To discuss marriage as an institution on the peninsula of Caelon, one must first understand there are two vastly different cultures that have their own unique customs and practices when it comes to marriage. In general, Torian customs are patrilineal, the House name is passed on through the male and the female adopts the name and the home of her husband. In contrast, Warathi culture is not always patrilineal; more value is placed on the family names, so if a man marries a woman of a higher family status, he will often take on the name of his wife’s house. There are many other distinctions between the two cultures as well.
Family Names and Houses
Among the gentry on both sides of the cultural divide, house names play an extremely important role in the institution of marriage.
In Torian culture, house names are created and established over time, based on the socioeconomic status of the heads of house. While it is extremely uncommon for peasants to ascend to higher castes by their own merit in peacetime, it is possible and it has happened before. Typically, a lower class citizen might hope to earn notoriety through rising through the ranks in a military, through extraordinary commerce (rare) or through exceptional craftsmanship over time. While this is in no way a guarantee of assuming enough influence to become a part of, or establishing, a proper house, it is one venue in which the lowest class can do so. Typically speaking, the children of lords will be lords and ladies, and the children of peasants will also be peasants.
Power is a facet of the Warathi way of life. Earliest historical documents detailing Warathi culture allude to the belief that there is literal power in the blood lines of their people. Certain family lines claim to have inherited extraordinary human traits that they have passed down through time, but there is no recent documentation that would lead us to believe this is more than superstition. However, it is so ingrained in the Warathi people that this creates distinct differences from the Torian counterparts. A house name values the genetics above all, and thus it isn’t uncommon for a male suitor to join a house of a woman if her family’s house is larger.
Peasants on both sides may have family names uncommonly, but they are typically not associated with houses, so their surnames are more of an indicator of their trade than anything else. On both sides, there are many peasants without surnames at all.
Betrothal and Weddings
In Torian culture, a woman is wed to a suitor based on the choices of the lord of the house. Many times, a minor family under one house may have a lord supersede the decisions of the parents of the child when it comes to marriage, in the interests of growing the house. Marriage between socioeconomic boundaries is taboo in Torian culture; if a lordling marries a commoner, it adds no value to the house and thus it is typically seen as an illegitimate union. It is one of the worst crimes for a commoner to be seen with a lady, as sexual purity for women wed to other houses is one of the most important bargaining chips that a family has for gaining status and strengthening the house. In any case, dowries from the bride’s parents are negotiated and transferred upon marriage to signify the union and to give the new couple a portion of wealth to start their family.
For the Warathi, the norm is that larger houses take into them members of smaller houses – normally women wed to men in the current era – but there are certain cases where men marry into a larger house. This is usually an indicator of a smaller house about to be absorbed by a larger house entirely. As mentioned above, there are circumstances that allow for marriages outside of this normal method to occur. If a member from a smaller house, or even a lower caste person were to want to join in union with a more powerful house, then two conditions must be met. One, the person in the house must first agree that it is their will for the marriage to become viable, and two, the person asserting their interest must undertake a trial that will prove their strength to the house. Typically, this is usually done by the person commencing in a wrestling match with a chosen champion of the house. If they are successful, then they may assume full incorporation into the house and take their betrothed for their own. What many people don’t realize is that this is not gender-specific, and a young woman has full rights to attempt this trial as well. It has happened before, but it’s not something that is common these days.
Weddings in Torian culture are large-scale events and involve much festivity and fanfare. Torians consummate their marriages on their wedding nights. Often times, marriages are not romantic in higher Torian society. Warathi weddings are seen as a solemn oath between the two people who are joining their bloodlines, and the two will often wed with only a priest in audience, under a full moon. It is expected that the couple will not consummate until the next full moon, in belief that the underlying potential of their blood needs time to mature before being passed on to their kin. In the meantime, they are expected to bond with each other mentally and spiritually.
Love and Romance
Romance is seen as a juvenile distraction in Torian high society. While some romantic stories, poems and dramas on stages have become popular with the laymen, they are seen as smut to the ruling lords. It is not uncommon for ladies to sneak away to watch these plays and songs and poetry about unrequited and forbidden love being performed, but they do so at their own peril.
For the Warathi youth, it is typically looked down upon when two meet, but it is not as strictly enforced as it is with the Torian culture. Part of the reason for this is the underlying belief in the society that should two people sexually experiment who have not undergone the proper rites, their blood will punish them greatly. Sex work is not common, even in the lowest parts of Warathi society, because of this fear.
For peasants and laymen on both sides, the marriages are nowhere near as strict as they are for the gentry. Typically, the marriages will still heavily involve the decisions and the consent of the parents, but there are not as many unspoken rules there to stop them from getting married. Marrying for love is more common in the lowest parts of society, and many believe this is because of the influence of the entertainment media and material of their time.
Divorce is not common in either society. Torians typically do not honor divorce unless the wife has been unchaste, which is a serious offense, often times punishable by death. Warathi believe that once their blood has been joined together, nothing may part it. If the man or woman were to be unfaithful to one another, then an ordeal of penance must be performed. Typically, this involves a priest leading the offender to a secluded location where their bodies are exhausted to the point of mental collapse, and they are forced to repent for their sins against their spouse. This does not happen often.
One last note deals with the Kings in Torian culture. In the earliest parts of the current age, long after the land had been scoured of the demonic presence by the predecessors of the Warathi tribes, many powerful men from those tribes became the inheritors of the earliest thrones of the current age. Legends speak of the blood of kings possessing powers that gave them true prowess in battle. Bloodlines from these earliest kings still exist today, even though there is no indicator that any supernatural powers ever truly existed. Still, however, this translates to an importance of royal purity of bloodlines, and ultimately that is the greatest bargaining chip that the northern Great Houses have at their disposal.