Our Medieval wedding

Maggie Forest

For our wedding, we did not merely want a modern wedding in costume, rather we wanted to experience (to the extent that we ever could) the process of marriage in the Middle Ages. We were both interested in the 14th Century; before we began the process of research, we narrowed down the cast of players and their location and time. For more information on period weddings in general, see separate document "Pro Sponso et Sponsa".

In reality, we did have to compromise quite a bit on the actual wedding ceremony. We could have gone ahead and acted out the historic wedding, and then taken care of the legal requirement through a civic ceremony. However, we wanted a real wedding, in church; something more poignant than just ‘an act’, so we chose to compromise somewhat on the authenticity.

We are mundanely Lutheran Protestant; and a real catholic wedding was out of the question. We were also faced with the problem that while our personae were Danish, and we personally could have gone through the ceremony in that language, we were to get married in New Zealand where (aside from the trouble of finding a celebrant capable and willing) our friends would have been even more at a loss than if it had been done in Latin.

Our compromise was built on the facts that the first prayer books of England and Scandinavia very closely followed their Catholic predecessors, and that the Sarum rite had been deeply influential in Scandinavia. We consequently chose to use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1549, with some minor changes where the early Protestants had deliberately mistranslated, or where some older phrasing had been left out (and were deemed inoffensive by our celebrant). I have marked such changes in the text in bold text.

We did choose to leave in the references to the bride as the weaker vessel, demanding obedience and meekness. To us this simply enhanced the experience from a historical viewpoint; this was the world our personae would have lived in, after all.

Background setting

The year is 1365, and Asbjørn Pedersen Marsvin is a minor noble from the County of Ljunit in Skåne. The Danish king has recently reconquered Skåne, but regardless who is the worldly power at the moment (and it has varied wildly over the preceding decades) the Archbishop of Lund holds Ljunit (along with Herrestad next to it) with full royal privileges. As a result, the political confusion of the last few decades (and the few to come) has affected the area less than might have been expected. The plague however knows no mortal master, and it hit as hard here as anywhere else in the region. Rat-infested ships arrive every day in the prosperous merchant town of Ystad, perched between Ljunit and Herrestad.

Asbjørn’s family estate is around 45 hectares large, plus a small fishing village on the shore of the Baltic to the south. He has responded to the changed economic reality of post-plague Europe by splitting most of his estate up into tenant farms, leaving him free to pursue his main interest; the European tourney circuit. All over Europe, the changes away from the landowning class managing their own estates have created an idle nobility, and the chivalric ideal is flourishing. Pursuing the ideal is a costly affair, however, and the nobility of Europe is eyeing the growing wealth of the burghers, merchants and artisans with jealousy; despite sumptuary laws these noveaux-riche people are proudly displaying their wealth and coveting noble husbands for their daughters.

Marienna Jensdatter is the orphaned daughter of a wealthy merchant in Ystad, a trading city in the South of Skåne with ties to the Hansa. Her father, working closely with the local Hansa Kontor, made a lot of money trading grain and fish and salt, as well as ‘small goods’; luxury items from the continent. This despite the political problems of the era, which are felt more here in the royal city than in the surrounding rural area. Marienna inherited his flourishing business when the plague claimed Jens, and while she is a capable businesswoman, the future of her and her business presents a dilemma to her guardian and uncle Sir Ulf. Originally from Sjælland he left Denmark during the great Anarchy for the south of England where Marienna is now visiting her uncle.

The whole family has traveled to Canterbury Faire. Like most events of this size, there is not only plenty of trading going on but also tourneys. It so happens that Asbjørn Pedersen is also there, hoping to try his mettle in the jousts. That Asbjørn is a bachelor and from the immediate vicinity of Ystad is something that Marienna does not fail to mention to Ulf. She knows her uncle is trying to work out what he is to do with her; as far as she can tell his options are either to marry her off or move her to England. She would much prefer marrying someone who would allow her to continue running the business she has inherited while busying himself elsewhere. Asbjørn seems like a good prospect.

Ulf approaches Asbjørn and finds that the young man would quite possibly be open to the idea of a marriage to a wealthy, if common-born, young woman. Negotiations are opened at the fair, with encouraging results. Sir Ulf makes inquiries as to Asbjørn’s situation, and receives positive information. In addition, support for the union is sought and won.

