Weddings in ancient Rome

Let’s talk about weddings in ancient Rome. Ancient Rome, one of the most influential civilizations in history, left a cultural legacy that still endures today. Among the many facets of Roman life, weddings occupied a central place and were considered events of great social importance. These marriage ceremonies not only marked the union between two individuals, but also reflected the traditions, values and beliefs rooted in Roman society.

In this exploration of weddings in ancient Rome, we will dive into the preparations, ceremony and married life in this fascinating historical period. We will discover the rituals and symbolism surrounding Roman marriage unions, as well as the expectations and gender roles assigned to husbands and wives. In addition, we will examine the importance of descent and inheritance in Roman marriage, as well as the circumstances under which dissolution of a marriage was permitted.

As we delve into the world of weddings in ancient Rome, we will realize that, despite cultural and temporal differences, there are aspects that connect with our own understanding and practice of marriages today. Through this exploration, we hope to gain a deeper insight into the life and customs of ancient Rome, as well as reflect on the continuity and evolution of marital unions over time.

Weddings in ancient rome blog
Weddings in ancient rome blog

Wedding preparations

Betrothal (betrothal)

In ancient Rome, the betrothal, known as “betrothal”, was the first important step in the preparations for a wedding. The betrothal was generally celebrated before witnesses and represented a legal and moral contract between the two families involved. During this stage, the terms of the marriage, such as dowry and other financial arrangements, were agreed upon.

Dowry: Weddings in ancient Rome

The dowry played a fundamental role in Roman marriage negotiations. It was a financial contribution offered by the bride’s family to the future husband and was intended to ensure the wife’s financial security in marriage. The dowry could include property, land, slaves, jewelry and money. It was a crucial element in ensuring the wife’s stability and social status in her new family.

Choice of date

In ancient Rome, the choice of date for the wedding was of significant importance. The Romans were very superstitious and believed in the influence of the stars on people’s destiny. Therefore, priests were consulted and astral signs were observed to determine the most favorable day for the celebration. In addition, religious holidays and other cultural considerations were taken into account when choosing the wedding date.

Logistical preparations

In addition to the financial and astrological aspects, there were also logistical preparations to be made. This included securing a suitable location for the ceremony, which could be in the bride’s home or in a temple. They were in charge of the decoration arrangements, the supply of food and beverages, as well as the hiring of musicians and artists to liven up the wedding celebration.

In summary, preparations for a wedding in ancient Rome involved the engagement, the negotiation of the dowry, the astrological choice of date and the logistical arrangements for the ceremony. These steps reflected the social and cultural importance of Roman marriage, and laid the foundation for the union of two families and the conjugal life that would follow.

Wedding Ceremony


The wedding ceremony in ancient Rome was presided over by the pronuba, a married matron chosen for her good reputation and experience in marriage. The pronuba had a fundamental role in the union of the couple and acted as a witness and guarantee of the legality of the marriage.

Rituals and symbolism

  1. The exchange of rings: During the ceremony, the bride and groom exchanged rings as a symbol of their commitment and mutual fidelity. These rings were usually made of iron, as this material was believed to have protective powers.
  2. The giving of the bride: The bride was given to the groom by her father or legal guardian, symbolizing the transfer of her protection and responsibility to her new husband. This act was known as “traditio”.
  3. The bridal toga: The bride wore a white toga, known as “tunica recta”, which symbolized her purity and chastity. The toga was girded by a belt called “cingulum”.
  4. Sacrifices and prayers: Before the ceremony, sacrifices were made to the Roman gods to ensure divine blessing and the prosperity of the marriage. Couples also performed prayers and offered offerings at the altars of the gods.

The bridal party

After the ceremony, a nuptial festivity was celebrated, known as “nuptiae” or “convivium”. During this party, guests shared a banquet filled with food, wine and entertainment. Musicians and dancers were hired to liven up the atmosphere and games and theatrical performances were held to celebrate the occasion.

The wedding feast was a sign of the joy and celebration that accompanied the marriage union in ancient Rome. It was a time for the couple, their families and close friends to gather and express their support and happiness for the new union.

