Shave Your Head and Get in the Closet: Dark History of Marriage
(somber music) - Hi, friends. I hope you're having a wonderful day today. My name is Bailey Sarian, and I'd like to welcome you to my study, or, you know, just my podcast, "Dark History." Hi. This is a chance to tell the story like it is and to share the history of stuff we honestly would never think about. I just need you to sit back, relax, and we're gonna talk about that hot, juicy, history goss.
Okay. So maybe you can tell by my beautiful veil, I'm getting married. It's my wedding day. Aren't you excited for me? Great. Okay, so the other day, not even other day, let's say a month ago.
So about a month ago, I went to a wedding. I love weddings, especially if it's an open bar, I'm there. Okay. They're fun. But you know one of those things that happens.
You're hanging out in the banquet hall, right? And the cake comes out and everyone's like, "Yeah, cake." And it's cake time, right? So the bride and the groom, they stand up to go to the cake and cut it. The groom grabs the slice, the cake, picks it up, smashes it into the wife's face.
It's like why? She just spent a bunch of money on her makeup, and her hair and her dress, and you just... But that's fine. It's not my wedding day. I mean, today it is, but you know.
And then after that, the bride takes his seat on a chair while the groom climbs under her dress to get the garter with his teeth. And I'm sitting next to grandma, like, "Grandma, covering your eyes. Oh my God. What the hell is happening here, grandma?" And honestly, when you think about it, it's like weddings are awkward, and it just kind of seems like a series of unfortunate events almost as a viewer. Cringe around every corner.
The cake being smashed, the whole garter thing, it's just weird. Oh, and then if there's a choreographed dance... I'm sorry.
I know you guys put a lot of work into it, but that's different, that's a choice. I shouldn't hate on that. Okay, hold on. Cringe around every corner. The money being spent on weddings, the food, the dancing, the lights, the garter, the tuxedos, all of it, right? It's just such a performance for who? For everyone else it seems.
So naturally, I'm like, there has to be a reason as to why we're doing all this weird stuff, right? The whole wedding dress, garter belt, everything. What the hell is it all about? I wanna know. I open up my laptop, get to Googling, and Google never disappoints. Okay? Because everything about weddings is so unfortunate.
Ugh. When I tell you about where all of this ceremony stuff comes from, you're gonna be like, "Oh God." Yeah. You see, almost every single wedding tradition that we know today comes from an ancient practice that probably should have disappeared. But America, we took it, we ran with it, we made it our own.
And that's cool, but you're not gonna look at weddings the same. sorry to ruin... I'm not ruining it. I'm just sprinkling in some knowledge, that's it. I do need to add a disclaimer too. I should add a disclaimer to all of my "Dark History" episodes moving forward because a lot of what I'm sharing today about weddings, history tends to focus on the rich and powerful people.
So because of how it's been recorded, we don't know a ton about the everyday person or how they viewed and practiced marriage. I wish we did, but that's why it's called his-tory. No, literally, that's what history stands for, his story. Yeah, did you know that? Jokes on us 'cause I didn't know that, and I Googled it, and I was like, "Is that real?" Yep. So this is very one-sided perspective is what I'm saying. You get it.
Let's get into marriage. Yeah, my favorite. The year is 1200 BCE and we are in Ancient Mesopotamia. Did I say that right? I think I did. We're gonna be talking about the Babylonians. Yeah, this is when I had like a flashback because I was like, "Remember the Babylonians, sixth grade history?" Yeah, I remember.
It was all about the Babylonians. And then just one day, it was like, what happened? You just never hear of them ever again. They like, yeah, you get it. But they actually had some very interesting views on marriage. You see, the Babylonians had a king named Hammurabi who was a very super influential person and everybody looked up to him.
Okay, this guy, Hammurabi, he essentially created a code of conduct for the Babylonians. Essentially, they were rules that everyone should follow. There were different rules or laws for crimes, for property, ownership, and how to conduct your business.
The Hammurabi code had 282 rules that were carved into stone. It reminded me... Don't come for me, but it just reminded me of like the 10 Commandments with like the stone and stuff, but there was no burning bush.
There's one rule that I'm sure all of us know today that actually came from the Hammurabi code. Yeah, let me tell you. It's the eye for an eye rule.
You know eye for an eye? if you don't know what that is, think of Aladdin when Jasmine went to steal fruit, and then the fruit owner was like, "Hey, you can't steal that." And then he grabs her hand and he's about to chop her hand off, and then Aladdin came, saved the day. And she was like, "Oh my god, I love him." It just restored balance in community. I took from you, so therefore you can take from me, Hammurabi's code. But this is about weddings, Bailey, not Aladdin.
Sorry. I should start another channel where I deep dive into Aladdin, part one, two, and three, and the television program. That would be fun.
