Roman Weddings - the Wedding Day
The Romans believed that certain days were unfortunate for the performance of the marriage rites due to various religious observances. Days not suitable for weddings were the Kalends, Nones, and Ides of every month, the whole months of May and February and on various festival days. The date of the wedding day was never fixed upon without consulting the auspices.
Roman Weddings - the Wedding Ceremony
The first part of the ceremony took place at the house of the bride's family. The bride's parents would, of course, watch for omens and if all looked well, they would hand over the bride to the groom. There would be some verbal exchange to the effect of "Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia," "Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia." The pronuba, the matron of honor, would then join the couple's hands. The new couple would offer up a sacrifice which was usually a pig. The tabulae nuptiales, marriage contract, which had been drawn up beforehand, would be presented by the auspex, who was both the priest and the best man. The marriage or wedding contract would then be signed by the required number of witnesses. Farreum was a form of marriage, in which certain words were used in the presence of ten witnesses, and were accompanied by certain religious ceremonies. The cena, wedding breakfast which was paid for by the groom, was eaten. Wedding gifts were given; and preparations for the wedding procession were made.
Roman Weddings - the Wedding Procession
In the evening the wedding procession moved from the bride's home to the groom's home. The wedding couple and guests would enact the scene of the seizure of the Sabine women - the bride would clutch her mother's arms, but be ripped away by the groom. Three boys with both parents living, escorted the bride while the other guests shouted "Talasio," "hymen hymenaee," and other obscenities and jokes. One of these boys would carry a spina alba, a special wooded torch lit from the bride's hearth. Walnuts were thrown, symbolizing the hoped-for fertility of the bride. The groom took part in singing the Fescennine verses and lighting the torches. Since the groom had to be at his house before the bride arrived in order to greet her there, the procession itself split. The bride was conducted to her future home, preceded by the priests, and followed by her relations, friends and slaves carrying presents of various domestic utensils.
Roman Weddings - 'Stepping over the Threshold'
The door of the bridegroom's house was hung with garlands of flowers. When the procession arrived at the groom's house, the torches were traditionally thrown away. Next, the bride rubbed the doorway with fat and oil and wreathed it with wool, reinforcing her role as domestic wife. She was then lifted over the threshold, or gently stepped over, it being considered ominous to touch it with her feet, because the threshold was sacred to Vesta the goddess of Virgins.
Roman Weddings - the New Home and the Wedding Feast
When the bride entered her new home the keys of the house were given to the bride, to denote her being entrusted with the management of the family, and both she and her husband touched fire and water to intimate that their union was to last through every extremity. The bridegroom then gave a great supper to all the company. This wedding feast was accompanied with music and dancing, and the guests sang a nuptial song in praise of the newly married couple. The marriage chamber was decorated with symbols of fertility, such as flowers, greenery, and fruit. The pronuba, or matron of honor, led the bride into the bedroom and prayed with her for a blessing on the marriage. The pronuba then helped the bride undress and remove her jewelry and then put her into the bed. Only then would the groom enter, either alone or escorted by others. The pronuba would offer a sacrifice and then leave. Whilst consummation was not actually necessary for a Roman marriage to be legal, it was expected to happen on the wedding night because of the Roman emphasis of bearing children in marriages. The next morning, the bride emerged from the bedroom a matrona. She was part of a new family now and would take part in their religious cult. Later that day, there would be a repotia, a dinner and drinking party which concluded the wedding nuptials.