By the end of the event a contract is agreed upon. It is read out at the closing meeting of the Fair. Witnesses include the local Baron as well as much other nobility. The contract regulates such things as the size of the dowry (quite substantial), the protection of Marienna’s fortune and the legitimacy of potential heirs, as well as the future relationship between the two families. A local scribe is hired to write it up, and have it signed.

To seal the contract, Asbjørn gifts his bride-to-be a rosary of gemstones.

The Betrothal 

The betrothal takes place three months later, at the festival of Rowany. The ceremony is brief enough; the standard protocol of Ulf gifting his niece to Asbjørn and a declaration of mutual consent is followed. It takes place after dinner at Ulf’s residence.

Ulf calls attention. When the witnesses gather, he reads the marriage contract and asks those present to witness both the validity of the contract and the ceremony about to take place. He then turns to Asbjørn.

"Asbjørn Pedersen Marsvin, I ask thee once, twice, and thrice, will you have this woman for your wife in the name of the Lord?"

"I will."

"Marienna Jensdatter, I ask thee once, twice, and thrice, will you have this man for your husband in the name of the Lord?"

"I will."

Sir Ulf now takes Marienna’s right hand and places it in Asbjørn’s right hand. "Then shall you be married on the eve of the feast of St. Cyril, on the twenty-sixth day of June this year, in the city of Ildhafn."

The couple then exchange gifts; the popular lovers’ brooches so prevalent in Europe at this time [1]. They are inscribed with ‘sans de partier’, another standard for the time.

The banns are read

Now the preparations for the wedding begin in earnest. The ceremony itself will take place in St Paul’s church, in midwinter. The banns are published three times, both in Ildhafn and Southron Gaard, the homes of the families of the groom and bride respectively [2]. There are no objections brought forward.

The Wedding 

The wedding takes place in conjunction with the large midwinter feast put on by the burghers of the City of Ildhafn. The feast hall is decorated in the colours of the two families.

The groom is led to the church in a procession of his (male) friends, displaying the symbols of his family and nobility. Asbjørn is not a ‘dominus’, a knight, but he is a noble and therefore his banner and sword precede him. He displays the banner he carries on the tourney fields, a golden bear supporting a bolt of lightning on a green field. He is dressed in fine brocade, as becomes a man of his station. Two attendants, carrying a candle and the dowry, and the Mayor of Ildhafn accompany him.

The bride too is brought to the church in a procession. At the head of the procession is her uncle’s banner (she of course does not have family arms, being of common stock), and musicians are playing dance music. She is preceded by an attendant carrying the paell, and followed by another carrying a candle. Sir Ulf and his wife follow.

Once there, the bridal parties enter and gather inside the doors of the church. They surround the couple and the priest during the wedding itself. The men stand to the right, the women to the left.

The priest welcomes the couple and speaks of marriage and how they should conduct themselves. He also, for the last time, reads the banns.

"Dearly beloved friends; we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honourable estate instituted of God in paradise, in the time of man’s innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union which is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate, Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Caana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men; and therefore not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Duly considering the causes for the which matrimony was ordained. One cause was the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and praise of God. Secondly it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication, that such persons as be married, might live chastely in matrimony, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body. Thirdly for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have of th’other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into the which holy estate these two persons present: come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined so together: Let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace"

After a suitable pause, he priest turns to the couple:

"I REQUIRE and charge you (as you will answer at the dread full day of judgement, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed) that if either of you do know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, that ye confess it. For be ye well assured, that so many as be coupled together other ways than God’s word doth allow are not joined of God, neither is their matrimony lawful."

The priest then asks Martin (we used our real names, since this is a legal ceremony):

"Martin, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordnance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health? And forsaking all other keep thee only to her [3], so long as you both shall live?

Martin answers:

"I will."

The priest then asks Maggie:

"Magdalena, Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordnance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health? And forsaking all other keep thee only to him, so long as you both shall live?"

Maggie answers:

"I will."

The priest asks: "Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"

Ulf steps forward, takes the bride’s right hand and places it in the priest’s hand, stating

"I give her to you in the name of the Lord". [4]

He then returns to his place.

