In the colonies, weddings were not religious ceremonies. Rather, they were a civil contract that set the responsibilities and duties of husband and wife. In the marriage contract, women were protected by law in some colonies, for instance, a law passed in 1641 forbade men from beating there wives unless "it be in self defence." It was also not unusual for many women to enter marriage with prenuptial contracts that would give her the right to retain control of her own property, or that it would return to her if the marriage dissolved.
On the more romantic side of weddings in Colonial America, brides and grooms often exchanged vows they had written themselves before starting the celebrations that could last for days. In the Southern colonies...my ancestors part of the colonies...the couple was usually married in the bride's family home by a minister. After the formal ceremony, there was feasting, dancing and drinking that sometimes lasted for days.
Contrary to popular belief, colonial girls seldom married in their teens. It was far more common for colonial women to marry between the ages of 20 and 23. The men were often older, sometimes in their mid to late twenties. It was a father's duty to see to it that all of his daughters were provided for in one way or another. While that sometimes meant arranged marriages, it was more common for a father to negotiate with the suitor of his daughters choosing.
Because life was difficult and life expectancy short, it was not unusual for a colonial man or woman to marry three of four times in their lives. While there were families with 10 to 15 children, it was more common for families to have seven or eight children. I found these marriage and family traditions to be a common thread among my Colonial Ancestors.
In researching and documenting the daughters of my 5xGreat Grandparents John and Mary Polly Rowe Pittman, the stories of their marriages, mixed with the historical events of the times, made each of their weddings and marriages a story worth telling. I hope you enjoy them and will be inspired to search beyond the names and dates of your ancestors, and be rewarded with a story of a life lived...for every life in your family tree is significant in time.
Click on the linked title for these Colonial Daughter Stories.