150 years since first civic marriage in Old Town Hall

Photo: Martin Franta, archive of Charlotta Tichá / National Museum in Prague, CC BY 4.0

The wedding took place March 5, 1871. Until then only church weddings had been allowed.

Jan van Eyck: The Arnolfini-Wedding,  photo: National Gallery London,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC0

The contemporary form of a wedding formed gradually. In Medieval Europe it was common to get married in church in the company of a priest. However, it was also possible to marry in private by expressing the marital vow in front of witnesses. Change came with the Council of Trident in 1545 and 1563, when it was stipulated that a marriage can only take place in the company of a priest and two witnesses in a parish church. From the eighteenth century the union of marriage started being moved from Church jurisdiction into civil law. In France this led to the legalisation of civil marriage in 1787.

Photo: Eric Minbiole,  Flickr,  CC BY-NC 2.0

After the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia, the state passed a law in 1919 which introduced optional civil marriage and divorce. The law stipulated that people who were retarded, younger than 14 years of age, or those who were impotent could not marry. It was also illegal to marry those who were related up to the fourth degree of the subsidiary line. Furthermore, marriages contracted under duress or with a fiancée who misled her future husband regarding pregnancy, could be declared invalid.

After the establishment of a communist regime in Czechoslovakia, civil marriage was made compulsory. This law was revoked in 1992 and church marriage became possible again.