Inspired by the contributions of Erika Shafer.
There is no official celebrant for the marriage ceremony. It is often done by a village official or elder but can be performed by someone close to the couple or even the noble of the land if they are lucky. This particular marriage ceremony is practiced widely throughout Arnesse and while some regions may have other rites, they are certainly not as common or as well-known as this one. In parts of Arnesse some of those marriage ceremonies would be considered to be barbaric and punishable under the King’s Laws.
In advance of any ceremony, a couple’s representatives will meet at an agreed location that is marked by a lantern is hung at the threshold of the dwelling. Each party in the negotiation typically brings a gift and exchanges are made to begin the talks. Those negotiations can last for days and can be for naught if both parties don’t agree to terms. Once terms are agreed to the lantern is extinguished and the families will feast together to celebrate the betrothal. Betrothals can be short or long, sometimes even years, especially if the individuals involved are not old enough to be wed to each other. It is unheard of for a person to be wed to another if they are under eighteen moon cycles old and considered fully an adult.
The ceremony itself is typically a multi-day affairs, full of old rituals meant to represent not only the joining of two people as partners in life and love but the uniting of two families and their resources. From the humblest serf to the highest noble, these rituals are an important part of forming the bond of marriage. During the first night relatives of each couple get them mildly drunk, take them each on a journey somewhere at night and along the way share some wisdom about life, marriage, and family. Then, both are given a lantern and must find each other only by the lights of their lanterns. While the two search, the families may play pranks or practical jokes on other family members or couple. When the couple finds each other, they are taken to feast in their honor during which they are given gifts by all their loved ones. Traditionally, these gifts align to the elements that each of them are born under. The element a person is born under is associated with their birth date. This is an older practice and is losing much of its popularity among the younger generations in Arnesse. To some it is considered witchcraft.
Iron – Referred to as Ironsouls, these are children born during the 1st and 2nd moon cycles.
Water – Referred to as Seabound, these are children born during the 3rd, 4th and 5th moon cycles.
Fire – Referred to as Firebound, these are children born during the 6th, 7th, and 8th moon cycles.
Wood – Referred to as Forest Children, these are children born during the 9th and 10th moon cycles.
Earth – Referred to as Earthsouls, these are children born during the 11th and 12th moon cycles.
The day before the wedding is also a time that the couple are tested and anyone who wishes to object may do so. While rare, those challenges can even result in a physical conflict, typically a duel between parties.
One the day of the wedding, each person awoken, presented with new wedding clothes and flowers in the morning. At dusk they are brought to site of wedding blindfolded, led by their ‘second’. The second is called the ‘First Man’ or the ‘First Woman’ and these individuals are typically someone close to them, a friend or family member. The couple gather around a dais or alter, upon which is set an unlit lantern. Then all who are gathered at the ceremony share stories of both, speaking of the good and bad in their lives. This is called the ‘Forgetting’ because it is meant to be a remembrance of the couple as individuals in those moments before they are joined as one. After that, follows the ‘Embrace of Elements’, when loved ones, bearing the Five Elements of Iron, Water, Fire, Wood, and Earth, appear and surround the couple. It is then that the officiant speaks the words, “It is from the elements that we are born and so it is to them we shall return. I call forth the elements to recognize their own.” It is then that the element which is associated with each comes to stand behind them. If both are of the same element, it stands behind both of them. The officiant says, “Then beneath the eyes of the elements and all you hold to be dear, recite your oaths to each other.” It is then that each member of the couple recites words to each other and makes a vow before the officiant, the elements, and all who are in attendance. These oaths do not necessarily have to be vows of love, but they do have to represent a devotion to the marriage.
Once the formal oaths are completed, the couple will ‘Combine the Elements’, taking the representation of their element and placing it upon the other. For some, this is fire extinguishing water, or a piece of iron placed upon a handful of earth. This is meant to represent the union of their two animi. The couple will often exchange a token for each to wear as a symbol of the marriage. This can be as simple a braid of threads or as complex as jewelry of gold and gems. Once this is finished, the officiant will then speak aloud to all,
“What the elements have wrought, let deny. By their own words, these two have pledged themselves to each other and as their chosen witness, I declare this union to be official and binding.”
Before the couple leave, they will both light the lantern in the middle of the dias and then leave and small offering next to it. This is the offering to the Lady of Death, Lirit, for it is said to please her is to bring good fortune upon the couple for their marriage. It is said to be good luck if the lantern is found extinguished and the offering is missing, it is said that Lirit came to claim the gift and will look upon the couple kindly. If the lantern is not extinguished and the offering is not taken, it is an omen most foul. After the ceremony, the couple and their loved ones will retire to a second feast in the couple’s honor that will generally last into the late hours of the night and during which almost everyone will get very drunk. Sometime during the party, the couple will retire to their wedding bed, a moment that will no doubt rise a great cheer of support from the likely inebriated attendees. It is said the louder the cheer the more likely it is for the marriage to succeed and, when applicable, produce children for the couple.
On rare occasions, couples will do private, small, or even secret versions of this marriage ceremony that has some of the same elements. This is rare as the point of this ceremony is a public show of the union.