In spite of the Separatists strong religious beliefs, when it came to marriage, they were unable to find any mention of religious ceremonies in the Bible. Therefore it remained a civil matter. When they lived in Leiden, in the Netherlands, their pastor taught them marriage was a civil union, and it was this practice that they carried with them as they left the Netherlands to establish their colony at Plymouth.
Gov. Bradford in his history, Of Plymouth Plantation, in writing about the first marriage (Edward Winslow) states that it took place according to the custom since 1590 of the Low Countries (The Netherlands) where the Pilgrims had spent a dozen years after fleeing England. Their magistrates performed the wedding ceremony because marriage was not a religious matter, but a civil matter.