Renaissance Wedding Ring- Amethyst Gothic Rings
This is a basic, white Renaissance wedding dress.
Marriage & Divorce

The Elizabethan Era, named after Queen Elizabeth, also known as the Renaissance, was from 1550 to 1650. During this time period life is very different than it is today. Society's view on marriage changed from originally being viewed as having a young adult's suitor chosen by their parents, to allowing the young adult to have a little more say in who they married. Marriage was seen as a union for life; separation or annulments were very rare, costly, and and a responsibility for the husband and wife to share together equally as one disciplined, respectable family. Marriage became a longer thought out courtship, roles in the home changed, and annulments became costly, unusual, and disgraceful.

Marriage Process

The dictionary defines marriage as "a relationship in which two people have pledged themselves to each other in the manner of a husband and wife, without legal sanction." During the Renaissance marriage was seen as a responsibility that a husband and wife shared as one disciplined, respectable couple. Marriage was also directly associated with establishing an independent house (Kinney 252). "Among all classes the marriage process was followed a similar path. First, a betrothal was held, during which the couple announced before witnesses their intentions to marry. Because betrothals were legally binding, it was deemed socially acceptable to engage in sex" (Andrews 88). Similar social status and wealth married (467). "Looks and love were not taken into consideration when choosing whom to marry, instead money was" (88). Once a suitor was chosen a long courtship would occur. During the male gave many gifts. He would give a ring on his first visit. Other common gifts were handkerchiefs, gloves, garters, bracelets, half a coin, and locks of hair (Singman 50). Once a date was set an announcement of the couple's intent to marry was announced three weeks prior to the service to allow people to give reason with substantial evidence as to why this couple should not marry (50). The wedding could be pushed back if enough money was not saved up.

Roles in the House

The husband's role in the house was to provide his family with its basic needs and with any luxuries within his means. Discipline was also a responsibility of the husband because "he was supposed to be the master within the marriage". Some husbands/fathers handled this responsibility in a respectable. loving- way, but others abused this responsibility. (Olsen 464). He was held responsible for how his wife and child(ren) acted in public. If his wife acted out in public a husband "could not legally kill their wife, but they could do almost anything else, including beating with fists, feet, or sticks; rape; and confiscation off all the wife's possessions (464).

"The women's role was, ideally, to have children, care for the children, keep the house in as thrifty and effecient manner as possible, supervise the servants, and keep her husband happy" (465). A wife could not sue or own property. She essentially was property of her husband.


Divorce in Elizabethan society was looked down upon, since marriage was viewed as a commitment to your spouse for life. In 1604, if you left your family for an extra-marital affair it was considered a felony...A nullity could be granted for incest (common because of affinity and consaguinity), because of a pre-contract, because of lunacy or male impotence (which prevented intercourse and therefore took away the official reason for marriage, the production of heirs), in case of bigamy or in the case of the kidnapping and marriage of an heiress by the use of force (a criminal offense)...In England, divorce was not possible unless one spouse was out of the country for seven years or more.At that point the spouse was assumed dead and the other spouse could remarry without receiving any penalties (Emerson 66). During this time divorces were very costly. A women could not leave a dis functional marriage easily. If a divorce was granted without meeting any of the requirements (which rarely happened) the spouses were not permitted to marry again.


Marriage and divorce in the Elizabethan time period compared to today's society have some similarities and differences. The roles in the house have stayed similar and so has the marriage process. Divorces have become more common in today's society.

A family dressed how a traditional Elizabethan family would.