(In 1619, it was about 23 for women, 26 for men.) The age of consent was 12 for a girl, 14 for a boy, but for most children puberty came two or three years later than it does today.
Oddly enough, there seems to be a period in the late sixteenth century when the mean marriage age of women in and around the area of Stratford-on- Avon dropped as low as 21 years: the mean marriage age from 1580 to 1589 was about 20.6 years, and it was in this decade that Shakespeare, at the age of eighteen, married Anne Hathaway.
Marriages were arranged by their families in order to bring prestige or wealth to the families involved.
This is why poor women could sometimes choose their spouses.
Many young men and women didn't meet their spouses until their wedding day.
How else could the family of the husband be sure that the blood line was being continued?
Marriage statistics indicate that the mean marriage age for the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras was higher than many people realize.
Data taken from birthdates of women and marriage certificates reveals mean marriage ages to have been as follows: The marriage age of men was probably the same or a bit older than that of women.
In the nobility, it was a major means of increasing capital*; and in the middle class, each partner contributed significantly to the household economy.
The ceremony itself was not so different from today, except that the bride promised to obey* her husband, and did not usually wear white. The bride was sometimes decked with ears of wheat to symbolize Ceres, goddess of fertility.