Giving away the bride: a brief history

Contemporary marriage ceremonies are laden with ritual symbolism, some dating as far back as the middle ages. A print, which was recently discovered in the library of an ancient estate in England, will bring new meaning to the custom of “giving away the bride.”

The tradition was originally thought to have evolved over hundreds of years in patriarchal societies, which considered female offspring personal property. The ceremony was a transfer of ownership to the groom, with guests acting as witnesses to the contract.

This engraving clearly depicts a man, presumably a father, giving away a young woman at a public ceremony. She is being led through the onlookers to the platform, with her hands tied behind her back. There, her suitor awaits. Should she disagree with union the option to hang is available, as the ceremony is taking place at the gallows.

Today, a father “gives away” his daughter to a groom of her choosing, in an act meant to express his blessing or approval.


One Response to “Giving away the bride: a brief history”

  1. I really like the relationship between these images. While talking to my mother yesterday, she slid in a fact that a friend from elementary school has just had a baby. Interesting fact? They are slid in to every conversation. Hints at marriage and reproduction being the ultimate measure of success for a woman. It makes me feel like I’m walking toward the gallows.

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