This article documents the many marriage traditions held by the various cultures and religions of Tamriel.
Marriage Under 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. 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.
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.
Imperial and Breton nobles are usually married between both close and distant noble families to sealed political alliances. The Redguard High King Ar-Azal was polygamous, and married several people in an attempt to secure peace between Crowns and Forebears.
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. However, discrimination towards interracial couples exists, and civil administration sometimes disapproves this kind of union.
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.
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. 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.
Altmer are famous for their interest in lineage and heritage over marriage out of attraction. Summerset High Elves' marriages are commonly arranged and often loveless. 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. Breaking an arranged betrothal usually leaves those involved labeled as outcasts to their own families and communities.
Inter-class marriages are not unheard of, but they are despised by Summerset society. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. During the bonding ritual, the tribe chooses those who will lay and sire the next clutch of eggs. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. During the Tribunal's reign, House Dunmer wedding ceremonies took place at shrines to Almalexia, also known as Mother Morrowind.
The member of the couple coming from the lesser clan is commonly brought into the greater clan. This member binds him or herself through ritual and oath into the new clan, and gains communication and benefits from its ancestors; however, his access is lesser than those born into the bloodline. Despite this new bond, he or she retains some access to the ancestors of his or her own bloodline.
Motivations behind Dunmer relationships and marriages are political in some cases when a high-ranking House Dunmer is involved. 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.
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. 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.
Although most Dunmer marriages are monogamous, polygamy is practiced in some situations. Same-sex marriages and relationships are accepted within Dunmer society.
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.
Orcish Stronghold marriages under the Code of Malacath are always between a male and a female, as the capability of procreation is very important for the survival and strength of the community under the rule of the chiefs. In strongholds, 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. He will marry an unlimited number of women, who become his hearth-wives, forge-wives, hunt-wives, and shield-wives. 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. Traditionally, the title of chief can only be achieved by male Orcs, but in certain exceptional circumstances a female Orc may rule her clan. 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.
There exists a certain Orcish traditional engagement ritual. First, the suitor must smell of battle and of his enemy's blood. An Orc chief often fights a powerful foe before wooing a wife. 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. Finally, the wooer should recite a love poem, typically with war, blood or revenge background, but at the same time, flattering. Once performed, the maiden may or may not choose to accept the proposal.
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.
When a chief passes away, the mother of the next chief (and widow of the previous one) becomes "mother" of the stronghold (or kingdom, in some cases). The name combinations are the same: Hearth-Mother, Forge-Mother, Hunt-Mother or Shield-Mother.
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.
Marriage customs among Trinimac-worshiping Orsimer differ, as they do not follow the Code of Malacath. 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. According to the teachings of High Priestess Solgra, if two Orcs are married at heart, it is as valid as a real marriage. Depending on the political situation, an Orc chief may have no choice but to let other married Trinimac-worshiping Orcs reside in a stronghold.
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. Some Forebears believe that their kin shouldn't associate themselves with a Crown, let alone marry one, and vice versa. Some Redguards believe that such a marriage would never last because the Crowns and Forebears are so different.
Reachfolk marriages are traditionally preceded by handfasting, and are often political in nature. They are used to end wars and strengthen alliances between clans. Handfasting vows are spoken in front of a mediator such as the Chief-of-Chiefs rather than a priest.
- 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.
- Varieties of Faith in the Empire — Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College
- Shezarr and the Divines — Faustillus Junius
- The Whithering of Delodiil — Unknown
- Knight-Paladin Gelebor's dialogue in Skyrim
- Augustine Viliane Answers Your Questions — Sybil Augustine Viliane
- Federic Seychelle's dialogue in ESO
- Biography of the Wolf Queen — Katar Eriphanes
- The Worthy Ar-Azal, His Deeds
- Artorius Ponticus Answers Your Questions — Bishop Artorius Ponticus
- Hasathil's dialogue in Oblivion
- Maramal's dialogue during weddings in Skyrim
- The Shrine of Mara's description in ESO
- Events of Vows and Oaths in ESO
- Kinlady Ilunsare's dialogue in ESO
- Esterdel's dialogue in ESO
- Niralin's dialogue in ESO
- Tableau's dialogue in ESO
- Nafarion's Note — Nafarion
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: High Rock — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Blessed Isle: Alinor and the Summersets — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- The Hist's Fire — Pegareem
- Talen-Jei's dialogue during Sealing the Deal in Skyrim
- Chal-Maht's dialogue after Frog Totem Turnaround in ESO: Murkmire
- Aliskeeh's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
- Tseedasi's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
- Bond-Guru Topeth's dialogue during Unsuitable Suitors in ESO: Murkmire
- Tree-Minder Pavu's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
- Ancestors and the Dunmer
- Shrine of Mother Morrowind in ESO
- Kaushad's dialogue in Morrowind
- Morrowind events
- The Reclamations — Thara of Rihad
- 36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 24 — Vivec
- The Code of Malacath — Amanda Alleia, Mercenary
- Varieties of Faith: The Orcs — Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College
- Chief Burguk's dialogue
- King Kurog's dialogue
- Ushruka's dialogue
- Forge-Mother Alga's dialogue
- Rulfala's dialogue
- Yatzog's dialogue
- Borasad's dialogue
- Lazdutha's dialogue
- Hunt-Wife Lurgush's dialogue
- Lokra's dialogue
- Ashgel's dialogue
- Balarkh's dialogue
- Notes on Racial Phylogeny — the Council of Healers, Imperial University
- Journal of the Lord Lovidicus — Lord Lovidicus
- Jagnas's dialogue during Left at the Altar in ESO
- Enneh at-Tarin's dialogue during Left at the Altar in ESO
- Chief-of-Chiefs Cannear's dialogue in ESO
Note: The following references are deemed to be unofficial sources. They are referenced to round off the information in this article and may not consist of definitive lore.