Weddings between Christmas and New Years Day



It is not always been traditional to have a June wedding. In Victorian England (from 1840s to early 1900), many weddings took place on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (a day after Chrisman Day when employers distributed money, food, cloth (material) or other valuable goods to their employees). Working class people typically worked six days a week in those times, and these were two days (Dec. 25-26) that they and their relatives could probably count on having to themselves. Workers didn’t get paid when they didn’t work which, of course, the vast majority of people could ill afford. On top of that, churches often offered their services free or at reduced rates on Christmas, and a flip through marriage registers shows a definite spike in the number of ceremonies performed.

Churches generally offering the free wedding ceremony on Christmas Day helped with expenses for the couple. In very populated regions there might be five couples being married at one time, and even a dozen at a time was not unheard of.

A couple had to have three readings of the banns on three consecutive Sundays being all that was required. An ancient legal tradition, banns are an announcement in church of a couple’s intention to marry. The readings provided an opportunity for anybody to declare a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place. 

Most weddings were simple, small affairs with few guests and even fewer of the expensive trappings and traditions associated with modern weddings. Best clothes would be worn as they would be in any case for any Sunday and a short service would be followed by dancing and making merry at home, in the local barn or pub.

The phrase, ‘Penny Weddings‘, because the bride and groom (or their families) paid this modest sum for the privilege of being united in the bonds of matrimony, were another relatively common form of working-class marriages. In fact, they were so common that church ministers would occasionally advertise the speed with which they could perform a ceremony.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Penny Weddings had largely died out as inflation meant that even the very cheapest of ceremonies now cost a fee of about six shillings. However, Penny Weddings were still performed on Christmas Day by a number of churches in London as special acts of festive charity.

So, unfortunately, with these inexpensive holiday weddings, there were no wedding portraits either. What a shame, their descendants did not have the opportunity to view a photo of the couple. For sure, everyone would know the couple’s wedding date.

Check your family tree, see if any married between Christmas and New Years Day.

Photos: Working classes in Victorian England.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Victorian Photos

How Did Your Victorian Ancestors Clean?

Tuberculosis and Victorian Fashion

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