When Did Vikings Get Married

When did Vikings get married? A guide to Viking courtship

When did Vikings get married, how did they propose, and what exactly did a Viking courtship entail? If you’ve ever wondered about the personal lives and romantic traditions of Vikings, you may have asked yourself a couple of these questions in the past.

While Vikings are portrayed by modern media as bloodthirsty, savage people, scientific evidence shows there was a lot more to these people than meets the eye. Though Vikings were certainly well-known as powerful warriors, they were also people who believed heavily in tradition.

Viking couples often married young as part of a formal “contract” between two families. However, that didn’t mean Vikings didn’t fall in love, or take part in romantic declarations of their feelings from time to time.

Today, we’re going to offer an insight into Viking marriages and when they took place.

An introduction to Viking couples

Before we answer the question, “when did Vikings get married?” let’s take a closer look at how Viking couples actually worked. While it’s difficult to know for certain what a Viking relationship might have been like, historical references and stories do give us some insights.

Experts believe Viking society was highly structured, and that the institution of marriage was very important to many men and women.

Indeed, most Viking tribes expected boys and girls to marry quickly, and women were expected to start having children at an early age, to assist in sustaining the growing civilization.

As mentioned above, Viking marriages were typically seen as social contracts. In most cases, particularly among wealthier groups, marriages were arranged by the parents of the groom and the bride.

Viking marriages would often take place as a way of forming an alliance between two groups. They could also be a great way to bring an end to a feud between different families.

Viking marriages were also often arranged as a political or economic strategy. Parents wed their daughters to the sons of wealthier families to gain fortune, or power.

Unfortunately, love was rarely a common reason for marriage in the early years of Viking communities, though it wasn’t unheard of.

When Did Vikings Get Married

When did Vikings get married? Viking courtship

While Vikings rarely married for love, that doesn’t mean they didn’t have courtship rituals in place to help create tighter bonds between wives and grooms. There were two phases in most Viking courtship rituals, starting with betrothal, when Viking men would woo and get to know their brides.

During the betrothal stage of the courtship, the two families would come together to arrange a contract. Usually, this would involve the groom’s family paying a “bride’s fee” to the family of the bride.

When the wedding took place, the bride’s family would pay a dowry to the groom’s parents.

The exchange of money between both families meant that each of the groups were financially invested in the union, and less likely to allow it to fall apart. However, it’s worth noting many Norse sagas suggest brides weren’t typically forced into marriages against their will.

Most Viking families were considered to be very respectful of their child’s wishes. As such, women would be consulted about their preferences before the betrothal took place. Viking women were even given permission to divorce their husbands if they were unhappy with the union.

How old were Vikings when they got married?

So, when did Vikings get married? In general, Viking marriages took place when men and women were still very young. Virtually every man and woman were expected to be married by the time they reached the age of 20. Girls were often entered into arranged marriages in their early teens.

The reason making Viking courtships were rushed into marriage, comes down to life expectancy. Most Vikings weren’t expected to live beyond the age of 50. This meant if they wanted to have children and build a family, they needed to start quickly.

The Age of Viking girls when they married

Viking women usually married very young. The most common age for a woman to be betrothed was somewhere between 12 and 15. Notably, however, these young brides weren’t forced into weddings, and they weren’t intended to be “house wives” for their husbands.

Instead, both the wife and the husband shared the duties of running a household.

The Age of Viking boys when they married

Viking boys were less likely to be wed before they reached their teenage years. However, arrangements and contracts could be put in place as early as the age of 12.

Viking boys were typically considered to be adults by the time they reached the age of 16, and would be wed before turning 20.

How did Vikings propose?

As mentioned above, Viking marriages were more of a contractual agreement than a romantic endeavour. As such, Viking males rarely engaged in romantic proposals. However, many would attempt to form relationships and friendships with the groom before the betrothal.

This was to improve the chances of the bride saying “yes” to a marriage.

Proposals generally always came from the man in a Viking courtship, or his father. The male would contact the family of the girl they wished to marry, and arrange a time to discuss terms.

The groom would promise to pay the bride fee for his wife, and the bride’s family would ask their daughter whether they wanted to take part in the courtship.

Usually, the father of the bride and groom would shake hands on the agreement, and arrange a date for the wedding, which would usually take place within a year.

Though the contract of marriage among Vikings might not have been particularly romantic, the wedding itself was still seen as a joyous and celebratory occasion, with attendance from friends and family.

Weddings would usually include a massive feast held at the family home of the bride. The couple would dress for the occasion, and even exchange swords, rings, and vows on the big day.

In Viking communities, a wedding was seen as legally binding after the couple had been witnessed “going to bed” together by at least 6 witnesses.

When Did Vikings Get Married

What were Viking couples like?

Viking couples might not have been the same as the couples we see in the modern world today. They were less about romance and love, and more about the sharing of practical duties. Once Vikings were married, they became partners in maintaining the household.

Viking men would often dedicate their time to more physically demanding tasks, like working in the fields, growing food, hunting, and fishing. Alternatively, Viking wives would make food, prepare clothing, and look after the home.

Vikings, unlike many other ancient communities, also believed in divorce. In this way, Viking women actually had a lot more rights and freedoms than many other women at the time. Viking wives could divorce their husbands if they felt neglected, or were domestically abused.

Divorces were actually quite simple in Viking times, as couples simply needed to bring witnesses to their marital bed and declare they were “divorcing” their partner.

Understanding Viking courtship

Answering the question “when did Vikings get married?” offers a unique insight into the relationships which took place during the Viking era.

While it’s fair to say Viking men and women generally got married a lot earlier than people do today, these marriages weren’t nearly as problematic as they might appear on the surface.

Young Viking brides still had some control over the people they chose to marry, although many Viking girls would prefer to agree to a marriage to avoid being single for too long.

Additionally, Vikings could easily call an end to a marriage if they weren’t happy, as the Vikings believed not all courtships were destined for success.

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