About Arranged Marriages

In the past it used to be that Gypsy child marriages were arranged. This is seldom the case today, though it does happen on rare occasions. Jean-Paul Clébert speaks of it in the book The Gypsies (1967).

“Among some Gypsy groups traces remain of the marriage of children before puberty: in general, between eight to fourteen years of age. Such unions are decided upon by the parents and, for a certainty, without the consent of the interested parties. The ceremony is limited to a simple formality, and the children remain with their own families until they have reached puberty. There is never any cohabitation.

At the moment of puberty (and when no unavoidable difficulties have arisen), a second ceremony seals the effective union. Yet the custom of precocious marriage is becoming increasingly rare, at least among western Gypsies.”

Clébert also speaks of there being three main forms of marriage:

  • Abduction – by force or consent
  • Purchase
  • Mutual consent

The abduction and outright purchase forms are little seen today. More generally the parents of a teenage boy will decide which girl in the tribe is most eligible for him (though today the young couple’s feelings for one another are given definite consideration). They will then meet with the girl’s parents and, should they be favorable, come to an agreement regarding her dowry. From there the couple are regarded as engaged.

There is no engagement ring, as in gorgio society, but the girl is given a gold coin that she wears around her neck. This is usually an English sovereign (a Queen Victoria Jubilee sovereign is especially esteemed). The girl could be as young as thirteen, but sixteen is more usual. The boy could be anywhere from sixteen to eighteen.

~Raymond Buckland

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