Married life in ancient Rome

Marriages in ancient Rome blog
Marriages in ancient Rome blog

Gender roles

In Roman married life, husbands and wives were expected to play specific roles. The husband, known as “pater familias”, was the head of the family and had authority over his wife, children and slaves. The husband had the responsibility to be the provider and protector of his family. On the other hand, the wife, known as the “matron”, had the duty of managing the household, raising the children and maintaining the virtue and reputation of the family.

Filiation and inheritance

In Roman marriage, the procreation of children was of paramount importance. Couples were expected to have offspring to ensure the continuity of the family and the transmission of inheritance. Having legitimate children was a way to ensure the family’s inheritance and social status. In cases of infertility, other arrangements, such as adoption, could be considered to maintain the family line.

Separation and divorce

Although marriage was considered a legally and morally binding contract in ancient Rome, there were circumstances in which dissolution of marriage was permitted. Divorce could be initiated by both parties, but it was generally more common for it to be requested by the husband. Some of the accepted reasons for divorce included infertility, adultery, disrespect or failure to perform marital duties. However, divorce was socially stigmatized and, in some cases, implied the loss of certain rights and benefits for both parties.

Interracial marriage

In ancient Rome, interracial marriage was neither common nor socially accepted. Roman society was strongly rooted in a stratified and hierarchical social structure, in which social status and ancestry were considered of great importance. Therefore, marriages were generally celebrated within the same social class and between people of the same ethnic descent.

However, as the Roman Empire expanded and established contact with other cultures and peoples, especially during the imperial era, there were isolated cases of intermarriage, especially between Romans and people from other regions under Roman rule. These intermarriages generally occurred in political or strategic contexts, such as diplomatic alliances or to establish closer relations with conquered provinces.

Arranged marriages

In ancient Rome, arranged marriages were a common and widespread practice. The choice of a spouse did not rest solely on individual desires and preferences, but was based on family, social and economic considerations. These marriages were arranged by the parents, guardians or legal representatives of the future spouses.

Arranged marriages served a variety of purposes, such as consolidating alliances between powerful families, ensuring the continuity of the family line and the maintenance of wealth and social status. Factors such as social class, ancestry, dowry and economic interests were taken into account when selecting a suitable spouse.

In many cases, individuals had little or no involvement in the choice of their partner. Decisions were made based on family interests and practical considerations. However, as the Roman Empire evolved and customs were liberalized, some individuals were able to have some influence on the choice of spouse.

It is important to note that although arranged marriages were the norm, this does not mean that there could not be affection or love between spouses. Over time, some couples could develop mutual feelings, but the main objective of these marriages was to ensure the stability, wealth and social position of the families involved.

Types of marriages

In ancient Rome, there were different types of marriages with specific characteristics and purposes. These include:

  1. Marriage cum manu: In this type of marriage, the wife remained under the full legal authority and power of the husband. The wife became part of the husband’s family and was subject to his authority in all aspects of life. This type of marriage was less common in the late period of Roman history.
  2. Marriage sine manu: In contrast to marriage cum manu, in this type of marriage, the wife retained her status and legality as a member of her family of origin. The wife was not under the total authority of the husband and maintained a certain legal and economic independence. This type of marriage was more common in Roman imperial times.
  3. Marriage of convenience: These marriages were based mainly on economic and social considerations, and were arranged by the families involved. The main objective was to secure alliances between powerful families, maintain social status or increase family wealth and patrimony. Individual desires and preferences were of little importance in this type of marriage.
  4. Love marriage: Although less common, there were also cases of marriages based on love and mutual choice. These marriages could occur when families gave their consent or when individuals defied social norms and married without the consent of their families. However, these marriages were less accepted by society and could face challenges and stigmatization.

These are some of the types of marriages that existed in ancient Rome. Each had its own characteristics and purposes, reflecting the social norms and values of the time.

Relevant bibliography

  • “El matrimonio romano: Iusti Coniuges de la época de Cicerón a la de Ulpiano”, de Susan Treggiari.
  • “Bodas romanas: La verdadera historia de cómo se celebraban” de John Clarke
  • “Matrimonio, divorcio e hijos en la antigua Roma”, por Beryl Rawson

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