The priest gives her hand to the groom, who takes it by the right hand. Holding each other right hand by right hand, they then speak the wedding oaths. Martin starts.

"I Martin take thee Magdalena to my wedded wife [5], to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, til death us depart: according to God’s holy ordnance [6]: And thereto I plight thee my troth."[7]

The couple then let go of each other’s hand for a moment, before the bride takes the groom by the right hand and declares:

"I Magdalena take thee Martin to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness. and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us depart: according to God’s holy ordnance: And thereto I give thee my troth."


They then let go of each other’s hands again. The box containing the rings, coins of gold and silver, and the church fee is placed on the Book.

The priest takes the ring, blesses it, hands it to the groom who places the ring in turn over the bride’s thumb, second, third and fourth finger of the right hand, and says:

"With this ring I thee wed: with this Gold I thee honour and with this gift thee endow [8]. In the name of the father [thumb], and of the son [second finger], and of the holy ghost [third]. Amen [fourth]."[9]

The bride places a ring on the groom’s finger.[10]

The priest then leads a short prayer.

"O ETERNAL God creator and preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace, the author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man, and this woman, whom we bless in thy name, that as Isaac and Rebecca (after bracelets and Jewels of gold given of th’one to th’other for tokens of their matrimony) lived faithfully together; So these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, whereof this ring given, and received, is a token and pledge. And may ever remain in perfect love and peace together; And live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen."

Next comes the ‘handfasting’. The priest joins the couple’s right hands, wraps his stole around them, places his own right hand over them, and says:handfast

"Those whom god hath joined together: let no man put a sunder."

Then he turns to the congregation.

"FORASMUCHE as Martin and Magdalena have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same here before god and this company; And thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving gold and silver, and by joining of hands: I unite you in wedlock in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." [11]

He then blesses them.

"God the father bless you. God the son keep you: God the holy ghost lighten your understanding: The lord mercifully with his favour look upon you, and so fill you with all spiritual benediction, and grace, that you may have remission of your sins in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen."

Rachael and Kelly go to light the candles from the Easter candle.


The couple get to their feet and hand the kneeling cushions to their attendants. They turn around and receive the candles from Rachael and Kelly, who then receive the kneeling cushions. Alys steps forward and begins the Beati Omnes [12], following F. Nick up the aisle. The banners turn and follow, then Mason, then Alma and Owen, Maggie and Martin, Rachael and Kelly, and everyone files in behind.



As they reach the altar area, they enter, Rachael and Kelly place the cushions in the correct spots, Maggie and Martin place the candles on the altar and return to their places and kneel. Everyone else lines up as before. Nina will direct people to their correct places.

Now comes the ‘church’ part of the wedding ceremony.

Minister. "Lord have mercy upon us."

Answer. "Christ have mercy upon us."

Minister. "Lord have mercy upon us. Our father which art in heaven, &c." And lead us not into temptation."

Answer. "But deliver us from evil. Amen."

Minister. "O Lord save thy servant, and thy hand-maid."

Answer. "Which put their trust in thee."

Minister. "O Lord send them help from thy holy place."

Answer. "And evermore defend them."

Minister. "Be unto them a tower of strength."

Answer. "From the face of their enemy."

Minister. "O Lord hear my prayer."

Answer. "And leat my cry come unto thee."

The Minister. "Let us pray."

"O GOD of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, bless these thy servants, and sow the seed of eternal life in their minds, that whatsoever in thy holy word they shall profitably hearn: they may in deed fulfil the same. Look, O Lord, mercifully upon them from heaven, and bless them: And as thou didst send thy Angel Raphael to Thobie [Tobit], and Sara, the daughter of Raguel, to their great comfort; so vouchsafe to send thy blessing upon these thy servants, that they obeying thy will, and always being in safety under thy protection: may abide in thy love unto their lives end: through Jesu Christ our Lord. Amen."

