Britain At War
Marriage in Westeros is a relationship between one man and one woman. It is a religious bond, most commonly solemnized by the [Yahweh | Christian God], and it requires the consent of both the man and the woman. Although, particularly among the nobility, most marriages are arranged by the families, a particularly strong-minded young man or woman can always derail proceedings by simply refusing to consent. Such rebellion is normally very unwise unless there are powerful factions supporting the reluctant partner.
Noble marriages are typically arranged to strengthen alliances, to bring land and wealth into a family or to resolve enmity. The first type has the best chance of being happy; in the last case, a girl might be married to her father’s killer, which is rarely a good start. A marriage in which the bride and groom have never met one another is relatively normal.
In principle, marriage lasts until one spouse dies, though high nobles can generally find some way to wriggle out of burdensome alliances. Even for them, however, it is a difficult procedure. The serfs can simply abandon a spouse and run off, but that is generally politically impossible for the nobility.
Women are expected to be virgins on their wedding night, and if the husband’s family is at all hostile, the bride had better be so. However, it is well known that horse riding can break a girl’s maidenhead, so few families are insistent on physical proof. Unweaned infants can be
married if there are political circumstances making it urgent that the wedding goes ahead, but the nobility normally waits until a girl flowers. While it isn’t unheard of for noble girls to get married around thirteen, it is much more common for them to be at least fifteen or sixteen. Noble maidens would, however, normally expect to be married by twenty. Serfs tend to marry a bit later.
Marriage ceremonies vary greatly in splendor but, at least among the nobility, include three main elements. The first is the religious ceremony in which the bride and groom swear their vows, and the priest blesses them. As part of this, the bride, who enters in a cloak in her
father’s colors, has it removed and replaced by her husband with a cloak in his own colors. The second element is a feast, where the bride and groom eat and drink with their relatives, their relatives’ vassals, and anyone else it is deemed wise to invite.
Finally, there is the bedding. It is assumed that the bride and groom consummate the marriage on the night after the ceremony, though this is not always the case.
A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide is © 2010 Green Ronin Publishing, LLC.
A Song of Ice and Fire is © 1996-2010 George R. R. Martin.