Before 1563, when reforms enacted by the systematized and formalized the process, the only requirement for marriage was the mutual consent of a man and woman not already married to someone else.
Dowries, which consisted of goods such as clothing and jewelry as well as money or property, were among the greatest financial obligations that families with female children faced.
Parents hoping to elevate their status paid large sums to place their daughters in advantageous unions, but even marriages among social equals required substantial investment.
A celebration followed, with more gifts and a festive meal.
Legitimization of the couple’s union (nozze) followed a procession through the streets of the town, as the bride—together with the groom’s gifts to her and her dowry goods—was moved from her childhood home to her husband’s house.
His visit was followed by a larger gathering of relatives from both families—males only—during which the final terms of the match were hammered out: the size of the dowry, a schedule for its payment, and the date of the nuptials.
The arrangements were made public, giving outside parties a chance to raise objections.In aristocratic families, marriages were a currency of dynastic and diplomatic exchange (as in the case of Bianca Maria Sforza)—and they were not much different among the merchant families of republican cities.In Florence, for example, Lorenzo de' Medici, 1478/1521Painted terra-cotta, 65.8 x 59.1 x 32.7 cm (25 7/8 x 23 1/4 x 12 7/8 in.)National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Samuel H.And, of course, the large number of very young brides corresponded to a large number of widows.Children of men who died remained in the man’s home and a part of his extended family; his wife did not.Kress Collection Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art" src=" width="248" height="300" /Florentine 15th or 16th century, probably after a model by Andrea del Verrocchio and Orsino Benintendi Lorenzo de’ Medici, 1478/1521Painted terra-cotta, 65.8 x 59.1 x 32.7 cm (25 7/8 x 23 1/4 x 12 7/8 in.)National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Samuel H.