Day 22 18th Century Weddings


18th Century Weddings

I was going to call this 18th century marriage, but after a conversation with Jason, my local butcher in Bridgnorth, who takes an interest in my stories, I changed my mind. Talking it over with him made me think I’d just stick to the wedding ceremony, as the results of so many marriages were so often not what readers might enjoy.

wedding bands

My hero and heroine make a marriage of convenience in my story A Gentleman’s Folly. At first examination it appears Charles is not quite the rogue he may seem for he pays for a proper wedding. Though not a romantic affair at least it’s not a cheapskate Fleet wedding that might prove invalid.

I told myself that, after all you have to find some good in your hero, even if he is a scallywag, but I was proved wrong and here’s why. My story is set in 1754. The date is significant because in that year the new marriage act of 1753 became law. Charles wasn’t being thoughtful; he simply didn’t have a choice. The marriage act of 1753 came about to stop quick, cheap and often clandestine marriages occurring anywhere and not only in the precincts of the Fleet prison in London. So, Charles had to pay for a special licence, provide witnesses and be prepared to sign the clergyman’s book.

He does offer Katherine a ring of sorts too. The ceremony takes place before noon and inside the church. This too was another stipulation of the marriage act. Previously couples had been wed in the church porch and before that at the church gate.

Church kissing gate

This is what is known a kissing gate.

Katherine obviously wears her best gown for the occasion. A wedding gown as we might think of it didn’t become fashionable until well after this period. It was Queen Victoria who made white wedding gowns the fashion when she married her beloved Albert in 1840. Wealthy ladies in the 18th century would have a special gown made but it would follow the most fashionable at the time and could be any colour. There are museums with exquisite examples of such gowns. If you follow this link you can view  the kind of gown fashionable at the time.

Most ordinary women would wear their best dress, but it would be one that would be functional after the wedding. As clothes were so costly ordinary people couldn’t afford the sentiment of keeping by a frock as relic of the joyful occasion.

Charles purchased a new coat for the occasion. Sadly, he wore it the night before and it had a mishap or two in the joyous celebrations at the Cross Keys Inn.

The exchange of vows between Charles and Katherine are the traditional ones, and yes, she promises to obey, but as Katherine would happily point out, it’s just ceremonial. As Katherine’s father is not present at the ceremony she is given away, by her good friend Sir Francis.

The solemn ceremony is sealed with the traditional kiss. Again purely a sham and I don’t blame Katherine for that at all.

The clergyman’s book being signed the pair are ready to depart the church as man and wife. The final seal of this bond of marriage is however, quite another thing.


6 thoughts on “Day 22 18th Century Weddings

  1. The sentence about cheap clandestine weddings out side prisons is a real teaser. Why? What for? Did it stop someone being hanged? I look forward to reading more about this aspect of the time. I think having a wedding frock you can wear later is such a sensible idea. I wish it was still in vogue.

    • Thanks for dropping by Virginnia. I’ll try to find out more about the Fleet marriages for you. I think the main motivation was cheapness and
      no questions asked. Good questions. Thanks.

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