Antimiscegenation laws – The first such law was passed in Maryland in 1661. It specifically prohibited the marriage of white women to black men. Over the years these laws would grow to include prohibition of marriage of whites of either gender to anyone who was not also Caucasian. The last of these laws was taken off the books in Alabama in 2000.
Get – This is a document that allows an orthodox Jewish woman to divorce. Historically a man could divorce a woman pretty much at will. But a woman had to be given a “get” or permission from her husband to initiate a divorce. Any woman without a “get” was unable to remarry legally.
Huswifery – a term used in colonial America for the work that a woman would do running a household – including cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, looking after livestock, managing servants and/or slaves and raising children.
Levirate Marriage – An ancient Hebrew tradition where by is a woman is widowed but has no children her husband’s brother is expected to marry her and “give her seed.” Should he refuse it was one of the rare situations where a woman was able to go before the elders and bring a public case against him.
Mahr – (Arabic) This is a mandatory payment by the husband or the husband’s father of money, possessions, (i.e. jewelry, house hold goods, clothing, appliances, etc) or land made to the bride in an Islamic wedding. It is specified in the marital contract. It differs from a dowry or bride price. A dower or dowry is wealth or items brought into the marriage by the bride. Bride Price is paid to the bride’s family for the loss of her labor, NOT to the bride.
Mass Wedding – A ceremony where many couples are married in one ceremony. Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church is famous for performing weddings of 2000 or more couples at once both in the U.S. and Korea.
Nashez – In Sharia law a wife is considered to “deviant” or nashez if she refuses to have sex with her husband, leaves his house without permission or leaves and does not return. This is often considered ground for divorce, or grounds for loosing her mahr or having to repay the mahr in the divorce settlement.
Nikah – Islamic Marriage Contract. It states that the Bride and Groom consent to the marriage freely and outlines the rights and responsibilities of each. There must be two Muslin witnesses for it to be valid. It also specifies the particulars of the mahr.
Nuptial – nuptial is often related to the wedding ceremony, i.e. “nuptial vows,” or “nuptial day.” But it is actually based on the Latin “nuptialis” which means wedding. A second less common meaning is “Characteristic of or occurring in the breeding season.” i.e. nuptial plumage or nuptial flight.
“Rule of Thumb” – According to common law in England and the US until the mid 19th century it was legal for a man to beat his wife as long as the switch was no thicker than his thumb. Though it could be much longer.
Spinster – During the Middle Ages spinning thread from cotton, wool or other fibers was often a means of support for women who were not married. Thus single women past marrying age (older than 25) were often called spinsters. In the 17th century it was used as an official legal description of an unmarried woman. Over time it has moved from the practical reality to imply someone unable to form a deeply bonded relationship and is reaching the end of her reproductive years. It can also imply someone who is repressed and given to prissiness. The more modern version is probably “the crazy cat lady.”
Tlhogh – the Klingon word for marriage.
Walima – A traditional Islamic marriage banquet. There are several views on the exact timing of the walima. Many proceed directly after the wedding contract or nikah, is signed. Others think that is should be after the time of the wedding procession and still others believe that a couple should wait until after the marriage is consummated.
“Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve.” In Europe at Valentine’s celebrations men would draw a woman’s name from a box, and wear it pinned to his sleeve, to show that they were meant to dance or converse at the party.
Wedlock – the state of being married. Based on the Middle English wedlac, or marriage bond.