Parents, if still alive, expected to have a say or even a leading part in arranging a marriage.

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Henry VIII notoriously invoked such a relationship between himself and Katherine of Aragon in order to have their marriage annulled, but he was exceptional in this respect.

The range of prohibited degrees was greatly reduced during the Reformation.) The most important element of the marriage service was a full form of trothplight, in which both partners promised to love and cherish each other until death in both sickness and health. The man then gave the woman the wedding ring, putting it on the fourth finger of her left hand.

In other cases, a jilted partner might be unable to produce witnesses.

This was especially unfortunate for trusting young women who found themselves pregnant and their reputation ruined by a suitor who had changed his mind, or had simply taken advantage of them.

A magnificent feast, a week of jousting and banqueting, and then further varied entertainments, followed the marriage of Arthur and Katherine in 1501.

Most people who could afford it – the couple, or their parents, if still alive – probably held a wedding dinner and dancing. Neighbours or fellow parishioners could contribute to a ‘bride ale’ for less well off couples.To be on the safe side, it was essential to have your contract properly witnessed, or, if you had any doubts about it, to make a promise depend on a condition such as the goodwill of parents or friends.Courtship was usually accompanied by the man’s gift of tokens of marriage: especially a ring, coins, trinkets, or items of clothing such as gloves.However, this ceremony only completed the process of making a marriage.Nearly a third of Elizabethan brides were pregnant by the time they came to church, despite the Church’s prohibition on sexual relations beforehand.Many men and women were quite hard-headed about the material aspects of a possible marriage agreement – it was important to know what resources the other partner would provide.