But another big part of Hammurabi's code had a bunch of rules about family and marriage. Now the year 2350 BC was the first recorded marriage in history. Yep, way to go, Babylonian, breaking history or starting history. Yeah.
And this was the first time that we know of where marriage had rules and essentially a contract was involved. An important part of that contract was the fact that the Babylonians viewed marriage as strictly for procreation. Had nothing to do about love, nothing about being cute, no dress, no party, nothing. They believed that women were here on this planet to have babies and babies only, point blank period. Thank you.
Which speaking of periods, the girls in the community, once they hit puberty, that's when they were considered a woman, and they were ready to be married off. So usually, these women, I'm using quotes here, were 11 and 12 years old, so just real young, ripe and ready, I guess. The Babylonians had a very interesting way of finding wives. They would gather all of the women in a temple who were ready to be married off. So a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds. They're like, "Cometh wives, soon to be wives."
So they go inside this temple, okay? And they have a little stage where they would bring one lady up at a time. All the men would gather around and have an auction essentially. Yeah. The host of the auction would be like, "This is Bertha, she's a Virgo. She gets kinda crazy.
She likes long walks on the beach. She hates to be thrown into a river, loves kids. Go ahead, Bertha, take a lap."
(Bailey applauds) See that back end, Bertha. And then the wealthy and the rich would be able to bid on the most beautiful women first. Beautiful, you get it, it's subjective. Okay, great, really. Babylon tens, the hotties, obviously, they went real quick, okay? Now I'm not being mean because this is literally what they did.
But for example, the less attractive women who maybe were not selling as quickly, they would throw in a little cash bonus. Like, "Hey, this is Olga, okay? She's beautiful if you squint. if you squint your eyes, she's real cute. And if you take her, you get this cash bonus." She gets even more gorgeous with the money.
So hey, you may have gotten a Babylonian four, but you got some money too. I mean, that's cool, I guess. I don't know, I'm trying to see the positive here. Once you bid on your woman and won her, now you were engaged to be wed. The Babylonians took engagement very seriously. One of the first things that had to be done was that the man would give a gift to the woman's family.
It was kind of like a security deposit. Now this gift was usually money, but it could be anything of value, so livestock, property, sandals. I'm not sure. But let's say a guy got cold feet, and he was like, "You know what, I actually wanna get out of this marriage." He would lose whatever deposit he had put down, plus he would lose the money he spent at the auction.
That's like if someone breaks off an engagement today and they're like, "Sorry, babe, I'm keeping the ring," same thing. There was no return policy. Not 100% sure how the ceremony went down, but what we do know is that once marriage happened, the next step for the happy couple would be to sign a marriage contract in front of witnesses, which then would make it official.
Mm. Now once the partnership was indeed official, the groom would pull the wedding veil over the wife's face, like pull it down, and literally shout to the streets, "She is my wife." Just make a loud announcement. You know how today we lift the wedding veil over the bride. Well, back then, the Babylonians, they put that down over the bride, and this let people know, hey, this woman, she's not available. Don't be looking at her, nope.
She's not on the market. Which that had me thinking, the veil kinda makes more sense if you're putting it down. The whole unveiling thing...
We'll get into that, whatever. So now it's time to have a little feast. Kind of like what we do today at a reception, everyone would get together, eat some food, celebrate. And once the celebration was over, the newly wed couple would head on over to the father-in-law's house where it was expected for the newly weds to partake in some sexual relations. And the girl was expected to get pregnant on the wedding night.
That was the only reason they were getting married in the first place, to procreate like I said. Now she didn't get pregnant. Luckily, the Babylonians, oh, they actually did have a great return policy.
Yeah, you see, if you didn't get pregnant, you could take in your wife and be like, "She broky, no worky. I want a refund. No babies come out. I don't know." And if the man decided to return the wife, he would get his money back, and they would act like nothing ever happened. On the other hand, for the woman, because she didn't get pregnant and now she has one marriage under her belt, she was considered damaged goods, and it would bring shame to the whole damn family.
That's what we do best, ladies, bring in shame to the family. Cool. Now, on the other hand, let's say a man gets married and his wife doesn't get pregnant within the first month, but he's like, "I got a total babe. I don't wanna return her.
Maybe she makes some great sheep's meat, flat bread." And he's like, "I don't wanna return her. I wanna keep her. I like that flatbread." So naturally he wants to keep her around and be the wife, but he needs a baby.
So what does he do? Well, lucky for him, Babylonian men were allowed to have many side pieces or mistresses essentially living in their house as they could afford. Having a mistress was expensive. I mean, you had to feed them, take care of them, take 'em on walks, water them, provide shelter.
Just a lot of work. And these guys were essentially like Babylonian sugar daddies. Now it wasn't so that the husband could have sex for fun with his mistresses.
