Dating and marriage in middle ages
However, the tradition of a large feast or party survives to this day.We also know that a wedding was a time for throwing expense to the wind; lords were entitled to collect a "relief" or fee from their vassals or tenants on the marriage of their eldest daughter (though kings sometimes used this money for other things, like beating up on France).
But the sacrament was not completed until the marriage was consummated (non-consummation was always grounds for a dissolution).
In secular law, clandestine marriages were frowned upon because of the difficulties they could bring into determining inheritance.
A marriage which was not public (or at least witnessed by someone other than the couple) could lead to claims on property by other relatives upon the couple's death....which, of course, meant that it was left to the heir to prove that the marriage was valid.
The following were causes for dissolution of an already established marriage: one of the parties was not of legal age (12 for girls, 14 for boys), if the woman was incapable of sexual relations, if one was in religious orders or bound by a vow (as above), if one married a servant one had formerly had sex with; if one of the parties was not a Christian, or if there was a mistake (someone marries person A instead of person B, thinking that they ARE marrying person B), or a previous marriage (even if not consummated) with a relative of one's intended spouse.
The following prohibited a marriage if known before, but would not be grounds for dissolution of an existing marriage: rape, adultery, a marriage performed during a prohibited fast period (Lent or Advent), incest, or marriage by someone who had killed a clergyman.The definition was also tightened to include anyone one had had sexual relations with as relatives....which technically should have prohibited Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn on yet another set of grounds, since Henry had formerly had an affair with Anne's sister.