The UESPWiki – Your source for The Elder Scrolls since 1995
Jump to: navigation, search

This article documents the many marriage traditions held by the various cultures and religions of Tamriel.

Marriage Under Mara[edit]

A wedding ceremony in a Temple of Mara

Mara is worshipped as the Goddess of Love and the patron of marriages by Altmer, Bosmer, Bretons, Imperials, Khajiit and Nords. Priests of Mara (or her Redguard counterpart, Morwha, under Crown form) officiate weddings all across Tamriel. Because of this, the Pledge of Mara is the most common form of union.[1] Ayleid clans who did not turn to Daedra worship, Falmer (before their corruption), and Kothringi[UOL 1] all worshipped Mara too, before their societies disappeared from Tamriel.[2][3][4]

Lowborns usually marry for love, while nobles will be more likely to take part in an arranged marriage to strengthen relationships between royal or noble houses. Reasons for marriage may differ among the different cultures.[5]

Imperial and Breton nobles are usually married between both close and distant noble families to sealed political alliances.[6][7] The Redguard High King Ar-Azal was polygamous, and married several people in an attempt to secure peace between Crowns and Forebears.[8]

Temples to the Eight and Nine Divines hold that Mother Mara loves all her children regardless of form. When two mortals, regardless of their race or gender, are married, it is their souls, not their bodies, that are united. This way, same-sex and interracial marriages are allowed under the Divines.[9] However, discrimination towards interracial couples exists, and civil administration sometimes disapproves this kind of union.[10]

An altar bearing the seal of Mara, located at Hroldan Ring

Typically, priests of Mara officiate most marriages in their temples. The ceremony is arranged a certain time before by one of the members of the future union. The priest says a few words to the attendants before asking the participants to confirm their intention to marry one another. The priest declares them married, and the betrothed exchange matching rings. The exchange of rings between the couple will finish the ceremony, marking the start of the marriage. The couple is typically accompanied by their closest friends and family during the ceremony.[11]

Couples can marry without the assistance of a priest of Mara as well. Often, this is done by devoting themselves to the Goddess of Love at a Shrine of Mara, where the participants exchange Rings of Mara to seal the wedding before the Divines.[12] While it is unknown whether Reachmen worship Mara or not, the Eagleseer and Six-Ford clans intended to hold a handfasting ceremony upon an altar of Mara at Hroldan Ring to unite the two clans circa 2E 582.[13]

Temple of Mara allows posthumous marriages in certain circumstances.[14]


Altmer are famous for their interest in lineage and heritage over marriage out of attraction.[5] Summerset High Elves' marriages are commonly arranged and often loveless.[15] Highborn Altmer are expected to seek guidance from the Stars and the Gods for auspiciousness of the future union: from the very suitability of the couple to the date of the wedding. Matchmaking usually lasts years or decades to solidify in a marriage.[16][17] Breaking an arranged betrothal usually leaves those involved labeled as outcasts to their own families and communities.[16]

Inter-class marriages are not unheard of, but they are despised by Summerset society.[18] Maintaining pure blood is the most important part of the relationship, so secret vampires and werewolves may turn to suicide or murder as a way out while keeping their own family's honor (and that of their betrothed) intact.[19][17] This focus on bloodline purity restricts interracial marriage between Altmer (especially Summerset Altmer) and member of the other races, though there have been notable exceptions throughout history. For example, Clan Direnni intermingled with their Nedic vassals, and Morgiah (a Dunmer and the daughter of Queen Barenziah) married the High Kinlord of Firsthold in the Third Era.[20][21]


Argonian customs differ among the cultures of Black Marsh.

Some Argonians believe the Hist ensures that life-long mates meet and find love in each other. They think that the sentient holy trees make it so the future marriage to meet in place and in time, exactly when both of them are prepared for love and, later, marriage.[22]

A Hist tree

One tradition dictates that the one who proposes will have to present a unique wedding ring to their potential mate to represent their future bond. The jewel is supposed to be forged in gold and to have three amethysts as part of the design. Two of the gems, the ones on the outside, represent the couple to be married: one for each partner. The amethyst in the center represents the Hist, the entity that all Argonians consider a sacred part of their lives.[23]

Some Argonians don betrothal veils woven of the wings of Shadowfen wasps.[24]


The Argonians of Murkmire have bonding rituals. Outsiders often compare the bonding ritual to a wedding, but such comparisons aren't wholly accurate. A bonding ritual isn't necessarily a "marriage", per se.[25] During the bonding ritual, the tribe chooses those who will lay and sire the next clutch of eggs.[26] Some partners choose each other, and present gifts to their partner or perform other customs in accordance with their tribe's traditions. While there is respect between the bonded pair, romantic feelings are not strictly necessary.[25]

Each tribe has their own bonding traditions, but there is overlap. A tree-minder performs the ceremony before the Hist. The bonded pair are blessed with good health and vibrant fertility, and the couple mates. The process of choosing a partner also varies. Sometimes, the decision is based on an emotional connection; others bond out of physical attraction. The Bright-Throat Tribe uses their ceremony to strengthen their political connections with other tribes.[25] The closest comparison to the Bright-Throats' bonding practice in other cultures is political marriages. The intention of the union between individuals of differing factions is similar, as the union strengthens relationships between factions.[27] However, the bonding ritual isn't a binding contract between two individuals that cements them together for life; there's more of an emphasis on increasing the tribe's numbers.

