What were the characteristics of marriage from 1600 to 1750?
Most marriages consisted of a two generation household, (parent and children) as opposed to the three generation households that had previously been prevalent. In those instances in which a third generation was present, it normally resulted from elder parents moving in with their married children rather than vice versa. Couples did not marry early, but rather married generally in their late twenties, when they were capable of supporting themselves. A son would often wait until his father's death so that he would inherit land with which to support a family; and young ladies had to have a dowry provided by their families, which often took years of saving to accumulate. In some instances, legal obstacles made marriage for the poor difficult, as it was believed that poorer people tended to have more children and that poverty rates grew as a result.
Within the marriage, in both Protestant and Catholic households, the wife was expected to be subservient to her husband. It was believed this was necessary to maintain order in society. The major difference between Catholic and Protestant marital practices was that Protestants allowed ministers to marry whereas Priests could not; and Protestants did not consider marriage to be a sacrament, and for that reason divorce was available, although it was normally only granted with some degree of reluctance.