One of the earliest Marriage Contracts in existence is believed to be from approximately 5 BC. It was found on the Island of Elephantine in the Nile. In the sixth century, this Island housed a group of Jewish missionaries under the employ of the Persian emperor. Marriage Contracts existed in all cultures and most of what we know about marriage in the Middle Ages comes from the descriptions found in these contracts. They were a legal, binding document and were seriously negotiated prior to the wedding, by the families of the bride and groom often without any input from them.
Conditions outlined in the Marriage Contract covered dowry (what the bride brought to the union), bride-price (what the groom paid for the bride), settlements should either partner predecease the other, and details of settlements should the marriage be dissolved by either party.
On the ______day of the week, the ______day of the month ____in the year ___________ since the creation of the world, the era according to which we reckon here in the city of ______________ that the groom ______________________ son of_________________ said to this bride _________________ daughter of________________.
"Be my wife according to the practice of Moses and I will cherish, honour, support and maintain you in accordance with the custom of husbands who cherish, honour, support, and maintain their wives faithfully. And I here present you with the marriage gift of ___________ (usu. 200) silver pieces, which belong to you, according the law of Moses and Israel; and I will also give you your food, clothing and necessities, and live with you as husband and wife according to universal custom." And _____________________ the bride consented and became his wife. The trousseau that she brought to him from her ( father's )____________ house in silver, gold, valuables, clothing, furniture and bedclothes, all this _______________, the said bridegroom accepted in the sum of _____________ (usu. 100) silver pieces, and __________ the bridegroom , consented to increase this amount from his own property with the sum of _____________ (usu. 100) silver pieces making in all _______________ (usu. 200) silver pieces. And thus said ___________, the bridegroom; "the responsibility of this marriage contract, of this trousseau, and of this additional sum, I take upon myself and my heirs after me, so that they shall be paid from the best of my property and possession that I have beneath the whole heaven, that which I now possess or may hereafter acquire . All my property, real and personal, even the shirt from my back, shall be mortgaged to secure the payment of this marriage contract, of the trousseau, and the addition made to it, during my lifetime and after my death, from the present day and forever." ________________ the bridegroom, has taken upon himself the responsibility of this marriage contract and the additions to them made according to the institution of the sages of blessed memory. It is to be regarded as a mere forfeiture without consideration or as a mere formula of a document. We have followed the legal formality of symbolic delivery between __________ the son of__________, the bridegroom and ____________ the daughter of __________________ this bride, and we have used a garment legally fit for this purpose, to strengthen all that is stated above, and everything is valid and confirm.