The Paell is now brought forward by the four attendants. It’s held over the couple while the Bride’s Blessing is spoken:


"O MERCIFUL Lord, and heavenly father, by whose gracious gift mankind is increased: We beseech thee assist with thy blessing these two persons, that they may both be fruitful in procreation of children; and also live together so long in godly love and honesty, that they may see their childers children, unto the third and fourth generation, unto thy praise and honour: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. O God which by thy mighty power haste made all things of naught, which also after other things set in order didst appoint that out of man (created after thine own image and similitude) woman should take her beginning: and, knitting them together, didst teach, that it should never be lawful to put asunder those, whom thou by matrimony hast made one: O god, which hast consecrated the state of matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his church: Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that both this man may love his wife, according to thy word, (as Christ did love his spouse the church, who gave himself for it, loving and cherishing it even as his own flesh;) And also that this woman may be loving and amiable to her husband as Rachel, wise as Rebecca, faithful and long lived [13] as Sara; And in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, bee a follower of holy and godhye matrons. O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom, through Jesu Christ our Lord. Amen."

The Paell is taken away and the attendants return to their places.

The priest then blesses the couple:

"ALMIGHTY god, which at the beginning did create our first parents Adam and Eve, and did sanctify and join them together in marriage: Pour upon you the riches of his grace, sanctify and bless you, that ye may please him both in body and soul; and live together in holy love unto your lives end. Amen."

The mass then continues as normal. In the place of the sermon, the following is read:

"ALL ye which bee married, or which intend to take the holy estate of matrimony upon you: hear what holy Scripture doth say, as touching the duty of husbands toward their wives, and wives toward their husbands. Saint Paul (in his epistle to the Ephesians the fifth chapter) does give this commandment to all married men."

Kelly steps forward to read:reading

"Ye husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and hath given himself for it, to sanctify it, purging it in the fountain of water, through the word, that he might make it unto himself, a glorious congregation, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and blameless. So men are bound to love their own wives as their own bodies: he that loveth his own wife, loveth himself. For never did any man hate his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord does the congregation, for wee are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shalbe joined unto his wife, and they two shalbe one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak of Christ and of the congregation. Nevertheless let every one of you so love his own wife, even as himself. Likewise the same Saint Paul (writing to the Colossians) speaketh thus to all men that be married: Ye men, love your wives and be not bitter unto them. Coloss. iii. Hear also what saint Peter thapostle of Christ, (which was himself a married man,) sayth unto all men that are married. Ye husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge: Giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as heirs together of the grace of life, so that your prayers be not hindered. i Pet. iii. Hitherto ye have heard the duty of the husband toward the wife. Now likewise, ye wives, hear and learn your duty toward your husbands, even as it listeningis plainly set Forth in Holy Scripture. Saint Paul (in the forenamed epistle to the Ephesians) teacheth you thus: Ye women submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the lord: for the husband is the wives head, even as Christ is the head of the church: And he also is the saviour of the whole body. Therefore as the Church, or congregation, is subject unto Christ: So likewise let the wives also be in subjection unto their own husbands in all things. Ephes. v. And again he sayth: Let the wife reverence her husband. And (in his epistle to the Colossians) Saincte Paul giveth you this short lesson. Ye wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is convenient in the Lord. Coloss. iii. Saincte Peter also does instruct you very godly, thus saying, Let wives be subject to their own husbands, so that if any obey not the word, they may bee won without the word, by the conversation [=behaviour] of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation, coupled with fear, whose apparel let it not be outward, with broidered here, and trimming about with gold, either in putting on of gorgeous apparel: But let the hid man which is in the heart, be without all corruption, so that the spirit be mild and quiet, which is a precious thing in the sight of god. For after this manner (in the old time) did the holy women, which trusted in God, apparel themselves, being subject to their own husbands: as Sara obeyed Abraham calling him Lord, whose daughters ye are made, doing well, and being not dismayed with any fear. 1 Pet. iii."

Then follows the Kiss of Peace. The priest confers it, Martin kisses Maggie, and they then turn to their respective halves of the congregation.


Next comes Holy Communion. After the priest has taken Communion, he administers it to Martin and then Maggie, after which they stand and join him to administer it to anyone who wishes to take the Sacrament. [14]

When they finish, they walk to the other side of the altar, where they sign the register. Owen and Ulf witness and then return to their places.


