7 Top Tips for Your Tudor Wedding

7 Top Tips for Your Tudor Wedding

So you’re getting married. How exciting!

With your love of Tudor history, why not plan a Tudor-themed wedding extravaganza? While you may not be able to rent out a medieval castle or a Great Hall for a grand ceremony and occasion, you can make your special day truly unique with a colorful Tudor-themed wedding.

We consulted our e-Royalty wedding planners and they offer these wonderful wedding tips to make your day truly Tudor-inspired.

The wedding of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York which ended the War of the Roses for good.

The wedding of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York which ended the War of the Roses for good.

Tip 1: To kick-off your wedding with true Tudor flair, post your Wedding Banns.

It was customary in Tudor times when a couple wished to marry that they ‘publish the banns’. This simply meant your intention to marry was announced in church for three consecutive Sundays. This was to ensure that there is no impediment or objection to the upcoming marriage.

For example, if perhaps Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville had not married in secret and their banns had been published, Eleanor Butler would have had the opportunity to step forward and say, “No, no. He made a marriage contract with me.”

This custom continues for church weddings throughout the Commonwealth, but is not a custom often seen in the U.S. If you’d like to revive this custom for your Tudor wedding, here is the correct format:

I PUBLISH the Banns of Marriage between N. of—and N. of—. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first [second, or third] time of asking.

Tip 2: Add a Tudor Rose to your Wedding Invitation

In Tudor times, among the common folk written invitations were not normally sent. Instead, the wedding was often announced by word of mouth. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, the first royal Tudors to be married, by all accounts had a grand wedding.

Katherine of Aragon’s first marriage to Arthur Tudor was by all accounts also a grand affair, held at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1501. (It was most likely as splendorous as Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding in 1981.) But her second marriage to Henry VIII in 1509 was very quiet and private. In fact, Henry married all of his wives in quiet, private weddings  away from the public eye and formal invitations were not sent.

Unlike today, where we see royalty attending each other’s weddings, in Tudor times it was not the custom for royals to make such a journey. For instance, for Katherine of Aragon’s two Tudor weddings, her parents the King and Queen of Castile and Aragon did not attend.

But even if a royal or two is not on your guest list, you can still  add a royal Tudor flair to your wedding invitation. Simply add the Tudor Rose as a decorative emblem to your invitation, perhaps even sealing your envelope in wax with the Tudor Rose to  add a distinctive royal touch.

The Tudor Rose combining the White Rose of York with the Red Rose of Lancaster.

The Tudor Rose combining the White Rose of York with the Red Rose of Lancaster.

Tip 3: Forgo white and wear a colorful Tudor Wedding Dress

Now of course for the bride, the most important item of the day is your wedding dress. And here you have great flexibility as to color. Today, most brides wear traditional white, thanks to Queen Victoria who wore a white wedding gown at her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Thus began the nearly 200-year tradition of brides – royal or not – wearing white wedding gowns. Victoria was not however the first royal bride to wear white. It is believed that Philippa of England, daughter of Henry IV, wore a white dress to her marriage to Eric VII, King of Denmark. .

In Tudor times you could wear any color, but usually Tudor brides stayed away from green. (Green was considered an unlucky color for a wedding.) A bride’s wedding dress of the 1500s was usually her very best gown and kirtle. And in the case of a royal marriage, the dress was often made especially for the day and sewn with gold and silver thread. The royal dress would be made of velvet or satin as these were quite expensive fabrics.  Linen and wool were used for the common folk.

The Tudor period is known for its’ low-cut, square-neck gowns with elaborate sleeves.  But the Tudor dynasty lasted for 124 years. Styles in the Elizabethan era were quite different than the earlier 1500s or even the late 1400s when Henry VII came to the throne. For instance the high-standing ruffs Elizabeth made so popular were not seen at all in the reign of her father and grandfather. You can find patterns and Tudor gowns for sale on the Internet.