All tribes celebrate their own bonding in one way or another, but the Bright-Throat Tribe is especially notable for the liveliness of their festivities. The Bright-Throats invite suitors from neighboring tribes to participate in their bonding ceremony. It is a jubilant time where the other tribes are welcomed with feasts and phlegmwine. The Black-Tongues, the Moss-Skins, and the Root-House people commonly send suitors to bond with the Bright-Throats, being long-time allies of the tribe.[28] Participants are paired with a bonding partner, and a ceremony is held to celebrate the couples, the tribe's renewal, and the bonds of blood and kinship between the participating tribes. After the festivities, the couples retire to their nuptial huts and begin the process of bonding, wherein they procreate.[28] The Bright-Throat bonding ceremony is more than a mere display, it is a renewal of the tribe's vows with their neighbors. Canceling a bonding ceremony abruptly would give the other tribes cause to call the Bright-Throats' commitment to their allies into question.[29]


A Shrine of Mother Morrowind

Both House Dunmer and Ashlanders honored their departed ancestors when they wed. Therefore, marriage traditions did not change when the Tribunal rose during the early First Era (when the Dark Elves were still known as Chimer), or when they fell in the late Third Era.[30] During the Tribunal's reign, House Dunmer wedding ceremonies took place at shrines to Almalexia, also known as Mother Morrowind.[31]

The member of the couple coming from the lesser clan is commonly brought into the greater clan. This member binds themselves through ritual and oath into the new clan, and gains communication and benefits from its ancestors; however, their access is lesser than those born into the bloodline. Despite this new bond, they retain some access to the ancestors of their own bloodline.[30]

Motivations behind Dunmer relationships and marriages are political in some cases when a high-ranking House Dunmer is involved.[30] However, for most of the common people, both House Dunmer and Ashlanders, attraction plays a key role in mating and selecting partners, who will marry or not in the future.[5]

In the past, House and Ashlander Dunmer usually did not marry between themselves due to their religious differences during the Tribunal rule; however, intercultural weddings were not unheard of.[32][33] After the rise of the New Temple, the previously persecuted Ashlanders, who had continued to worship the three Good Daedra throughout the Tribunal's rule, are now lauded as the keepers of the old ways. It is now quite common for many of the House Dunmer to make the arduous pilgrimages into the ash wastes, tightening ties between the two peoples.[34]

Although most Dunmer marriages are monogamous, polygamy is practiced in some situations. Same-sex marriages and relationships are accepted within Dunmer society.[35]


It is a common misconception that the early Nordic term "War-Wives" refers to wedded wives. The term is used interchangeably with "Shield-Sisters", and refers to women warriors. The term "War-Wife" also has little to do with the amorous relations she has with others; a War-Wife can be married to a Shield-Brother (warrior men) or a non-warrior. The relationships between War-Wives and their betrothed were mostly monogamous.[5]


Orcish Polygamy

Orcish Stronghold marriages under the Code of Malacath are typically between the chief and numerous partners. The only male allowed to be married and to father children is the chief of the clan, a title gained and lost through challenge and combat.[36] He will marry an unlimited number of women, who become his hearth-wives, forge-wives, hunt-wives, and shield-wives.[37][36] Hearth-wives are the ones who will most commonly sleep with her chief and take care of household business; forge-wives are very appreciated among her strongholds, as they master the fires of the forges; hunt-wives are more common in isolated strongholds, where hunting is more important to the economy of her clan; and shield-wives are known to be fighters and accompany her chiefs in battle.[38][39]

Despite the Code of Malacath regulations, the chief and his wives aren't the only Orcs who effectively procreate. Many of the Stronghold Orcs are forming unions, that are not official according to the Malacath faith, despite the regulations imposed by the Code.[40]

