Mop wedding

Mop wedding

Mop weddings, or mop marriages, were once a traditional marriage method, mainly in England. It is presumed that, like the earliest Mop Fairs where they were celebrated, they date back to the 13th or 14th century, though it is possible that the tradition originated in pagan practices.[1]

Evidence from the literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries[2] suggests that domestic servants, when they had reached marriageable age, would meet and court at successive mop fairs and, if they then chose to marry, would subsequently pay some local personage in a position of authority, such as the local magistrate, to preside over their common-law wedding in a public venue such as the market-place or the market-cross.[3] The couple would exchange vows before each took hold of one end of a household mop to indicate that they took each other in marriage.[4] Such a couple might then be referred to as having married 'over the mop'. It has been suggested that, in a practice analogous to jumping backwards over a broomstick in order to end a Welsh broomstick wedding, a couple married in a mop wedding could subsequently divorce one another by publicly letting go of a mop and renouncing their vows.[5]

The irregular marriage practice of mop weddings was ended by the Marriage Act 1753,[6] which put marriage on a statutory basis for the first time in England and Wales, although the tradition endured in Scotland and has more recently been included as an element in neo-pagan marriage ceremonies. Even today, some cultures still use the mop ceremony, though it usually performed only in addition to the traditional ceremony. The mop ceremony is sometimes still done among Cajuns in Louisiana[7] as well as in the Welsh speaking community in Patagonia.

In popular culture

One explanation for the unique name of the Mops & Brooms public house in Well End, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire is that it commemorates mop and broomstick weddings which once took place there.[8] (An alternative explanation, that the name commemorates the weaponry of choice in a fight between villagers and gypsy travellers, has also been put forward.[9])

See also


  1. ^ Brand, John (1849) Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain, Henry G Bohn, London.
  2. ^ Fiennes, Celia (1947) The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, Cresset Press, London.
  3. ^ Maurice, Ashley (1952) England in the Seventeenth Century, Pelican, London.
  4. ^ Cobbett, William (1885) Rural Rides, Reeves and Turner, London.
  5. ^ Borrow, George Henry (1862) Wild Wales, John Murray, London.
  6. ^ Stone, Lawrence (1990) Road to Divorce, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
  7. ^
  8. ^ F.Hackwood, Inns, Ales & Drinking Customs of Old England
  9. ^ Rothwell, D., Dictionary of Pub Names

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