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Occasions for greeting cards


In the Middle Ages „Hoch-Zeit“ meant each important church or secular celebration. Nowadays, the word “marriage (Hochzeit)” is reduced to the festivity after an official marriage celebration. Not only a marriage’s sense and formalities have essentially been changing in the course of centuries. This also applies to words.

At the time where people still mostly lived in rurally characterized extended families, love between husband and wife was not decisive. Security aspects between hostile or friendly groups or economic relations prevailed. Emotional love could possibly be found with another member of the extended family. This situation changed with Industrial Revolution. In that time, due to limited living space, the nuclear family developed in which at least affectionate feelings between husband and wife were advantageous to live an acceptable life.

Up to the 16th century people got married privately, and, on account of law of succession, quite often in the presence of witnesses to prove effective consummation. After Reformation churches had the exclusive competence for family affairs until civil marriage was introduced in the 19th century under the influence of the Code Napoléon. From now on, the registry office marriage before a registrar in a public building was legally decisive which required a four weeks’ official marriage notice until 1998. A liberal or only religious wedding ceremony was not legally effective. In many countries, however, this practice is not applied.

Originally and traditionally, the term „Ehe“ („wedding“) (Old High German: eternity, right, law) regulated the relationship between a male and female individual that may lead to reproduction. It was nearly impossible to dissolve the wedding relationship. However, due to the fact that nowadays not only families, but also the state safeguards life in many respects, the idea of own safety changed as well. Consequently, many countries officially allow nowadays couples of the same sex to establish a cohabitation. In Christian countries it is now unusual that a man marries several women or a woman marries several men at the same time. Nevertheless, you can find cultures still practicing the aforementioned.

The word „Heirat“ (wedding) in the Middle High German meant „Hausstand“ (household), and „Trauung“ ((wedding ceremony) is derived from confidence, fidelity or entrustment. In earlier times, when women were very young in most cases when being married, their parents entrusted them to their future bread-earner. The ritual of the wedding ceremony was publicly celebrated, often for several days, to give the married couple – they often hardly knew each other - the chance of gaining distance from their earlier life and accepting the new one. As a result of the modern womens’ emancipation and self-confidence, man and woman are now entrusted to each other in a relatively short marriage ceremony.

Currently, many young women dream to marry in a white bridal dress, and they personally decide whether it shall be long or short, tight or comfortable, provided with frills or simple. It was not always like this. Dress code has been changing again and again in the course of centuries. In Ancient Rome the bride wore a tight tunic with a belt closed with a so-called Hercules knot and covered with a stole and a veil. The bridegroom had to untie the knot later in the guests’ presence. In the Middle Ages poorer social classes married in their mostly black Sunday best whereas aristocracy was able to afford high quality coloured fabrics decorated with gold, silver and embroidery. After Reformation black developed into a trend color for wedding festivities as consequence of the Catholicism’s pressure. It was regarded as an expression of piety. At the beginning of the 18th century white bridal dresses appeared – a color that should symbolize purity and virginity. Nowadays, most brides and grooms are not anymore aware of the latter. White bridal dresses are worn on the second or third marriage as well.

Most people still think that marriage and wedding festivities are certainly a highlight of life. The desire for everlasting happiness is still alive. Unfortunately, due to less stability, it cannot always be realized. It must be asked, however, to what extent partners indeed enjoyed more happiness in undissolvable relationships of earlier times.

Günter Garbrecht 2014

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