Unmasking the Bourgeoise

Contracting a Marriage

A Love Story




Real Life

A Wedding Announcement: Perrot, 313

It was customary for the families of the couple to draw up a marriage contract that stipulated the terms of the union, including the amount of the dowry to be paid by the young women's family. After such an agreement was reached a date was set for the signing. On the day of the signing of the contract, the couple together with their families and close friends appeared before a notary. The ceremony usually began with the reading of the contract, while the couple remained silent as not to show concern for money during a period of romantic love. Following the reading, the couple and their families, signed the contract stating their agreement to the provisions set forth in the contract (Perrot, 313).

The Signing: Perrot, 312

A woman's property was protected under the law only under the terms of a marriage contract. However, this was dependent on the nature of the household. In general, only wealthy families were able to employ such contracts. Under the provisions of the contract, there was the property that was being acquired by both the future wife and husband jointly, and there was the property that would be legally separated. Of the wife's property, she would retain half, and the other half including her dowry would become her husband's (Perrot, 314).

Beyond the law, marriage was more than a contract for it meant many things: an alliance of fortune and social rank, a property settlement regulating the duties and rights of each spouse and their respective families, a decision shared between two individuals grounded on "free choice" and settlement, and the intent to remain together.

Summary of the articles from an original marriage contract...