It was strictly because he needed a child or he wouldn't be seen as a man in his community. So if a mistress got pregnant and had a kid, the baby was then taken from her, given to the first wife, and they would pretend that it was their baby, not the mistress's baby, proving to the community that they could procreate. It sounds exactly like "Handmaid's Tale" Have you guys watched that show? I don't know why you guys like it so much.
It's pretty fucked up. You kept telling me to watch it, and I did. And then I couldn't sleep, and I was getting all depressed, and I spiraled and I was like, "Why am I watching this? Are you guys okay?" Anyways, it was like that, just like that. Now it was rare, but there were wives who maybe decided to fuck around. And if the wife was caught cheating, ooh, she was in trouble.
Because in Hammurabi's code, it's said that the cheating wife and her lover, wow, they would have to be bound together with rope, then thrown into the river nearby where they were left to drown. The end. Now the man on the other hand was allowed to have lots of mistresses, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Same shit, different era. Fun fact though, lots of rules in Hammurabi's code said that if you disobeyed, you would get thrown in the river. I guess it was just like a catchall Throw 'em in the river, Barbara. 'Cause it happens a lot throughout history.
The river, people get thrown in there. What was that about? We'll have to do a "Dark History" of being thrown in the river. In Babylonia around this time, divorce, not really a thing, but it did happen sometimes. You see, if you were lower class and you couldn't afford to get a mistress, there was always the option for divorce, but that would also bring a lot of shame to the family. So just shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.
And that's like a big deal, shame. Shame. Okay, great. Now this may seem a little cray, right? Marrying young, wife auctions, mistresses, throwing women into the river, but you have to remember this was their normal and nobody really questioned it. I mean, honestly, a round of applause for the Babylonians for being the first.
They invented divorce, They invented marriage, marriage contract. They invented the idea of having mistresses. Did they? No. But they invented divorce and marriage in general, so that's pretty cool.
So next time you are getting a divorce or you're at the altar saying your I dos, make sure to give a big thank you to the Babylonians for inventing that thing you're doing. Thanks, Babylonians. Hiring is challenging, especially right now when you have so much on your plate.
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ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire. So now we're in the year 1100 BC. And once again, we're in fricking Greece. We always end up here with the ancient Greeks, don't we? Yeah, well, once again, they're having a little bit more fun 'cause that's what the Greeks do.
They're free spirits, and you just couldn't hold them down, okay? If we learned anything from the dildo episode, they were living, laughing, and loving everyone. I mean, even on ships. I'm looking at you, Caligula. Anyways. So the Greeks also viewed marriage as a business decision, but now it was also a way to social climb. Yeah.
So your marriage would be set up by your father who wanted to marry his daughter off into a family of wealth and status because it would make the family look good, and that's honestly what it was all about. Your father would go around town like, "Oh, my daughter's gonna marry into the olive oil family and just humble brats everywhere." And it would raise his status. Now, once again, women were eligible to get married once they hit puberty, so usually between the ages of 11 and 14. Now it's kind of funny. This was kind of funny.
It made me giggle a little because men were not allowed to get married between the ages of 14 to 25. Not allowed to get married because the Greeks believed men were essentially stupid during the timeframe of their life. Look, that's what they said, not me. Don't come for me, but I can get behind that. So most of these potential husbands were much, much older than their brides to be. So again, the father of a young daughter could walk over to Leonardo's olive farm.
He sees that this man has a lot of land. It's just rows and rows of trees. Now this is a very wealthy family. They've got that olive oil money. And he says, "Your son Alexander, I see he's 30 now.
Not dumb anymore? Well, I have a daughter. She's a just shy of 13 and currently bleeding. Big day." Anyway, so the fathers would end up setting up the couple. Let's say Athena and Alexander.
Athena would be sent to the temple with all of her childhood stuff, and this is when she would have to burn all of it before going through with the marriage. Now this was a very symbolic moment to them. In my opinion, it kinda seemed like the girl was getting rid of her previous life and starting a new one with her husband.
I'm sure they didn't really have that much stuff back then, but she probably had a pet rock or something. Next up, some couples would get rings. Oh yeah, some people had wedding rings back then. They were gold, and sometimes they would even get personalized engravings on them. It would be the husband and the wife engraved on the ring. I would highly suggest just take two seconds and Google it because they're actually stunning.
They went off, all the way off. And fun fact, the tradition of wearing the wedding ring on your fourth finger, the ring finger, now that ties back all the way to ancient Greece. They believed that there was a special vein called the vein of love.
And this vein went from your heart all the way to your ring finger on your left hand. They believed putting a ring on this finger was symbolic of love. But also, by constricting this vein with the ring, the Greeks believed you would stay loyal to the person you were married to. It was kind of cute. I think it's cute. I was like, "Aw. Aw."
