Two rooms are prepared, one for the ceremony and one for the reception. In Roman terms these represent the bride's parental home and the groom's house to which she will be taken. Each room is decorated with family photos from the family represented therein.
Also in the "bride's home" (wedding location): Spelt bread [this is made with an older kind of wheat used to symbolize the ancient far, and is available at health food stores], an incense burner and some incense on an altar. Altar candles.
Also in the "groom's home" (reception location): A Lararium with incense burner. Bowls of alcohol (for "fire") and water. A miniature bed. A vase with two flowers. A couch with a sheepskin spread across it (this might originally have been the skin of an animal sacrificed for the wedding).
The officiant prepares herself at the altar.
When the guests are settled, Auspex lights the altar incense and (as far as is practical) purifies the space. She then lights the altar candles.
Auspex: All who are here, be silent! This place is cleansed of unlucky influences. The auspices show favor to this union.
Officiant: Providence and Fortune, stay here and be with us, while we go on with this sacred ritual. May William and Patricia deserve to get from our hands the sacred wedding tie, sanctified by the strength that the Immortals will give to them, symbolized by this sacred spelt bread. Iuppiter Feretrius, god of contracts, and Iuno Pronuba, goddess of marriage, shall make one thing of them both, and nor time, nor adversities, nor death itself will upset this. Happiness, Harmony and Love reign over their hearts.
Let the bride be led forward. [Pronuba (matron of honor) leads the bride to the altar.]
Officiant: Patricia, answer truly: Are you of sufficient age to marry, being contracted to no other man, and bearing no blood relationship to your chosen husband?
Bride: I am.
Officiant: And have you come from the house of your family to this place, of your own will and intent, to be married to this man?
Bride: I have.
Officiant: Does the representative of your family agree to this marriage?
Bride's father: Yes.
Officiant: Let the bridegroom be led forward. [Pronuba leads him forward.]
Officiant: William, answer truly: Are you of sufficient age to marry, being contracted to no other woman, and bearing no blood relationship to your chosen wife?
Groom: I am.
Officiant: And have you come from the house of your family to this place, of your own will and intent, to be married to this woman?
Groom: I am.
Officiant: Does the representative of your family agree to this marriage?
Groom's father: Yes.
Officiant: I charge you, Infernal Nemesis and you, Mania, (Goddess of Death) away from these people. Go away with haste!
(offers incense) God or goddess of this place, receive the right sacrifice for our presence here. If I do this, or if others do it, may this be done in the right way. By this means, while I give to you these offerings, I pray to you.
Patricia and William stand together with their hands bound in marriage.
(offers incense) Oh goddess of this house, I bow and I pray you. Look over the people of this house. May all of them have a long life.
(holds candle aloft) Oh eternal Fire, make us forever prosperous, forever happy. You that feed us, you that are rich, receive our offering and give us happiness, and sweet health.
(makes sign of opening over the couple) Oh Ianus, father of us all, you are the guardian of the sacred heaven's door. Ianus, the good creator, come to us and be beneficial.
Patricia and William, you have spoken your consent to be married. Signify it now by joining hands. [wraps the hands with a leather cord]
Juppiter Feretrius, Juno Pronuba and holy Fides, god of loyalty, hear and observe what is to come. Hold William and Patricia united for all their remaining lifetime. May the gods allow it.
(to couple) This cord ties you to each other with the bond of Love, which is as gentle as silk, and the bond of Trust, which is as strong as iron.
From this moment forward you are wed, yet there are ceremonies that must be observed to bring good fortune to your marriage. [Officiant takes up the cake and breaks it in two, putting one half in each free hand. Bride and groom eat.]
Officiant (while they are eating): By ancient custom this sacred wheat cake is eaten by both of you to bring long life, renewal and growth. By choosing to be married in this style, called confarreatio after the wheat known as "far," you choose the most binding and most hallowed of marriages, practiced only by the most traditional of patrician Romans.
[Officiant moves to the brazier and offers another spelt cake.]
Jupiter Farreus, god of the sacred wheat, because it is proper for offerings to be given to you for the sacred feast of a new-married couple, may you be honored by this, the feast offering. Be favorable to us and be favorable to William and
Patricia who come to you for the sacred wedding tie. So be you honored for this sacrifice I give you.
[Officiant unties the cord, gives it to the groom, and bids the couple rise.]
Patricia and William, as a token of the marriage you have just contracted, you have brought rings, circles without beginning or end, as tokens of love and faith. (Pronuba and Flamen produce the rings and give them to Officiant.)
