Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/375

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The marriage ceremony was often, if not generally, preceded by the ceremony of betrothal. The latter should take place in church and be performed by the priest; yet it was not always performed in church, and the presence of a priest was not deemed absolutely essential provided that a responsible witness were present. The following words constituted the oath administered on this occasion: "You swear by God and his holy saints herein and by all the saints of Paradise, that you will take this woman whose name is N. to wife within forty days if holy church will permit?" The priest then joining their hands, said: "And you thus affiance yourselves?" to which the parties answered "Yes, sir."

The ceremony was concluded by some sign or token of constancy, thus, a piece of gold might be broken, each retaining a portion. Exchange of rings was commoner. One kind of ring, the gimmel ring, was frequently used on this occasion. It consisted of three rings so closely wrought that they fitted together like one ring. One, however, who understood the puzzling structure could easily split them apart into three separate rings. One was given to each party to the betrothal, and the third to the priest or to the principal witness.

From the frequent allusion to this custom in