Family & Relationships Marriage & Divorce

Important Dates in the History of Marriage



Marriage is an institution, a contract, and often the creator of families. It has a rich history that continues to evolve. Its influence on society is immeasurable. So, if you're wondering how people came up with this crazy idea to wed and commit to one another for life, then check out this timeline of marriage: 

Beginning of Time 

People have been pairing off, mating, and raising children together from the beginning of humanity.

But they did not always commit to one another in formal marriages. Some historians - especially those who are published on the Internet - will tell you that there were group marriages, where people committed to a family of people. But it's unclear of the timeline at this point in history because much of what was happening was not documented. 

As time passed, marriage became a practice arranged by parents. Love had nothing to do with it. This was a business deal, and those getting hitched had little to no say in who they married or what the "wedding" was like. People got married for financial or political reasons, to help their families form alliances, and to raise children. Period. 

2,800 BCE 

People start to put a ring on it. The first recorded use of wedding bands takes place in Egypt, according to the jewelry company Moissanite.com, which cites various sources for its research. 

3,000 BCE

The first written record of a dowry exchange surfaces, according to Moissanite.

860

Bling gets a boost when Pope Nicholas I decrees that engagement rings are must for those with the intention to wed, according to Moissanite.

9th century

A battle between the church and monarchy comes to a head and the church wins when it requires monogamy - one husband and one wife. Princes and kings whine about not being able to take a second wife. Still, everyone, including the law, ignores extramarital affairs, which are rampant. But children produced out of wedlock have no claim on daddy's inheritance and the first deadbeat dads plague society, according to Live Science in an interview with Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage (Penguin Books, 2006).  

1140

Gratian, a Benedictine monk wrote Decretum Gratiani, a law book that required couples to verbally consent to marriage and consummate the relationship to form a marital bond, according to BBC News. This book was the cornerstone of the church's marriage policies in the 12th century. 

1215

People essentially have to shout their plans to wed to the world, when the Catholic Church begins requiring notices of impending marriages. The idea is that there needs to be some evidence of the contract and time for others to object (if someone is already married or has some issue or other that would prevent a marriage), which leads the way for witnesses of the modern era, according to Live Science. 

1477

Diamonds become girl's best friend when Maximilian I makes the diamond engagement ring popular, according to Moissanite. 

1499

Blue was once the color of purity and therefore wedding attire. But in this year Anne of Brittany wore one of the first white wedding dresses, according to Moissanite. 

1527

Henry VIII asks Pope Clement VII for an annulment for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon because she failed to provide him a male heir. The pope says no and Henry plots his next move. He wants a younger, prettier wife, Anne Boleyn, according to the Smithsonian.com. 

1533

Henry breaks with the Catholic Church, creates the Church of England with him as its head, and gets that divorce from poor Cathy. Ironically, this precedent led to only one other divorce and the Church of England soon became stricter than the Catholics about annulments and came out against divorce under any circumstance, according to the Smithsonian.com. Still, poor Anne was beheaded after having a stillborn male heir. 

1549

Thomas Cranmer births the English vows that are similar to what we know today when he publishes the Book of Common Prayer, according to the BBC. 

1563

Catholics name marriage one of the seven sacraments (even though holy dudes had been recognizing it as such since the 12th century), according to BBC. 

1639

Massachusetts requires marriage licenses, which will become commonplace among states in the 19th century, according to Live Science. 

1643

Massachusetts is the first to grant a divorce in the U.S. colonies. Anne Clarke is the "lucky" winner of this first divorce because her husband Denis abandoned her and their two children to be with another lady with whom he had another two children. When he refused to return to family No. 1, the court had no choice but to set Anne free of the scoundrel, according to the History Channel. 

1753

Marriage Act in England establishes rules for performing and recording marriages, according to the Smithsonian.com. 

1776

Independent American states assume jurisdiction for divorce and they're more willing to grant them, according to lifemanagement.com, when the politicians realize that hearing cases on these matters takes away from the real work of making laws about other "more important" stuff, whatever that is. 

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