Daily Life: Love and Marriage
Despite what the songs of bards might suggest, love and marriage are two very different things in Tirenia. Marriages are matters of politics or convenience more than romance, and arranged marriages are the norm. Both men and women are able to marry once they become adults at 17 years old, but typically men delay for a while to pursue political or career aspirations (or sow wild oats). Accordingly, the groom is typically a decade older than the wife or more.
In aristocratic society, marriage is the cornerstone of politics, and so betrothals will be arranged years before the wedding. The bride’s family is expected to pay a lavish dowry, and some cities have public funds available to help pay dowries for orphans. The groom is also expected to give lavish gifts to the bride and her family. One of the most notable gifts is the marriage chest: a trunk painted with romantic or erotic images for transporting the possessions of the bride to her new home. The actual marriage consists of a series of feasts and pageants, during which the husband ritually hands the bride over to her husband. The wedding procession then parades through the streets of the town, before the husband leads the bride into her new home. The duties of an aristocratic wife are twofold: to look after the household, and to provide her family with an heir. Accordingly, most husbands arrange for their new wife’s room to be filled with erotic paintings, as this is believed to help with conception.
In some cities, such as Staglia, the wedding is a purely secular affair; but in most cities, the bride and groom will visit a church to pray. In Aterni, the High Ordinarch has decreed that weddings are an entirely religious affair, and so weddings taking place inside churches are becoming more commonplace in many cities. In the countryside, church weddings are very common, as a way of involving the entire community.
Among the lower classes, marriage is much more often an economic union. An apprentice might marry their master’s daughter to formalise their inheriting his business. Gifts will still be exchanged, though on a more subdued scale, and the wedding procession will still take place. There is more opportunity to marry for love, and more chance that the partners will be of a similar age. Husbands and wives will share their career, and may inherit their business once their spouse passes away.
With divorce being rare, infidelity is rife in Tirenia. It is generally accepted that men will visit prostitutes or courtesans, or have a mistress. There is more of a double standard about women: people are ready to laugh at ribald stories of young wives cuckolding their clueless husbands, as long as it is not happening to them. But generally, so long as everyone is discreet with their spouse, faithful to their lover, and as long as a legitimate heir is produced, affairs are tolerated.
Homosexuality is treated like any other affair in Tirenia. As an extra-marital relationship, it is officially discouraged by society, but as long as the participants are discreet, no one pays it much mind.
Image: 'Mars,Venus and Cupid Crowned By Victory.' Paris Bordone, c. 1560.