And then it turns out there's actually no vein that connects to your heart. But like don't tell them that. Don't ruin it for them. They loved it, and I love that for them.
Cute. So over in the town, just a hop, skip, and a jump away was Sparta. Things were a bit different over there. Not so much of a party.
Their whole lives revolved around war. So marriage just kind of fit in where it could, but their wedding rituals were quite unique. Spartan bride would be between the age of 18 to 20 years old and would prepare her for her big day by shaving her head and dressing up in her future husband's clothes. Yeah, I don't know. I couldn't really find an answer on this one, like as to why they did, why they shaved their head, and the husband's clothes, but there's some theories out there that it could be a way for the woman to shed her previous life by removing her hair.
And by dressing up as her husband, she's now showing everybody that she's a reflection of him and no longer her own individual self. that's a theory. I don't know if there's truth in there.
It sounded legit. That's why I'm bringing it up. But use your imagination. I don't know. So after the ceremony, if you call it that, the couple would do this weird thing, it was like a seven minutes in heaven situation where the wife, she would be taken to a dark room, still wearing the husband's clothes, and she'd wait in this dark room for a couple minutes.
Okay. They're like, "We'll be back." So then the door would open. (mimics creaking door) And then the husband would come in, shut the door. Room is pitch black.
And he would chase her around the room so he could ritualistically capture her. I don't know. Then they would have sexual relations.
Yeah, I don't know. Again, I don't know what that was about, but it sounds kinda hot. I don't know. So after the couple was married, usually, the men were always gone, involved again in some kind of war. Now this would leave the new wife in charge. She was considered the head of the household if the husband was not around, which compared to the others, this was a kind of risky move for them, putting women in charge, but she was.
And she would manage the property and she would manage any of the laborers who worked and maintained the land. A lot of those workers were enslaved laborers and she was in charge. I mean the Spartan women were given a lot more power compared to other Greek women at the time, but they're way more strict. It's such a... I don't know what that's called, but it doesn't make sense, but it makes sense.
This was the first time where we see a wife holding authority over her husband's household and land. You go girl, work that pussy out, girl. Spartan husbands could not live with their wives until they were done with their military service, which would usually be around the age of 30, which is kinda nice though. You don't need 'em around.
Until then, they would visit their wives secretly. So usually in the middle of the night, the men who were away at war, they would sneak away from their military camp, and they would break into their own house to have sex with their wife. Cheating was still a no-no for the women. And if wives did cheat, ooh, it was very serious and a very bad reflection on the men, not the women, the men. But the Spartan husbands, they could do whatever the hell they wanted, which leads to the term soulmates.
Again, love this, comes from the Greeks. Well, their thought process here was you married for the purpose of procreation, but the one that you actually loved would be your soulmate. Aw, isn't that special? I thought that was so special. So you could have a husband and a soulmate, the best of both worlds. And a lot of these affairs were between two men. Oh yeah.
If you're a man who loves another man, that's your soulmate, right? Now let's say you're a lady who loves other ladies. You love an RB sandwich. So you get to talking with your girlfriends and you're like, "Hey, girl, have you heard of this island where you can go and just hang out with other women? There's no men around." And you're like, "What? No, what is that?" Well, there was this island out there called Lesbos. Yeah, no, literally, where all the best lesbians could go and find their own version of a soulmate.
Yeah, they got their own island. The Greeks seemed to be free and fluid when it came to love, but marriage was still like this strict binding contract mainly again for procreation, not so much about love. Love was for soulmates, which again is kind of romantic, but... I don't know.
But we can thank the Greeks for two things. One, they brought us soulmates, and that's special. Two, they also brought the wedding ring. Special, we love that. Thanks, Greeks. Well, I can talk about the Greeks all damn day, but now we are going to move forward to see how the Romans viewed marriage.
And let me tell you, the Romans brought their own flavor to the idea of marriage as the Romans always did. They like to ruin everything. Before my week starts, I usually take about an hour on my Sunday night to review my calendar and my notebook to make sure I have everything I need for the week coming.
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Visit shipstation.com. Click the microphone at the top and type in code DARKHISTORY. Now let's get back to you today's story. And we're back. Okay, so let's say you're a 12-year-old Roman woman.
Similar to the Greeks, the Romans viewed marriage mainly as a business transaction because back then in 509 BCE... I'm sure you can imagine 509 BCE. Use your imagination. Anyways, back then it was all about status and procreation took a backseat.
Babies were definitely still important, but people were mainly focused on money because to them money meant power. Money was everything. And in ancient Rome, just like the previous stories, once a girl hit puberty, she was ready to be a bride. The father would arrange who she was going to marry, and usually he would try and find a suitor who had a bunch of land to his name or came from a wealthy family. So the father would pick who he felt was the best for his daughter, but most of all was going to make the family look super good and super rich.
