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date: 23 April 2024

marriage ceremonies, Romanfree

marriage ceremonies, Romanfree

  • Gordon Willis Williams


  • Gender Studies

The favourite season was June. Usually on the previous day the bride put away her toga praetexta—she had come of age. Her dress and appearance were ritually prescribed: her hair was arranged in six locks (sex crines), with woollen fillets (vittae), her dress was a straight white woven tunic (tunica recta) fastened at the waist with a ‘knot of Hercules’, her veil was a great flame-coloured headscarf (flammeum) and her shoes were of the same colour. Friends and clients of both families gathered in the bride's father's house: the bridegroom arrived, words of consent were spoken, and the matron of honour (pronuba) performed the ceremony of linking bride's and bridegroom's right hands (dextrarum iunctio). This was followed by a sacrifice (generally of a pig), and (in imperial times) the marriage contract (involving dowry) was signed. Then the guests raised the cry of Feliciter! (‘Good Luck!’). There followed the wedding feast, usually at the expense of the bridegroom. The most important part of the ceremony then took place: the bride was escorted in procession to the bridegroom's house (deductio), closely accompanied by three young boys, whither the bridegroom had already gone to welcome her. The bridegroom carried her over the threshold to avert an ill-omened stumble; in the house she touched fire and water, was taken to the bedchamber and undressed by univirae (women who had known only one husband), and the bridegroom was admitted. Meanwhile an epithalamium might be sung. This is a generalized account of an upper-class wedding as it appears in literature. There could be many variations of detail and there could be different forms of marriage (see marriage law, Roman).


  • A most important source is Plut.Quaestiones Romanae: see the edition by H. J. Rose (1924), nos. 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 29, 30, 31, 65, 85, 86, 87, 105, and 107.
  • J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Roman Women (1962), 180 ff..
  • S. Treggiari, Roman Marriage (1991), ch. 5.