Iuppiter Feretrius, Iuno Pronuba, while I offer you this spelt bread, with devoted prayers, I ask your grace and I ask you to consecrate these wedding rings. (hands the rings over the brazier with the incense, allowing smoke to cover them) Infuse in them your power, since the sacred tie that the couple will now seal, will shelter them from any adversity, and let them be prosperous, in the breast of happiness, forever. Ita est!
[Bride takes Groom's hand.]
Bride: Ubi ti Cassius, ego Cassia. With this ring, I, Patricia, take you, William, to my heart, my hand and my spirit.
[Groom takes bride's hand.]
Groom: Ubi ti Cassia, ego Cassius. With this ring, I, William, take you, Patricia, to my heart, my hand and my spirit.
Patricia places William's wedding ring on his hand. The double-ring ceremony is not Roman, though rings were traditional betrothal gifts and were popular in general in Roman times.
Officiant: Let the spirits of their ancestors, and our sisters and brothers gathered here witness that Patricia and William have been joined together in the sight of the gods. May Iuppiter Feretrius and Juno Pronuba lead you away from here, taking you by the hand. May the divine Dioscures, guardians of the journey, watch over you and, from the height of the skies, follow you with their winged horses. May all the superior gods be beneficial to you. May the inferior gods draw away their dark hand from you. May you remember this moment with joy, when you are old.
Iuppiter Feretrius and all you gods that we invoked until now, if in this ceremony there is something wrong, may with this offer of apology, myself, this couple, and everyone present, be purified.
Listen, the rite is done! May the gods be favorable to you all! Now let us make a merry procession to the next room, which symbolizes the home where the new bridegroom will welcome his bride. The Flamen Dialis and I shall accompany him there, and help him to make all ready for the ceremony of welcome. The respected elders of the couple's families should come next, so as to be sure of having seats, and the rest of you may follow. Last will come the bride and her attendants. Let the music begin!
[Procession. The band sings and plays. The groom gets into the next room and lights a candle at the Lararium, lights charcoal for incense and lights the firepot. The bride's attendants make it into the room and make sure there's a path for the bride and the Pronuba. Pronuba leads bride up to the door.]
William welcomes Patricia. This picture shows the traditional six locks of hair, curled and gathered at the back of her head.
Groom: Come and be welcome in your new home!
[Bride comes forward. Groom picks up the fire and water bowls.]
Groom: (takes a basin with some water and, lifting it:)
I offer you this Water, because we all were born from it. May you take care of it in our house, for purifying us, and quench our thirst when needed. Drink the Water with me. (gives the water to the bride and they drink it)
I offer you this Fire, because it is the ignited element of our immortal souls. Take care of our domestic fire, take care of the visible and concealed god that lives inside us. Never let it extinguish, because our life depends from its life. (gives the cup to the bride, she takes care of it for a moment, then she puts it over the ceremonial table).
Bride: I accept this Water and this Fire. May the gods guard it and maintain it forever, until the sweet life which hold us united passes. So I desire and pray.
[Both pick up flowers from the vase.]
Groom: This represents my genius, the spirit that is essential to me.
Bride: This represents my juno, the spirit that is essential to me.
[Together they lay the flowers on the bed.]
Groom: Let these spirits dwell together in love and harmony.
Groom: This is the Lararium, wherein dwells the spirit of our home. (goes near the brazier, takes some spelt in hand:) I make this offering, because the gods gave you to me. So let us be together, loving each other, with happy thoughts and souls. May the gods allow us to live together for many, many years. (offers the spelt to the fire)
Bride: (goes near the brazier, takes some spelt in hand:) "I make this offering to the Numi of the domestic fire, for our happiness. I want to live with you and be your bride, until we both shall reach the oldest age. This I declare and swear upon the gods." (offers the spelt to the fire)
Groom: Be well, family Lars (adoratio). [A ritual gesture putting the hand to the mouth and then holding it out and up. Rather like blowing a kiss, but more solemn.]
Bride: Be well, Di Penates (adoratio).
Groom: Be well, House of the Paterfamilias (adoratio).
Bride: Be well, Mother Vesta (adoratio).
Groom: May we, our families and our nation have what is goodly, auspicious, fruitful, fortunate, and wholesome. Ita est.
Groom: The ceremony is ended. Let the celebration begin! [They take a seat together on a couch covered in sheepskin.]
Back to the home page.
A brief overview of Roman wedding customs and the role of marriage in Roman society.
Some ideas and thoughts for reconstructing a Roman wedding.
Links and books for those interested in Roman social history.