Martin and Maggie turn to face each other, holding hands as the priest says a final blessing, after which Veni Creator is sung. At the end of the song, Martin turns to the musicians to ask them to strike up the music and lead the way to the feast. The respective lines then follow Maggie and Martin around the altar, and head down the aisle behind the musicians. Father Nick brings up the rear.


When the couple arrive at the feast hall, a toast in mead is drunk to their union. The wedding party is seated at the High Table for the first course.


After this, a herald calls attention and reads out the sponsalicum. Asbjørn signs it and then hands it to Marienna, who falls to her knees in gratitude [15]. As she gets up, they embrace, and Marienna returns to her seat.


Sir Ulf steps forward and they do the fealty ceremony.


After the feast is over, the wedding party retires to the home of the newlyweds for the bedding.

The following day, a tournament is hosted by Asbjørn to celebrate the wedding. It is a tourney of the contemporary style, focusing strongly on acts of chivalry, and much less on winning anything. See separate document "Tourney".


For sources and back ground material, see "Pro Sponso et Sponsa"

[1] '7,000 years of Jewellery'

[2] "First the bannes must be asked three several Soondayes or holy dayes. in the service tyme, the people beeyng presente, after the accustomed maner."

"And if the persones that woulde bee married dwel in divers parishes, the bannes muste bee asked in bothe parishes, and the Curate of thone [the one] parish shall not solemnize matrimony betwixt them, withoute a certificate of the bannes beeyng thrise asked from the Curate of thother parishe. (BCP 1549)"

[3] This of course was a new concept in Northern Europe brought with the advent of Christianity. Male fidelity was an innovation that society was slow in accepting.

[4] This is a return to tradition. See Carlsson, "Jag giver dig min dotter."

[5] The Lund and Roskilde rituals (the most relevant for us) appear not to have used this wording, in fact only two of the Scandinavian Rites use the 'I take thee' (Accipiam te) phrase. However, since we couldn't find out precisely what was used in its place, we chose to go with what we knew.

[6] "and if the holy Church it will ordain" This statement was excluded by the protestants because of the connotations of 'the holy Church' as the Catholic Church.

[7] The oath of the York Rite was somewhat different again: "Here I take thee N. to my wedded wife, to have and to hold at bed and at board, for fairer for fouler, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, till death us do part and thereto I plight thee my troth"

[8] The Anglican rite says; ""With thys ring I thee wed: Thys golde and silver I thee give: with my body I thee wurship: and withall my worldly Goodes I thee endowe." The text we used is specified in the Lund Ritual, a fragmentary document which would have been the rite most likely used in our personae's wedding. "De isto annulo te sponso, et de isto auro te honoro et de ista dote te doto".

[9] It appears that in Scandinavia the ring was worn on the third finger, not the fourth, but we chose to stay with the familiar in this case.

[10] There is evidence in Sweden that the couple exchanged rings, but there is no mention of this in any of the Medieval Missals. Presumably the bride could give the groom a ring as a symbol of the marriage, but there was no blessing or ceremony surrounding this.

[11] This is our preferred version based on the Sarum ritual; the Anglican version would be:

"…I pronounce that they bee man and wyfe together. In the name of the father, of the sonne, and of the holy gost Amen." The Swedish Uppsala rituall did not use 'Ego vos conjuncta'.

[12] "BLESSED are all they that fear the lord, and walk in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands. O well is thee, and happy shalt thou bee. Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine, upon the walls of thy house. Thy children like the olive branches round about thy table. Lo, thus shall the man be blessed, that feareth the lord. The lord from out of Sion, shall so bless thee: that thou shalt see Hierusalem in prosperity, all thy life long. Yea that thou shalt see thy childers children : and peace upon Israel. Glory to the father, &c. As it was in the beginning, &c."

[13] The Sarum, and other catholic rites, use the term 'longaeva' here. Interestingly, the English protestant ritual (but not the Swedish) from the very beginning translated this word as 'obedient'.

[14] This is utterly non-medieval, very protestant and gave a personal touch which we rather liked.

[15] From the Lund ritual; "Tunc presidat ipsa ad pedes eius": then she falls to her knees before his feet. This was part of the wedding ritual, but we moved the whole endowment part out as a separate ceremony.