Though official wedding ceremonies did not exist in ancient Egypt—the lady entered the man’s home with the household items both families had agreed upon, and the relationship was solidified from that point on—the tradition of getting married in the first place originated there. Before that, there was no name for a union of this kind. Still, there’s much we can learn from the originators of weddings (and, by the way, divorces). Romance was still valued, but moving up in the world and the solidity of a family’s holdings and reputation were also considered important. Here are a few of the lessons we’ve learned from perusing ancient Egypt’s archives.
Both in ancient times and now, Egyptian weddings have to be approved by the families of the bride and groom, whether the wedding is arranged or a love match. Gaining the family’s approval of your bride or groom isn’t completely necessary (especially in some situations, when there is just no way your father will ever approve of the man you’re marrying, and it’s best just to move along). But generally, taking every step you can to bond and create relationships with your fiancé’s family is an important part of creating a life together. In ancient Egypt, a marriage meant that two families’ lineages were joining up—two rivers converging. So, of course, the bearers of the family name wanted to ensure that it wasn’t being besmirched by a reckless choice in partner from their son or daughter.
Leaving the Past in the Past
Fun fact: there was no real word in the Egyptian language for “virgin,” which scholars believe demonstrates that the culture did not care about a person’s sexual past before the marriage. We can take a page from the ancient Egyptians’ book here—on some level, you’ll need to let go of the people your partner had physical relationships with before you two got together. And he or she will need to do the same for you.
Equalized Gender Roles
Did you know that the ancient Egyptians were big on women’s rights? Well, mostly. Women were basically considered equal to men, though men were still somewhat dominant. We owe this equality in part to Isis, one of two deities who ruled the Earth, and who gave both sexes equal power. Egyptians place great value in keeping a household calm and peaceful, and perhaps it’s this equality that helped them do so.
Marriage Lasts Forever…and Ever
Except, of course, that men in ancient Egypt often only reached the ripe old age of mid-thirty. Women died even younger. However, many widows or widowers strongly believed they would encounter their husbands or wives in the afterlife—not in “heaven,” but rather in a continuation of their lives on Earth.
When you’re getting married, fully embrace the marriage as a celebration of this person joining your life forever. Even if you do divorce, you will in some ways still be inextricably linked. (And sometimes a marriage just seems like it’s lasting forever.)
Men and Women Each Owned Their Own Things
That’s right, they kept some belongings separate. Ancient Egyptians held onto some of the items they owned before the union, without offering them up to their partner. Many people feel that if they get married, they need to throw everything into the pot together. But for some, this isn’t necessarily the case, and can even breed unnecessary tension. People on their second marriage or older folks may wish to keep some parts of their life intact the way they were before the relationship. Retaining a few of your own possessions, including perhaps your own finances, could be a way to assert your independence if you feel the need.