Here is a little macabre tale from Tudor times. It is said that on the day Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife was beheaded, Henry’s intended third wife, Jane Seymour, was selecting her own sumptuous wedding dress.

Tip 4: Get everyone talking with a marital codpiece for the Groom’s Attire

To match the bride’s Tudor attire, the groom would wear a doublet, breeches, hose and of course the ever-present Tudor codpiece made particularly famous by Henry VIII. The word “cod” is a Middle English word meaning “scrotum.”  Now men for centuries had been wearing hose. While the hose did not cover the private area,  men’s jackets and doublets were long enough to cover the nether regions sufficiently.

Men’s fashion was changing during the reign of Henry VIII and jackets were getting shorter leaving men in danger of a “wardrobe malfunction” and their manhood being accidentally exposed while they moved. So the codpiece was developed as a solution.

First it was just a simple piece of cloth tied over the area. But over time, these cod pieces became more elaborate, decorative, padded and enlarged. Supposedly, the bigger the codpiece the more sexual prowess a man could claim.  To be truly authentic, a codpiece at your own Tudor-themed wedding would certainly be in keeping with the traditions of a Tudor wedding.

Fabrics for a Tudor royal bridegroom would also be satin and/or velvet, but more common fabrics were  flax and wool.

Henry VIII and his manly codpiece.

Henry VIII and his manly codpiece.

Tip 5: Add a little Shakespeare to your Marriage Ceremony

Prior to Edward VI, the Tudor marriage ceremony was predominantly a Roman Catholic affair. Certainly Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor newlyweds,were Catholic and followed the Roman sacraments.

Even though Henry broke from the Catholic Church in 1535 and established the Church of England, while Henry was alive the liturgies in the new Anglican Church did not change and that included the marriage ceremonies.

Henry would have made the following vow to all of his wives…

I, Henry, take thee, INSERT NAME, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part, and thereto I plight thee my troth.’

Each of his six wives would have repeated the vow back to him, except they would have added an additional vow to be “bonny and buxom in bed and board”.

When Henry died in 1547 and his son Edward VI came to the throne, the first Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was written in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer. Two more Tudor prayer books were published in 1552 and 1559 (the year of Elizabeth I’s coronation).

In the 1559 version of the Book of Common Prayer, the promise ‘to love and to cherish’ was added to the vows. The bride no longer had to promise to be bonny and buxom, but she does promise ‘to love, cherish and OBEY’. (Mmmm, I think Freud would have a field day with that one.)

In a Tudor ceremony, a ring would only be given to the bride. The groom would then say …

WITH this ring I thee wed: with my body I thee worship: and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

So the wife promised obedience in exchange for being worshipped. (We won’t comment on the fairness of that marital trade.) Today’s BCP marriage ceremony has changed very little from the time of the Tudors. So if you want to a true Tudor wedding service, you can use or adapt the wedding vows from today’s BCP or here is a link to the 1559 marriage ceremony from the Book of Common Prayer.

If you wish a special reading, perhaps a reading from William Shakespeare would be in keeping with the Tudor spirit. As you know Shakespeare was quite popular in Elizabethan times. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 is quite lovely and appropriate for your Tudor wedding.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments.
Love is not love Which alters
when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose Worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

 A quick word about music … you might want to entertain your guests with a popular Tudor quartet known as the “English Consort”. This group consisted of a violin, a flute, a lute (a stringed instrument sort of like a guitar) and a viol, (an early rendition of the modern cello).

Tip #6: Don’t throw rice or bird seed, throw this instead.

Here is perhaps the oddest Tudor wedding tradition of all … As you leave the church or hall, instead of rice or bird seed being thrown at the newly married couple, you should ask your friends and family to follow Tudor tradition and throw their shoes at you or your car (or horse-drawn carriage) for good luck. (Perhaps this is where the custom of tying old shoes to the back of your car comes from.)

