In this month of the Feast of St Valentine, when love and romance are hard to ignore, I thought I would add to the deluge by sharing with you some of fascinating history of wedding customs from early until recent times.

It is believed that Early English marriages had two parts - the first was known as ‘Beweddung’, or the betrothal in which the groom offered to the bride’s guardians a series of sureties known as ‘weds’ to guarantee that the bride would be looked after satisfactorily after the matrimonial ceremony.

This would be followed by the ‘Gifta’, the actual nuptials in which, at a public ceremony, the couple would join hands (the handfast) and exchange vows (plight their troth).

The bride would then be handed over by her family to the husband along with a sword, hat and mantle as symbols of authority. She would then go to her husband’s home to become his ‘wyf’.

On the morning after the consummation the bride would be given a morning gift.

At this time there were also ‘self-gifta’ ceremonies in which, in the absence of a guardian, the woman gave herself to the groom.

This may be because the parents of the couple were deceased or they were making second marriages. In this transaction, the partners would exchange ‘weds’, which instead of the sword, hat or mantle, were likely to be rings, coins or kisses.

Many friends would attend and an orator would dictate the solemn phrases of the ritual and guide the proceedings.

Buy the March copy of Smallholder for the rest of Maureen James' facinating article on the history of country weddings.