Now why would the father be making these decisions? Well, 'cause he's considered the man of the household who made all of the decisions, even right down to their children. Plus on top of that, the Romans literally believed that women had weak judgment. We do. We're so helpless and stupid.
Usually the father would be worried that she'd marry some loser because he was nice to her, and he didn't want that. He wanted land. He wanted money. Not love. Most Roman men would get married around the age of 26 because just like the Greeks, they believed that men mentally are just not ready before then. Once a fine man was found, daddy would set the wedding date.
And sometimes the woman, or I should say the 12-year-old, would have to travel pretty far to get to her husband's house. And she would have to travel with her dowry. So dowry is like... Essentially, she would be carrying a box of all of her valuables that she was going to give and bring to her husband. It's like showing up, like, "Here's my investment into this whole marriage thing. I've got rings. I've got paper.
I've got a collage with stones and stuff. Here's what I go. Marry me." So the bride, she would have to travel with her box of valuables and with a group of women who we would call today bridesmaids.
Oh yes. Now this part was really fascinating to me. The Roman women had bridesmaids for their big day. Now they were important because, one, you needed at least 10 people to witness your marriage in order for it to count.
And then two, your bridesmaids, they were essentially your bodyguards. Yeah. You're probably thinking, "What?" Yeah, bridesmaids were their bodyguards. Buff up, ladies, 'cause we need bodyguards. Now back then it was actually kind of normal for men to see a beautiful woman just walking around, minding her own business. And then they're like, "Ooh, she's hot."
And they'd go up to her, snatch her, literally kidnap her, okay, carry her out, keep her somewhere hidden out of sight until her family stop looking for her, or until she got pregnant, Obviously, not ideal. So once the bride to be had their bridesmaids picked out, their job was to protect the bride, have her back to prevent any kidnappings from happening. So leading up to the wedding day, the bridesmaid and the bride, they would all dress the same, exactly the same. And they did this to make sure that nobody would kidnap and take the real bride to be or her valuables. If they're all dressed the same, the kidnapper's gonna be like, "What? I don't know which one to take.
They all look the same. I'm bamboozled." And he would just give up because, again, you know men aren't smart until about 25, 30, according to them. Are you imagining it? Great. It's your wedding day.
Congratulations. Now, to get to the altar, your dad has to walk you down the aisle and pass you off. It's a transaction of property after all. Sound familiar, dad walking the bride down the aisle? Mm-hm.
a couple of other fun things we still do today that were invented by the Romans, the kiss. Back then, Romans often couldn't read or write. So how they would seal the deal was with the kiss. (lips smacking) Great. They're like, "Do you know what that says?" "No. Do you know what that says?" "No. Let's just make out."
And so you know outside the church when people throw confetti or whatever at the bride and groom, Romans, Romans did that. They would throw rice or sometimes even nuts at the new bride and groom as they made their way to the after party. Could you imagine getting some big, old nuts thrown out your face? My God. (screams) Nuts flying at our face outta nowhere. So after all of that, the bride and groom and their families would have a big, old dinner together. After that, dessert.
Oh yeah. So the Romans would celebrate the marriage with cake. Yum. Right? Can't be mad, love cake.
But it's not the cake we know today. It was more like basic bread cardboard kinda cake. So the newlyweds would go over to the cake.
The groom would lift it up, the whole cake, and then smash it over his new wife's head. Oh yeah. And not like in a nice way. It was pretty hardcore. And this symbolized his dominance over her. Yeah.
She's like, all right, you probably could have just done that another way. Well, hopefully, the cake would break and crumble all over the floor, and that's when the whole wedding party would come up and pick the crumbs off of the floor, and they would eat together. And it was seen as like a celebration of him trying to knock out his wife with a big, old, crusty ass cake. Yeah. After that, they were married, and it was time for the honeymoon. Now this is where we think the name honeymoon comes from.
During their honeymoon, they would drink honey wine, have sex, and try to get pregnant, hopefully get pregnant. You better get pregnant. Which, again, kinda like what you do today.
You get drunk and some of you have sex on your wedding night. I say some because I know most of you tired and you just go to bed. But when all this bliss of the wedding night fades, the realities of the arrangement starts to set in.
And that's when the man develops an itch he just needs to scratch. In the Roman era, there were two types of women, sex worker, non-sex worker, That's it, one or the other. Which one are you? So how could you tell who was a sex worker and who wasn't? Well, by the toga they were wearing. You know those sheet things that boys wear at frat parties? Yeah, that. Now the sex workers were sheer tunics that were short, sometimes very colorful.
And they would wear a lot of jewelry, a ton of makeup, and were a little bit more loose and relaxed with their hairstyles. They looked like they had more fun, honestly. So these men would see these girls, sex worker, as the ones that they could fuck around with. Wives, they had to have sex with the husband 'cause that was your job.
And then the sex workers were like the ones that they could have fun with. So again, kinda like having your mistress on the side. It's the same thing.
The Romans, they also invented couples counseling, which is super interesting. In summary, it was always the woman's fault. Okay. And the nice thing her, the little shift was if you were a woman and your husband was abusive, you actually had an option to get out.
You could get a divorce. This is the first time a woman could make that choice. Now divorce was way more acceptable here. Of course frowned upon. You'd be shamed.
No one would wanna look at you, damaged goods. But I mean it's something, at least they could get out, right? Still sucks, but it's a step. Traces of Roman traditions have gone on to inspire a bunch of wedding stuff that we carry on today. I mean bridesmaids, father walking the daughter down the aisle, kissing at the altar because we can't read, honeymoons.
Yeah. And if a woman was ever feeling unsafe, she had the option to get a divorce. So yeah, thanks, Romans.
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So now we jump to Europe between the 1400s and 1600s. Now this would be considered the Late Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. This is the time when religion starts to dictate people's marriages and sex life. Unlike the previous eras, during this time, sex was seen as something very shameful, not to be celebrated or even like talked about or anything. Okay? No. They even had rules about when you could have sex with your partner.
For example, you were not allowed to have sex on Sundays because that's the Lord's day. Jesus is watching. And they would low key use it as a shady insult. This was my favorite 'cause I think we should continue this one on. Rumors would spread around in town.
Oh Alexander, over there, he must have been conceived on a Sunday. So, previously, daddy would pick out who you were going to marry to keep your status and money or whatever. And even though, some cultures allowed you to marry freely. A lot of the times, oddly enough, it was the landlord or landowners who would decide who you got to marry. This is because the landlord... Could you imagine, first of all, if your landlord decided who you got to marry? Let me think about that for a minute.
Yeah, that wouldn't be good. That would actually really suck. Anyways, so this is because the landlord held a lot of power and controlled the people that worked on his land. So when approaching the idea of marriage, the landlord is like, "Hmm, hey, I noticed that Ricky is really good at mowing the lawn and Sandra's really good at picking weeds. They should get married. They could have some kids.
They can make my lawn look real good together." So it's like, how is this going to benefit me? Which is really like what marriage is all about at the time. How is it going to benefit me, the landowner? So for commoners, a wedding didn't necessarily always happen within a church or a priest didn't have to be present.
And it's funny because weddings would literally happen at the church doors, just not inside the church. They referred to it as getting married on the church's porch, which sounds so ugly and not romantic, right. But then I Googled it, and it's actually really cute. It looks like a cute little entry way, kind of like a gazebo for God. It has three walls with an arched doorway, windows, and brick, exposed brick.
We love that, don't we, ladies, expose brick? We love that. And that's where they would get married in the civil entry way. Cute.
Once married, their first meal together is a large feast for the witnesses and family. And after that, the bridal procession led the wife to her new home. So once they got home, they had to have sex, right? And deflowering took place in the bedroom.
One of the most important things to them was guaranteeing that you were marrying a woman who was a virgin. Okay? That was very important. And they believed that if you were a virgin, that meant 100% you were going to get pregnant once you had sex.
Okay. So they had to make sure that this man did indeed marry a virgin, which you're probably thinking like, "Well, how the hell would they know?" Well, I've got an answer. Look, this was like an actual job position available at this time, where after the deflowering happened, someone would go in into the room. You just had sex. Go in, pick up the sheets, hold them up, check for blood.
Blood on the sheets, virgin. No blood, she's a liar. Parents, usually, they wanted proof that the couple had sexual relations on their wedding night.
And if the sheet wasn't enough proof, well, guests had the option to follow the couple into their bedroom to watch them do it. So just dinner and a show. Just to make sure that they're having sex, they watch.
this is really weird. This is really gross because the wedding guest, one of them would leave the bedroom after everybody was watching with a little party favor. One would take the bride's garter or a different piece of underwear, and this would be evidence that the couple had sex. So you know that awkward moment at a wedding when it's time for the garter toss, and the groom does that thing, first of all, in the middle of the dance floor, in front of all of us. We're all just watching and everyone's clapping, and then the groom disappears under the bride's dress.
And you're like, "He's going down on her right there. Oh my God." And then he always pops out with the garter on his teeth, and everyone's like, "Yay!" Everyone's all excited for some reason, right? Flicks it into the audience.
The crowd goes wild. Whoa! Anywho, this is literally where that tradition comes from, because it's the man essentially proving he and his bride have done the deed, have done the nasty, have had sexual relations. Us, the wedding party, we were the witnesses. Hey, you watched, you're a witness.
Just like a tamed down version obviously. But back then, you would watch. I wonder if the room smelled. It was probably really small, and let's be real here. Hygiene, not that important back then. There's a wedding party, like 10 to 12, right? Small bedroom, 10 to 12 people.
If you're having sex, no one has showered. Had to be a little stinky in there. I'm just...
Let me know your thoughts. Was it stinky? Let me know. So in the 1600s, during the Renaissance, people got married for power.
An example of this was the Medici family. Oh yeah, they had a net worth that in today's money amounts to over $130 billion. They were celebrities. I mean, people thought of them as the Kardashians of their time. Now these people, this family, they threw the most expensive, opulent, over the top money on money, on money, on money type of wedding.
Okay? They took weddings to the next level. These people threw some epic affairs. They had parades. They had floats, fireworks. They had a 56-course meal. Yeah, I don't know.
Where are they eating? I was thinking of as when you go to medieval times, but if you add a wedding dress, kinda like that, 'cause this is the Renaissance era or whatever. Again, everyone's probably stinky. That's all I can think about. And what are you eating? 56 courses, what is that? What are they eating? I had a lot of questions. I wish I could go back in time and attend one of these weddings. But anyways, people considered the family, the Medici family, their weddings were like a national holiday.
I mean everyone in town participated. So before we move forward, let's recap. The Babylonians and their Hammurabi code created the first ancient laws for marriage. They made the whole thing super official, essentially. The Greeks gave us the concept of soulmates and fun. The Romans gave us pretty much everything else, right? They created what became weddings as we know today, the reception with tons of food, bridesmaid, the wedding cake, smashing the cake in the face, you know what I'm saying.
The Middle Ages brought God into the picture, and of course the garter belt, we love that. And then the Renaissance period showed us you don't have to have a boring ass wedding. You can go off. Yeah, have an elephant. Have a whole carnival, you're getting married.
And what did America do for marriage? We found a way to make money off of all that. Woohoo! America, we're really good at that. We always find a way to make money off of something and found a way to turn the business of getting married into a billion-dollar industry that just keeps making up weird traditions. And for some reason, we just go with it. If you've been following me for a while, it's no secret that I have really put my hair through it.
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Diamonds are actually super common and not as rare as we've been led on to think. Okay, look, this is factual information I am sharing with you. Diamonds are pretty cheap to make.
They're cheap. They're not that great, and they're not that rare. And I'm about to shit all over it. So what happened? Well, there's a little company called De Beers, has nothing to do with alcohol, but they control like 90% of the world's diamonds, which meant that they could sell those diamonds for however much they wanted. They convinced the world that diamonds were the only stone fit for a proposal.
Now it was the perfect way to express your love or at least that's what they want us to believe. Before De Beers was around, something like 5% of women were proposed to with a diamond ring. Now by the late 1960s, it was over half. That's a big jump. Right? We don't do math here, but 5% to half.
Whoa. So what changed? Well, De Beers, that company, they launched an ad campaign convincing Americans that diamonds are forever. And not only that, they're a girl's best friend. But according to De Beers, the bigger the diamond, the more love you have for your future wife.
That's what they were selling us. And we fell for it, damn it. As much as I wanna go a little bit further into De Beers, let's leave De Beers here because I think I'm gonna dig into them for a future episode about advertising, but you can't have a marriage episode without at least mentioning De Beers and diamonds. Double Ds, baby. So diamonds, not that rare. Honestly, not that expensive.
We're being ripped off. We've been sold a lie. Okay? Great. I'm not judging. You could still love diamonds.
I'm just letting you know 'cause we should know. Great. Now the second thing America tells brides that they need, a crisp white wedding dress. Now I always thought it was because it represented a woman being pure and clean. I mean, that's true when it comes to the religious side of things. But once again, for the most part, it doesn't even come from that.
The idea of a white wedding dress actually comes from Queen Victoria. Yeah. So during her reign in the 1800s, she was beloved by her people and was also known as the biggest trendsetter. She wore a white dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.
And you guys, it was the ultimate flex. Before this wedding, wedding dresses weren't any particular color or style. It was just whatever nice item you had, put it on. Now the white dress was actually a huge flex back then because it was not easy to clean clothes. I mean, to this day, white is a bitch. I never wear it because within five minutes of wearing it, I spill something on it.
Hard to clean. I have a Clorox Bleach Pen. That thing doesn't work, you liars.
Y'all say it work. It doesn't work. Anyways. Back in the olden days, if you messed up your white dress, your only option was to just throw it away. So by Queen Victoria wearing a white dress that was clearly thousands of dollars, she was kinda telling to the people like, "Yeah, I'm only gonna wear it once. So what? I'm rich, you poor losers.
Get on my level." As this trend evolved, America did its thing and was like, yeah, we wear white because it means you're a virgin, pure like toilet paper, clouds, snow. It all makes sense.
So once you had the diamond engagement ring and you got the white dress, you now gotta plan the big day. Now, way back in the olden days, you could just decide one morning to get married or your dad would be like, "Hey, you're getting married today." And that's it, it was done. Eat some bread, have some wine, shave your head, get chased around a dark room. You're married, simple.
But today, you've got seating arrangements, tablecloths, florals, catering, DJs. And also, you have to make those little gifts you feel required to give to people for coming to your wedding. It's just a lot. And that is all by design. Oh yes. Because in 1934, a magazine was created called, "So You're Going to be Married: A Magazine for Brides."
Now at this point in our "Dark History" journey together, we shouldn't be surprised to find out that this bridal magazine was created by some old white man who went to Princeton because, sure, that makes sense. And in that magazine, women start seeing, for the first time, things considered must-haves for your perfect dream wedding day. As in you must have this or else everyone's gonna judge you for having ugly centerpiece, and you don't want that.
And just a little while later, after World War II, America introduces to us this thing called the American dream, which is essentially the wife, the kids, the dog. But in order to achieve this, step one, you gotta get married. So in 1950, marketing geared towards white women in America creates this outline as to what weddings should look like, kind of essentially creating the golden age of marriage.
People are starting to realize how much money can be made from weddings. Hotels start building event spaces specifically for these types of parties. Cakes are getting bigger and bigger and more expensive.
Women are feeling pressured to have that splashy, amazing wedding because fucking Susie next door, she had a chocolate fountain at her wedding. That dumb bitch. But what all this was really doing was selling women the illusion that they too could be a rich princess for the day as she deserves, even if she went into crippling debt to get it.
And going into debt for your wedding has only gotten worse. Things just keep adding up throughout the years. People thought they needed more and more to have that perfect American wedding.
The average cost for a wedding today is around $28,000, which is a big number to begin with. Because according to the 2019 census, the average American income was $31,000. Oh, and we can't forget to talk about Vegas weddings, Wake up at 9:00 AM, go to the pool party, seven Bloody Marys later, maybe you're at chapel saying I do to some guy named Bryce. The sweaty Elvis impersonator is like, "Kiss your bride," or whatever.
And you're like, "Okay." I'm sure it happens to a lot of people out there. Was it just me? Bryce, if you're watching, hey. Anyways, what Vegas did was slap America's fast food model onto the institution of marriage and just cheapened, quotes, the whole thing.
It's honestly like the purest thing we have. It's the purest option, really. It comes down to you, the person you love, and a witness who may or may not be dressed as Elvis.
You don't need to impress a damn soul. It's nice. It's simple. And you'd think that's what a wedding's supposed to be, isn't it? I don't know.
Well, of course, nobody cares about that because this is America and they want you to spend money. Today, the wedding industry brings about $58 billion. So nobody wants your ass to get married in Vegas, uh-uh, They're gonna keep pumping us with these dreams and visions.
And this got me thinking, is this why we kind of look down on Vegas weddings like, "That's so cheap"? We used to. I feel like it's kind of turning, but... Because we've been told to think that it's cheap in order to keep us spending our money. It was just a thought.
We've all been brainwashed. I mean, you best believe, at my wedding day, if that ever happens, I'm gonna go all out, baby. Okay? So after my wedding, we should definitely look into making some changes. I'm just kidding. I'm not getting married.
But if I did, I would wanna have a big old wedding. So I get it. I don't know why it's in us the way it is, but it just is. Right? God damn it.
We fall for everything. Can't we have anything, just something nice without being ripped off and going into debt? My God. Anyways. Well, everyone, thank you for learning with me today.
I wanna know what you learned. Let me know. Remember, don't be afraid to ask questions to get the whole story because you deserve that. I'd love to hear your reactions to today's story.
So make sure to use the #darkhistory so I can follow along. Also, join me over on my YouTuber where could watch these episodes on Thursday after the podcast airs. And while you're there, don't forget to catch "Murder Mystery & Makeup." I hope you have a wonderful day today. You make good choices. I'll be talking to you next week.
Goodbye. "Dark History" is an Audioboom original. This podcast is executive produced by Bailey Sarian, Kimberly Jacobs, Dunia McNeily from 3 Arts, Kevin Grosch and Claire Turner from Maiden Network.
writers, Katie Burris, Allyson Philobos, Joey Scavuzzo, and me, Bailey Sarian. Shot and edited by Tafadzwa Nemarundwe. Research provided by Regina Dolza and Xander Elmore. Special thanks to our expert, Vicki Howard.
And I'm your host, Bailey Sarian. Thank you, all. Thank you. I'm here all day.
Goodbye. (somber music) (somber music continues)