Ben Johnson, the Elizabethan playwright and poet, once wrote “Hurl after me a shoe,
I’ll be merry whatever I’ll do

Tip #7: Roast a gamey meat for the Wedding Banquet

Banqueting Tudor-style is often a lavish and time-consuming affair with 5 courses or more! Henry VIII was especially known for his hearty appetite.  There was no shortage of meat choices served at a Tudor banquet. Multiple food choices were offered in each course and included rabbit, pigeons, capons (a castrated rooster), goslings (a young goose), veal, venison, pig and fish.  The most common manner to cook your meat was to roast it.

For something sweet to finish your meal, the final course is often fruit preserves, a choice of cheeses, stewed plums and a selection of sweet pastries. And of course, it was all served with plenty of beer and wine.

To style your banquet hall, it was customary for Tudor royals and nobles to sit at a “Great Table” set upon a raised dais. Long rows of tables were seated below for the guests and each table featured elaborate centerpieces. One popular style of centerpiece was jellied swans, pheasants or peacocks with the bird’s skin and feathers reattached so they looked as if they were alive. (EXTRA TIP: To adapt to the modern age, you could use birds as your centerpieces too or add birds to your table floral arrangements.) Very few vegetables were served in Tudor times.

The food was placed on great platters and guests served themselves. It was considered polite to take a small portion of everything that was offered, sort of like today’s buffets. Food was eaten with the fingers as forks didn’t come into fashion until after the death of Elizabeth I.  People brought their own knives if none were to be provided (You could certainly bypass this Tudor custom in consideration of your guests … or go ahead and keep it depending on how “authentic” you want your Tudor banquet to be.)

While you may not want to offer ALL of these meats and fish choices, one way to bring the Tudor flavor to your modern wedding feast is to choose a game animal – perhaps goose and venison, instead of the usual choice of chicken and beef. (Swan would be a more fitting Tudor choice, but it is difficult to find swan at the supermarket.)

To cook Tudor-style, you’ll want to “spit roast” your meat, instead of roasting it in the oven. With spit roasting you place the meat on a spit in front of a fire or bed of coals. In Tudor times, a young boy usually stood turning the meat continuously, while basting the meat with salted water over a “dripping pan” to catch the basting liquid.  If deer is too squeamish for modern guests, perhaps a good spit-roasted pig would do.

However you choose to adapt your wedding, a few simple Tudor influences can transport you and your guests back to the 16th century! And here’s a special bonus tip…

Bonus Tip: Marry for love

In Tudor times, a royal marriage was still mostly an arranged affair, often to cement political alliances or to add wealth and prestige to both families. Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage was certainly one and arranged by their mothers, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, to end the War of the Roses once and for all. Fortunately for the two of them by all appearances, they had a happy and loving marriage.

Arthur Tudor and Katherine of Aragon’s marriage was also arranged. Katherine’s parents Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain paid an enormous dowry in order for their daughter to be a Queen. And by marrying in to one of the oldest royal families in Europe, Henry gained Europe’s respect for his fledgling dynasty, as well as a strong alliance against France should he need it.  When Arthur died, Katherine was then pledged to his brother and heir, Henry as most likely, Henry VII did not want to lose his daughter-in-law’s dowry or England’s alliance with Spain.

Henry had the opportunity to repudiate his arranged marriage with Katherine but freely chosen to marry his former sister-in-law, whom by then he knew quite well. Rumor has it that he had been sweet on Katherine ever since, as a young boy, he had escorted her down the aisle at her marriage to Arthur.  After his arranged marriage to Katherine, Henry VIII chose for himself four of his six wives (two for love, one for lust, and one for companionship) which was indeed a very rare privilege for royals. Henry’s fourth marriage was also “arranged” and he hastened a divorce within months. Prior to Henry VIII, the last king to choose his bride and marry for love was Henry’s grandfather, Edward IV, when he impulsively married a commoner, Elizabeth Woodville.

Fortunately today, men and women can marry for love and your Tudor wedding day can be a happy occasion even if there is no power alliance or dowry. Just a few Tudor touches here and there can make your day very special.