Traditionally, the title of chief can only be achieved by male Orcs, but in certain exceptional circumstances, a female Orc may rule her clan.[41][37] During the successive foundations of Orsinium, Kings acted as primus inter pares chief and married a large number of other chiefs' daughters to strengthen the kingdom.[39][42] In cases where a female Orc breaks away from tradition, they will sometimes take on multiple husbands, and the husbands will fill the traditional role of the wives.[43] Some strongholds like Mor Khazgur have abandoned the more cruder aspects of the Code of Malacath and allow members of the stronghold to marry whoever they wish without restriction.[44]

There exists a certain Orcish traditional engagement ritual.[45] First, the suitor must smell of battle and of his enemy's blood. An Orc often fights a powerful foe before wooing a wife.[46] Then he must give the best echatere cheese and spiced ale to the maiden as a present, which they are thought to have aphrodisiac properties.[45] Finally, the wooer should recite a love poem, typically with war, blood, or revenge background, but at the same time, flattering.[47] Once performed, the maiden may or may not choose to accept the proposal.[45][48]

The sons of the clan will not be able to marry until they become chiefs of their own clan. Those unable to defeat their own fathers are destined to lowly duty to their clans or exile. The chieftain is replaced by whichever member of the clan grows strong enough to challenge and, usually, kill him.[36][49]

When a chief passes away, the mother of the next chief (and widow of the previous one) becomes the "mother" of the stronghold (or kingdom, in some cases). The name combinations are the same: Hearth-Mother, Forge-Mother, Hunt-Mother, or Shield-Mother.[42][36]

The daughters of the clan will often be betrothed to other chiefs to strengthen the relationship between allied clans or to forge new alliances. These arranged marriages are most valued. Orc women may want to escape being "just another wife" to the chieftain. They leave to join the Imperial Legion, see the world, or otherwise seek their fortune; some eventually return to the strongholds, but many do not.[36][50][49]

Marriage customs among Trinimac-worshiping Orsimer differ, as they do not follow the Code of Malacath.[39] The High King of the Orcs, historically the ruler of Orsinium, is allowed to practice polygamy, often marrying many more wives than even stronghold chieftains.[39] According to the teachings of High Priestess Solgra, if two Orcs are married at heart, it is as valid as a real marriage.[40] Depending on the political situation, an Orc chief may have no choice but to let other married Trinimac-worshiping Orcs reside in a stronghold.[51]

Orcs who live in the cities with other races are likely to face prejudice. Interbreeding with other races of Tamriel is so rare that it is commonly thought impossible.[52][53]

Traditionally, Orcs are married at the stroke of midnight.[54]


A Redguard wedding in Sentinel

It is uncommon for Crowns and Forebears to marry each other. In Bergama, such a thing is almost unheard of, as the Crowns and Forebears' allegiances have remained unchanged for many years.[55] Some Forebears believe that their kin shouldn't associate themselves with a Crown, let alone marry one, and vice versa.[56] Some Redguards believe that such a marriage would never last because the Crowns and Forebears are so different.[55]


Ceremony of Handfasting
Handfasting Cave

Reachfolk marriages are traditionally preceded by handfasting, and are often political in nature. The promises can be organized without approval of the couple,[57] though their agreement is needed for the marriage to be officiated. They are sometimes called "marriage pacts",[58] and are used to end wars and strengthen alliances between clans. The handfasting vows are spoken in front of a mediator such as the Chief-of-Chiefs instead of a priest or shaman.[59] A Reachman can be promised to more than one suitor at a time,[57][60] but Reachfolk marriages are monogamous, and all other promises are broken upon the official ceremony of handfasting.[13]

Intended couples usually are isolated for a short period of time at the handfasting cave so they can learn about one another before the rites are pefrormed in case the suitors never meet each other prior to the ceremony.[59]

Handfasting rites are represented by traditional knotwork, which is often carved on rings.[61] The handfasting rite can be also performed in secrecy.[62] One way to perform handfasting rites is by sharing words of promise and exchanging the rings made of birch-wood.[63] Small beads carved from blue stone are used in Reach courtship rituals.[64]

Some couples fashion the Lover's Coil, a circular[65] totem made of stone symbolizing the couple's love by representing the spirals of the participants' lives entwining. If such a totem is destroyed, it can be interpreted as the spirits' displeasure and lack of the approval for the couple's union. This belief is not shared uniformly by all Reachfolk, as some find it superstitious.[66]

Unions and marriages between Reachfolk of the clans that venerate Hagravens (such as the Crow-Wife Clan) and Hagravens are permitted.[67][68] Married Hagravens are referred to as Hag-wives, while male partners of Hagravens are given the title of Hag-husband. Those who marry Hagravens are often respected and feared by the members of their clan.[68]


Tsaesci are known to have had marriage,[69] a tradition they shared with the Imperial denizens of Hakoshae.[70] The Kothringi are likewise known to have practiced marriage,[71] but nothing its known of the specifics.



