Marriage in the 1800’s. Ins and Outs

This posts is generally to explain what went into a marriage when a woman and man get hitched. More detailed information can be found on Spartacus EDU website.

Who’s is who’s?

  • Money
    • Women in the upper middle class would primarily rely on their men for the rest of their lives when married.
    • Women would have a dowry (fortune or property) and once they were to marry the dowry would go to the husband/family.
  • Responsibility
    • Men were responsible for all financial details of the women.
    • In return the women were responsible for everything else.
    • It is duly noted that the men, as written in the wedding vows, were entitled to everything a women had, including her body.
    • Secondly women were strictly instructed to take care of the home, children and everything that the husband owned.

All in all women had the short end of the stick, coming from a bias 21st century point of view. But never the less this is what the Bennett girls were looking forward to when the tie the knot. This is also why Mr. Bingley and company made fine bachelors. The wealth would set these women on the right path.

Wmarriage spoof

Courtship and Marriage in the Regency Period

Searching for a husband during this time period was critical for a young women’s future. The man who was in search of a wife had the responsibility of winning over the women. Prior to an engagement, the man and woman could not:

  • Converse privately or be alone in a room
  • Travel unchaperoned in a carriage
  • Call one another by their Christian names
  • Give gifts to one another
  • Write letters to one another
  • Dance more than two sets together
  • Touch intimately

Private balls and public assemblies were a way for couples to meet. While dancing, (gloved) hands could be held. Under the watchful eye of the elders in the room, the young men and women were able to show their talents. Partners that became interested in each other were able to become better acquainted on chaperoned walks. Once the man knew his feelings were reciprocated, the next step was to ask permission of the lady’s parents. Once this was done, arrangements for the proposal could be made. The women was likely to say yes because denying the proposal looked bad on the women’s part. The engagement was seen as a contract and breaking this contract was forbidden for the man. The woman could only change her mind after carefully considering it.

Rules Governing Marriage

To marry legally, a couple needed a license and the reading of the banns. (Banns– A legal requirement for Church of England weddings. Your intention to marry is announced by your minister on three Sundays in the three months before the weeding.) If either of them were under the age of 21, they needed parental consent. The ceremony had to be held in a church or chapel. During this period, weddings were mostly private. It was not considered mandatory for the bride to wear white. The color of the dress was personal preference.

Regency Ball
Wedding during Regency Period

“Return to Historical Research Index.” Courtship and Marriage in the Regency Period. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.



3 thoughts on “Marriage in the 1800’s. Ins and Outs

  1. This is great start on generating some information about the 19th century. P&P is set a bit earlier than this page’s focus, so perhaps someone could add more links to information on marriage in the Regency era?


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