Most of what we consider a “traditional” marriage (by today's standards) – was evolved directly from the ceremonies of The Medieval Era. The process of marriage was originally NOT one of love. It was a political move (in most cases). If “love” or even “friendship” developed – it was a “plus”. Most Princes and Princesses were “promised” or even “married” WITHOUT ever meeting each other. These “arranged marriages” were devised to bring together rival Kingdoms and seal Pacts of Defense. In addition, especially in wealthier Kingdoms – large amounts of monies were exchanged. Often, such marriages could stop (or avert) a War. Royalty and Noble People married with great pomp and ceremony. Such events were sanctioned by The Church. In the case of Commoner's – marriage was not an “alien notion”. Their ceremonies were simple affairs. As time progressed, they began to emulate “Noble Weddings”.
In the case of a “Noble or Royal Wedding”, (assuming both were NOT promised as infants), the age of the Girl was to be 12. The Boy was set at 17. The Girl had to provide a monetary gift called a “Dowry”. This “gift” was set depending on the Region and culture of the time. This Dowry remained the property of The Boy (even if the marriage was annulled). A brief ceremony was conducted at the Altar of the local Church. Both Parties stood (with the Girl on the left and the Boy on the right). This positioning symbolized the biblical “Adam and Eve” (of which Eve came from Adam's left side). The Priest would request any prohibitions to the marriage. The Groom was then expected to pay a “fee” for his marriage. This was a “promise” that he would not “back out” of the agreement. The two would depart and have NO CONTACT for a 40-day period. This was intended to serve 2 purposes. First, to allow sufficient time for an prohibitions to be made known, and to see if the Groom would “honor” his “verbal agreement”. IF the Groom (the Bride had not such address) – withdrew his “pledge”, he could – but he would have to pay a “fine” normally 4 times the amount of his “Altar Fee”. Notwithstanding, during the 40-day Period, a written announcement was posted on The Church door (or Outer Gates). The Letter of Prohibition gave all who wished the right to contest the Nuptials. Examples of prohibitions could be: not the proper age or Consaguinity (meaning both Parties were too closely related). Rape and adultery were also considered factors.
After the 40-day (and usually within the week prior), The Bride's Maid of Honor would spent this time preparing everything that was needed for the ceremony (much as a Modern Wedding Planner). The Bride always wore blue. In The Middle Ages, this color was considered “pure” (not White). At the actual ceremony, Nobility would stand before The Church Altar, were the Priest would verbally “affirm” The Letter of Prohibition and begin the Ceremony of Union. The wording of today's “Vows” have NOT changed much. Next, to symbolize the Union of the 2 Houses or Kingdoms – a plain Gold Ring was placed on both Parties hands. This was the primary practice that Commoners so emulated (and remains today). The use of precious stones was considered “inappropriate”. Next, (for Nobles) – a huge Feast was held. The Couple would be given a special “Spiced Wine”.
Later, prior to The Bride's supposed “consumation”- she would be given a special tonic called a “Bride's Broth”. As time went one, MANY additions to the common marriage were introduced. Many Crusading Knights returning home began to incorporate the Middle Eastern custom of “The Bridal Veil” This was originally considered to ward off “The Evil Eye”. The fashion took. It was also considered “lucky” (especially among Commoners) to try and get a piece of The Bride's gown. Often, poor Common Bride's would have their dresses shredded for this custom. Finally, Nobles (again coming back from The Crusades), brought the customs of “Garland Flowers” or Bouquets. Used in some Middle Eastern Countries, flowers were seen as good luck in marriage. The Bride would wear such Flowers in a ring around her hair. Later, they were incorporated in Bouquets (and thrown to potential Brides).