  • Though marriage has been seen among NPCs in many of the earlier games, more recent games also feature it as a gameplay mechanic among players. For more information, see the Skyrim and ESO articles.

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ Varieties of Faith in the EmpireBrother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College
  2. ^ Shezarr and the DivinesFaustillus Junius
  3. ^ The Whithering of Delodiil — Unknown
  4. ^ Knight-Paladin Gelebor's dialogue in Skyrim
  5. ^ a b c d Augustine Viliane Answers Your Questions — Sybil Augustine Viliane
  6. ^ Federic Seychelle's dialogue in ESO
  7. ^ Biography of the Wolf QueenKatar Eriphanes
  8. ^ The Worthy Ar-Azal, His Deeds
  9. ^ Artorius Ponticus Answers Your QuestionsBishop Artorius Ponticus
  10. ^ Hasathil's dialogue in Oblivion
  11. ^ Maramal's dialogue during weddings in Skyrim
  12. ^ The Shrine of Mara's description in ESO
  13. ^ a b Events of Vows and Oaths in ESO
  14. ^ Tertia Falto's dialogue in ESO
  15. ^ Kinlady Ilunsare's dialogue in ESO
  16. ^ a b Esterdel's dialogue in ESO
  17. ^ a b Niralin's dialogue in ESO
  18. ^ Tableau's dialogue in ESO
  19. ^ Nafarion's NoteNafarion
  20. ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: High RockImperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
  21. ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Blessed Isle: Alinor and the SummersetsImperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
  22. ^ The Hist's FirePegareem
  23. ^ Talen-Jei's dialogue during Sealing the Deal in Skyrim
  24. ^ Wasp-Wing Betrothal Veil item description in ESO
  25. ^ a b c Chal-Maht's dialogue after Frog Totem Turnaround in ESO: Murkmire
  26. ^ Aliskeeh's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
  27. ^ Tseedasi's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
  28. ^ a b Bond-Guru Topeth's dialogue during Unsuitable Suitors in ESO: Murkmire
  29. ^ Tree-Minder Pavu's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
  30. ^ a b c Ancestors and the Dunmer
  31. ^ Shrine of Mother Morrowind in ESO
  32. ^ Kaushad's dialogue in Morrowind
  33. ^ Morrowind events
  34. ^ The ReclamationsThara of Rihad
  35. ^ 36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 24Vivec
  36. ^ a b c d e The Code of MalacathAmanda Alleia, Mercenary
  37. ^ a b Varieties of Faith: The OrcsBrother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College
  38. ^ Chief Burguk's dialogue
  39. ^ a b c d King Kurog's dialogue
  40. ^ a b Ashgel's dialogue in ESO
  41. ^ Ushruka's dialogue
  42. ^ a b Forge-Mother Alga's dialogue
  43. ^ Snaruga's dialogue in Online
  44. ^ Overseer Thulsgreg's dialogue in ESO
  45. ^ a b c Rulfala's dialogue
  46. ^ Yatzog's dialogue
  47. ^ Borasad's dialogue
  48. ^ Lazdutha's dialogue
  49. ^ a b Hunt-Wife Lurgush's dialogue
  50. ^ Lokra's dialogue
  51. ^ Balarkh's dialogue
  52. ^ Notes on Racial Phylogenythe Council of Healers, Imperial University
  53. ^ Journal of the Lord LovidicusLord Lovidicus
  54. ^ The Wraith's Wedding DowryVoltha gra-Yamwort, translated by Apthorne
  55. ^ a b Jagnas's dialogue during Left at the Altar in ESO
  56. ^ Enneh at-Tarin's dialogue during Left at the Altar in ESO
  57. ^ a b Esgiana's dialogue in ESO
  58. ^ Crafting Motif 97: Wayward Guardian StyleArana of the Ghostsong Clan (as recorded by Count Verandis Ravenwatch)
  59. ^ a b Chief-of-Chiefs Cannear's dialogue in ESO
  60. ^ Madearn's dialogue in ESO
  61. ^ Ring of the Unrequited item description in ESO
  62. ^ Madearn's dialogue in ESO
  63. ^ The Translated Works of Tosmorn, IIXandier Edette
    Edited by Vanesse Aurilie
  64. ^ Blue Bead quest item description in ESO
  65. ^ Lover's Coil Fragments quest item description in ESO
  66. ^ Vateshran Barth's dialogue in ESO
  67. ^ Winterborn's Note
  68. ^ a b A Life Barbaric and BrutalArthenice Belloq
  69. ^ Akaviri Diary TranslationXhaferi
  70. ^ Ashur's dialogue in ESO: Elsweyr
  71. ^ Shul's Letter

Note: The following references are considered to be unofficial sources. They are included to round off this article and may not be authoritative or conclusive.