+9 votes

I ran across a section in " THE RECORD SOCIETY OF LANCASHIRE AND CHESHIRE FOUNDED TO TRANSCRIBE AND PUBLISH ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS RELATING TO THE TWO COUNTIES VOLUME CXLVI" on page xxxi, an informative description of the tradition of handfasting.

However, until 1645 all that was required for a marriage to be valid was a mutual exchange of vows (the ‘plighting of troth’) to the effect that they would remain faithful as husband and wife and that there was no legal imped­iment to their marriage. This was usually in front of witnesses, often directed by a third party, with a ceremonial taking of hands or ‘handfasting.’ It is apparent from these depositions that the parties to these informal ceremonies would endeavour to perform these using similar language to the official Church service, presum­ably with the idea that this would give them a greater validity - one deponent, for example, testifies to the following words being used: ‘I margarett take the Thomas to my weddid husband, to have and to hold, for better for worse, in sicknes and in healthe, as hollie Churche will hit ordeyne and therto I plight the my trouthe’.85

 While we exhaust ourselves trying to find a proof of marriage in early records, the origins of handfasting as a form of marriage predate ecclesiastical law. This tradition was likely brought to America by settlers and served as a marriage ceremony in the absence of clergy. According to the publication, it wasn't until the 16th century that a marriage should be "conducted and sanctified by the Church."

Just thought I'd share this with anyone else who hadn't heard the term "handfasting." I think it's something to consider when all other possibilities are exhausted searching for a marriage record.

in The Tree House by Victoria English G2G6 Mach 3 (39.3k points)
Even in England, in the medieval days, all it required for a couple to get married was a solemn vow of marriage to each other, followed by the consummation. No witness no clergy,  that was it, but the wise bride did get herself some witnesses, incase the groom denied it later . There are several very famous cases in England,  one which brought Richard III to the throne, as he alleged that his brother Edward IV had been married  to Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville. In that case there was allegedly one witness to the marriage.
Irregular marriages were recognised under Scottish law, up until as late as 2006. Look at the Marriage in Scotland article in Wikipedia. That is why English couples eloped to Gretna Green which is just over the Scottish Border where they could be married by a blacksmith.

2 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
Very interesting in deed! Thank you Victoria for sharing this with us. I guess people needed a way to get Married in the absence of Clergy.
by Shaun Doust G2G6 Pilot (345k points)
selected by Susan Laursen
+4 votes
Cool find, Victoria. I never knew this.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)

Related questions

+2 votes
1 answer
34 views asked 4 days ago in Genealogy Help by Frank Bax G2G6 (8.3k points)
+6 votes
2 answers
+7 votes
1 answer
+10 votes
9 answers
496 views asked Jul 2 in The Tree House by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)
+3 votes
3 answers
+9 votes
1 answer
+13 votes
1 answer
+6 votes
4 answers
223 views asked May 7 in Policy and Style by Liz Shifflett G2G6 Pilot (464k points)
+6 votes
3 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright