- Marriage in Biblical Times ( http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/marriage.html)
“In the ancient Near East betrothal took place before the actual marriage and it was considered as binding as marriage. In ancient Israel a woman who was betrothed was considered the “wife” of the man she was betrothed to, and she was bound to be faithful. The betrothal (kiddushin) period lasted usually 6 months and sometimes 1 year, and it was a binding promise between the bridegroom and bride to marry. Deuteronomy 20:7 mentions the betrothal, stating that a man is exempt from military duty if he is betrothed. Once a woman was betrothed she was considered already married, and if she had sexual intercourse during this period she was considered an adulterer and was to be stoned to death. If she was not caught in the actual act and was found not to be a virgin, the husband could dissolve the marriage quietly and sign a bill of divorce. According to the civil law the virgin was purchased for a certain sum of money, this was paid to the bride’s father. Later in Israel’s history she was given a gold ring, or some other valuable thing, and the bridegroom would declare, “See by this ring (or token) thou art set apart unto me, according to the law of Moses and of Israel.” Many times the betrothed woman would not see her betrothed husband until the marriage ceremony began.
The Friend of the Bridegroom
The bridegroom chose a loyal friend to prepare the bride for the wedding. He would accompany her throughout the betrothal period, and help her get prepared. Once the ceremony commenced and the friend heard the bridegroom’s voice, he would know that he did his job in preparing the bride to receive the bridegroom. John 3:29 describes John the Baptist as the “friend of the bridegroom” who rejoiced because of the bridegroom’s voice, when he heard about Jesus preaching.
When the wedding day finally arrived the bridegroom would dress himself in festive garments, wearing a crown of gold, or silver, or flowers. He would proceed with his friend and other attendants from an unknown place at an unknown time to the bride’s father’s house. The virgins of Israel would be outside waiting along the way in the evening with their oil lamps lit, until the loud warning cry, “Behold the Bridegroom Cometh, Go Ye Out to Meet Him,” and they would meet him and proceed with him to the entrance of the bride’s father’s house.
Meanwhile the bride would have been bathed, purified, perfumed, richly clothed, and adorned with many jewels, and would receive the blessing from her family and friends. She was also completely covered with a veil as she waited for the bridegroom. When the bridegroom finally showed up at the entrance of the house there would again be a loud cry, “Behold the Bridegroom Cometh, Go Ye Out to Meet Him.” The procession would begin from the bride’s father’s house to the house of the bridegroom. It began with great celebration, the bridegroom, the bride, the friend, the virgins, musicians, and many other friends and relatives would walk and dance, and cast flowers, and sing songs, with “every demonstration of joy and gladness.” The bride was crowned and carried by the crowd on a piece of furniture through the streets to the bridegroom’s house.”