marry at this early age so that there would be more family embers around to help with general daily chores.
Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I)
Sir. Thomas More (advisor to the Queen) actually recommended that girls did not marry before the age of 18 and that boys waited until they were 22. This is the practice that most noble families followed although the children were often ‘promised’ to each other before this age to ensure a ‘good’ marriage for the family.
It was considered foolish to marry for love. Marriage was a contract between two families and it was only suitable if both sides could do well by it. The actual marriage contract made sure that the bride’s family could pay a dowry to the groom’s family and that the groom would make provisions for his wife should he die before her.
Love could come within a marriage. It was expected that after 2 people had been together for long enough that they would fall in love.
Women were considered to be the property of their husbands and although some women were by nature more independent than others were, all women were answerable to their husbands.
Women were expected to have children and once born, the children were the property of the parents. The children had to give the same respect to his or her parents as a servant would to his or her master.
Weddings in the Elizabethan period were much the same for both noble and humble families although of course the amount of money spent would be considerably different!
Many of the customs and traditions that are in practice today stem from the Elizabethan age and the bridal procession, bridesmaids carrying flowers and the actual exchanging of rings come from this era.
Elizabethan wedding dresses
Herbs were all the rage in Elizabethan times and this was probably due to the fact that baths and general hygiene were still practically unheard of.
Many people had lice and most had bad teeth. What a beautiful bride you would make if you smiled at your guests and all they could see was a mouth full of decaying teeth along with a flea jumping out of your hair!
Women in this era were found to be more attractive if they acted the part of a ‘faire maiden’ and this would involve wearing their hair down (most women in this period had waist length hair) with a middle parting and perhaps a few curls at the ends of the hair. A crown or small cap of herbs would be worn for the wedding day and this would more than likely consist of thyme, rosemary and lavender.
Brides would wear big dresses! The body would be corseted, and many petticoats underneath the dress itself would allow for a huge a balloon like skirt. The top half of the dress would make sure that lots of cleavage would be shown. Heavy gold or silver brocade would be used for the dress along with rows of tiny buttons. Some women wore white but this was not such a popular choice at this time.
A bridal posy
The bride would carry a bouquet of herbs in the shape of a ball or a pomander and a beautiful piece of ribbon would be attached to it to act as a handle. The perfume from the pomander would make the air around the bride pleasant smelling.
Her bridesmaids would carry smaller herbal posies and the herbs used would often be individual for each bridesmaid. This would ensure that different smells would infuse the air and that the colours would complement each other.
The typical colours used for a wedding in this period were golds and dark greens as well as deep yellow and dusky pink.
The aisles of the church would have an herbal posy tied to the pew and the candelabras would also have some herbs attached somehow as would table settings for the wedding feast.
Elizabethan brides took every opportunity to dress to impress and the wedding day was one of great celebration, even if the bride and the groom were not in love!
Another through the ages article coming soon…