Some time back I dug into this subject of weddings in olden Biblical days, just out of curiosity . This is summary of sort of what I found.
Bible speaks of three "C" of weddings: Contract, Consummation, Celebration. These same things exist today in modern marriages but the order and timing of each stage is different. Ancient Jewish weddings never involved a wedding ceremony like we see today with the bride walking down the aisle to be married in the synagogue.
In fact the present day "wedding ceremony" is something that did not develop for hundreds of years after Jesus rose from the dead. Modern Jewish weddings are as removed and different from the ancient Jewish marriage culture of the first century as Christian weddings are.
There were three states of a marriage in the Bible:
Stage 1: Signing the "ketubbah" contract (Creating the marriage bond)
- The bride would chose her husband and her father would sign a legal contract with him called a "ketubbah".
- Once this is signed the couple is 100% married but do not have sex yet.
- Young children were often married, (arranged marriage) but did not consummate until of age.
Stage 2: The "chuppah": sexual consummation.
Up to 7 years later, the groom is able to raise the money as set out in the ketubbah contract and notifies the father of the bride, who then sets a date to consummate the marriage at the bride's home.
The bride waits with her maidens, for the arrival of the groom and his companions.
The couple enters the chuppah room and consummates the marriage while the companions of the bride and groom wait and celebrate outside or in the next room.
The groom hands the bloodied "proof of virginity cloth" to the witnesses chosen by the bride's parents, who then give it to the bride for safekeeping.
Stage 3: The wedding feast
After consummation, the entire wedding party walks to the house of the groom in a procession for a wedding feast.
At the conclusion of the wedding feast, the couple has completed the ancient ritual of marriage.
There was no "wedding ceremony" in the synagogue in the first century, performed under a canopy where the bride and groom would hold hands and say, "I do" before an audience of friends and family. This didn’t develop for hundreds of years after Jesus died on the cross as the Passover lamb for the sins of mankind.
A few examples from OT:
The three stages of Isaac's marriage to Rebekah: Gen 24.
Contract (stage 1): Gen 24:33, Gen 24:51-53, Gen 24:57-58. An offer of marriage is proposed. The offer is accepted and Rebekah is married by contract. Gifts and money are given both to the bride and the parents of the bride. Notice that Rebekah was asked if she consented to the marriage.
Consummation (stage 2): Gen 24:64-67. Rebekah and Isaac go to the tent.
Celebration (stage 3): No mention of wedding feast, but one likely happened.
The three stages of Jacob's marriage to Leah: Gen 29.
Contract (stage 1): Gen 29:15-20. Jacob contracts to work for 7 in advance before he gets the girl.
Consummation (stage 2): Gen 29:21-26. Jacob pays the dowry price of 7 years and takes Leah into the tent.
Celebration (stage 3): Gen 29:27-28. He completed the 7 day wedding feast with Leah.
The three stages of Jacob's marriage to Rachel: Gen 29.
Contract (stage 1): Gen 29:27. Jacob contracts to work for 7 MORE years but gets to consummate the wedding at the before he pays the full dowry.
Consummation (stage 2): Gen 29:30. He took Leah into the tent at the beginning of the 7 day feast, then at the end of the 7 day feast he took Rachel into the tent.
Celebration (stage 3): Gen 29:27-28. The 7 day wedding feast was for both girls.
In Ten Commandment, God makes us aware that the adultery and fortification are something against God. This is the testimony by itself that all these three stages of wedding culminating into a marriage was according to God’s requirement. Otherwise there could be no meaning attached to the words adultery and fornication in the Law.