On Valentine’s Day, I’m prompted to think about marriage. And after yet another run-in with somebody talking about “traditional marriage”, I got to wondering just how old “traditional marriage” is. After all, contrary to popular belief, church marriages were not always required. Well, as it turns out, we have an exact date for this thing: 1754. That’s the year when the British Marriage Act of 1753, also known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, went into effect.
Interesting, isn’t it? Before that year, marriage in England had no religious requirement at all. People just lived together for a while, and were eventually considered to be married. Look it up. So the next time someone tells you about “traditional marriage”, you can just point out that common-law marriage has been around a lot longer than church marriage, so it is more traditional.
PS. It is common, particularly among really ignorant religious egocentrics (read: Christian fundamentalists), to claim that the connection between religion and marriage is a universal thing. In fact, many cultures such as China did not think to make this connection at all in their history, and did not make it until Christian missionaries brought the idea.