Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

A Look at Marriage & Wedding Traditions in The Roman Empire, Inspired by House Speaker Mike Johnson

Published Wednesday, Nov. 8th, 2023

Photo (cropped): :oliale72 / iStock


The Roman Empire sure is getting a lot of press these days. 


First, it was the claim that men think about the Roman Empire multiple times a day, which prompted a cross-platform social media trend and several viral videos earlier this fall. 


Now, it seems, interest in Ancient Rome has been piqued by newly elected speaker of the House, Mike Johnson… Who has publicly claimed that the Roman Empire was destroyed in part by homosexuality. 


Yep. Rome was brought to its knees by the gays… 


“Many historians, those who are objective, would look back and recognize and give some credit to the fall of Rome, to not only the deprivation of the society and the loss of morals but also to the rampant homosexual behavior that was condoned by the society,” Johnson told a radio host in 2008 (via Yahoo News). 


The quote is making rounds again following Johnson's appointment on October 25th, and reflects his historically discriminatory views on LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality. It also adds context to his support of conversion therapy, a practice which is inherently harmful and has rightfully been banned in 22 states, DC, and more than 115 municipalities within the US (stats via


In light of all this recent discourse, it seems like the perfect time for AMM to take a closer look at the Roman Empire, too. After all, we like to give our readers what they want! 


Of course, we aren’t historians (obviously… we foolishly thought the Roman Empire fell because of corruption, political instability, and endless waves of invasions). No, we’re a church that ordains inclusive wedding ministers, advocates for marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights, and provides education on the topics of marriage and wedding traditions. So, we’ll focus on those for now. 



Here’s a brief look at what marriage and weddings were like during the Roman Empire, and the suspected history of same-sex marriage in Rome.





What Was Marriage Like During the Roman Empire?


The practice of marriage in Ancient Rome was called “Affectio Maritalis.” These marriages weren’t about love, or even religious faith. As they were in most of the ancient world, marriages were unions forged between wealthy families for political and economic benefits. (


For Roman girls from wealthy families, marriage also marked their passage into adulthood. Girls as young as 12 years old were eligible to marry, while boys had to be at least 14 (via Most Roman brides were young teens, and most Roman grooms were in their mid-twenties ( 


Slaves and young girls from poor or ordinary families weren’t able to legally marry, but they did sometimes enter into long-term partnerships similar to marriage. (via


To marry, a couple had to meet the requirements of "conubium." This meant that they both had to be Roman citizens, meet the age requirements, and not be close relatives by blood. (Preview, The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity) There were several other unusual restrictions placed on marriage, as well. For example, prostitutes and actresses couldn’t marry, and ‘unfaithful’ wives who were divorced by their husbands couldn’t remarry. (


What Were Ancient Roman Weddings Like? 


Weddings in ancient Rome were community events that announced a couple’s plans to live together as married people. For the most part, these ceremonies were formalities, as the marriages themselves were arranged between wealthy families. (via


One of the most important parts of a wedding was to celebrate a bride’s chastity and transition into womanhood. The night before the wedding day, girls were asked to give away all their dolls (symbols of girlhood and innocence) and donned a special white nightgown to sleep in. (via


The next morning, the bride was joined by bridesmaids, dressed, and had a wreath of flowers and herbs placed on her head, along with a yellow veil called a 'flammeum.' (via;   Preview, The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity) The wedding dress, called a ‘tunica recta’ was tied with an elaborate knot, called the "Knot of Hercules.” ( The groom led a public procession to the bride’s house, where she was escorted by bridesmaids to meet him, and the ceremony began. ( (Some historians say that the bride led a procession to the groom's house, instead, in a practice called 'domum deductio.' via


Sometimes, bridesmaids carried baskets filled with grains and herbs – a precursor to today’s flower girls.  


Experts say that during the ceremony itself the couple didn’t exchange vows, but members of the uniting families would sometimes sign contracts of marriage to ensure that both families’ interests were protected. 


Related: A Short History of the Marriage License & Common Law Marriages



Was same-sex marriage legal during the Roman Empire?


According to the majority of scholars, no, same-sex marriages weren’t allowed in Ancient Rome, but consensual same-sex relationships weren’t outlawed. 


Historians often debate whether any gay relationships were socially acceptable during the Roman Empire, and if so under what circumstances. But no one debates that queer relationships happened and were a common and natural part of life… as they have been in all cultures throughout history! (via Museum.Wales)


Some academics believe that the concept of ‘homosexuality’ may not have even existed in Roman society. Instead, men may have been appraised based on their masculinity, not their sexuality, so gender wasn’t part of the equation. (Museum.Wales)


Unfortunately, it’s likely that ancient queer Romans faced much of the same discrimination and violence that queer people do today. 



Read Next: 





Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!