When your marriage dates don’t work out …

When your marriage dates don’t work out …

I’m writing a Christmas story for my blog, and thought it would be a great idea to have Darcy and Elizabeth marry on Christmas Eve. I was reminded by some friends about Holy Days in the church, and that marriages are restricted on certain days. That led me down quite the rabbit hole of research.

I began by searching Google. I don’t recall the search terms I used, but I refined them once or twice. I found some lovely blog posts, some on sites I had never seen before, but much of the information was word-for-word identical from site to site. This is one of the downfalls of using Google for research. How do I know if the information I have discovered is legitimate when every site says the exact same thing and the “proof” listed is someone else’s blog? And, the blogs do not list original sources? I expressed my frustration to my friends.

One of those friends suggested I look in the Book of Common Prayer. So, back to Google I went, this time searching for that Book. I did find a copy of an Anglican Book of Common Prayer, but the pages linked did not help me in my search for specific holy days on which marriages were prohibited from being performed. sigh

I had noticed that at least one of the blogs I had seen had listed our very own Sharon Lathan’s site as a source for some of their information. So, though I have visited her pages on marriage before (they are very interesting!), I went back and looked at them again. I was stumped, however, because she did not address the issue I was facing. Back to my friends for another round of whining. 😉

Another friend suggested I message Sharon directly, which I did, and to my grateful and happy delight, she sent me a link and a page number. The link led to a copy of the Book of Common Prayer dated 1880-something and which was the standard followed in the Regency period.  Glory Hallelujah! <3 

I will add a screenshot to my post that I took of the page. It turns out, Lent is not the only time in which the church restricted marriages. Specifically …

  • from Advent (this year it’s on December 2) through eight days AFTER Epiphany, one cannot marry.
  • From Septuagesima (the ninth Sunday before Easter and the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday) through the eighth-day after Easter, one cannot marry.
  • And from Rogation Sunday (the Sunday before the Rogation Days, which are the three days before Ascension Day, aka Holy Thursday) through Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost), one cannot marry. Roughly, that last means a period of Easter through eight weeks after.

Whew! That Rogation Sunday thing was a bit confusing and took some additional research to figure out. LOL

Now, it’s my understanding that Charlotte and Collins married on January 9th, which is clearly a restricted day. However, Collins was a clergyman, and he did need to get back to his own parish. And, while marriages were restricted, I’m quite sure exceptions were made now and then. So, it’s entirely likely that the Collins wedding would have indeed been performed on January 9th.

Where does this information leave me and my little blog story? Well … I’m not certain, but I’m guessing there will be a Christmas Eve proposal rather than a Christmas Eve wedding. 😀


Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=pXdMAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false



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15 Responses to When your marriage dates don’t work out …

  1. HI Zoe, research can sure be exhausting. I love that we can turn to authors like Sharon and Regina who has been doing this type of thing for a long time and are so willing to share. Looking forward to your story.

  2. I think you might actually be okay. I have a December marriage in my book and just panicked myself that I might have to shift it, but I checked my 1820 Book of Common Prayer and there’s nothing I see in there like what you posted from the 1888 version. Do you recall what section it was in? Was it with the dates at the beginning or with the marriage ceremony? I can take a closer look.

    Given the 1888 version would have been in the Victorian era and after the 1836 marriage act I think one or both might have influenced the changes. The fact that Austen includes one leads me to believe that there wasn’t a restriction or possibly that the restriction could be waived if one got a licence. I don’t recall any reading of the banns so they could have chosen a common licence, although I feel like there was sufficient time for it and probably Collins would have wanted it apparent to his parish that he was engaged.

  3. OH, how aggravating. We have a plot we like and think will work and then find out it won’t. Sigh! And we have to rethink the whole thing. Ah well! That’s what research is all about. Thanks for sharing, Zoe. This is probably info I’ll need for future books. 🙂

    • Exceptions can always be made, but a particularly zealous vicar or curate might refuse even a special license and a private home. The prayer book says no marriages on those days and did not give exceptions to the rule.

  4. A reasonable compromise. Engaged on Christmas Eve. Sometimes finding the right answer is tough, isn’t it?

  5. Wow, that’s really interesting. I have to admit, I never gave it much thought. Now I’ll have to give it too much thought 🙂 (Or maybe I’ll leave that up to Renata… dates are numbers and numbers are her department 🙂 )

  6. Thank you so much for this information!

    I wanted the couple in my latest novel to marry on December 19th. Now I know this is not possible – so a November or late January wedding it is.

    Excuse me while I change several important scenes 😉

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