The Case of the Nonexistent Egyptian Wedding Ceremony

Yeah, that’s a thing

One of the things you start to learn when researching Ancient Egypt is that there is quite a bit that we actually just don’t know.

I’m not talking about the damnatio memoriae situations I have mentioned prior to this post, either. These situations notwithstanding, we honestly just seem to have quite a few odd gaps in our knowledge, simply because we haven’t dug up any artifacts or uncovered any documentation that speak to these things. These are gaps that I personally think we will uncover a lot of the answers to in the future, with time, research, digging, and patience. But, in the meantime, they made writing and researching certain aspects of my story fairly … interesting.

I developed a mantra to deal with this while writing. In a nutshell, it was:

Just don’t contradict anything that is known, and you’ll be fine.

For me, a very Type A individual, this was pretty rough going. I want facts, I want answers, and I want them nice and organized, thank you very much.

But that just wasn’t going to happen with certain parts of my research, and I had to learn to deal with it.

I’ll give you one example:

One of the strangest gaps in our knowledge is regarding Ancient Egyptian wedding practices.

We have absolutely zero evidence that there was any sort of acknowledgement of a wedding. People are recorded as married, but there’s no evidence that they got to be that way by any other means that agreeing to and writing up a pre-nuptial agreement (i.e., My family will get some gold for you and I’ll get some camels. Good? Good.).

This whole thing is pretty bonkers when you consider the copious amounts of Ancient Egyptian love poetry we have found. Despite the fact that many marriages were arranged, true love between the husband and wife was held as the ideal throughout the culture.

I can hear you now:

Do you really mean to tell me that they were writing love poetry until the cows came home and then not celebrating any weddings?

As far as we know?

Yes.

Now, like I said above, there’s always a chance (maybe even a good chance) that we will uncover some evidence to the contrary in the future. But, for the time being, we have exactly zero evidence for a wedding ceremony.

So, I was left up the proverbial creek without a paddle, because I 100% had a couple getting married in Egypt in my story, and there was no way I was going to let them get away with not having a party. First off, it would have read as downright odd to a modern audience, and secondly, after slogging through hundreds of pages of emotional trauma (Joseph did not have an easy life) I wanted to write about a party, dangit.

At this point, my mantra becomes relevant.

Just don’t contradict anything that is known, and you’ll be fine.

Okay, no wedding, check.

But.

Trying to avoid spoilers for one of my subplots, I will just say that I have a very politically-oriented arranged marriage that happens about midway through my book. Its orchestrator is the Pharaoh, who wants to do everything in his power to ensure that everything seems legitimate and respectable.

And what’s the best way to legitimize?

Exposure – in a highly controlled, official setting.

Oh, we are getting a party. We are getting a big freaking party. Just not on the day of the marriage.

Because – we know that the Ancient Egyptians were great at throwing parties. As much time as they spent preparing for death, they were also bent on enjoying life. We have records of copious amounts of food and drink at celebrations (there’s rumors of them throwing up to make room for more fare), music, dancers, acrobats, the works. We have records of wrestling as a popular sport during the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, so I added wrestlers performing. I added gifts, because why not? (I even managed to make one an important plot point later.)

And, through all of that, I had to keep reminding myself:

Just don’t contradict anything that is known, and you’ll be fine.

Whew. This Type A girl is still reeling!

(Do you have any questions you want me to answer? Topics you want me to cover? Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @headdeskliz .)

Published by headdeskliz

Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of Not by Sight: The Story of Joseph. She lives and teaches in sunny California and loves fantasy, science fiction, and historically-based Christian fiction. She has multiple other titles in the works.

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