The question of same sex marriage has raised much debate in legislatures, the media and various communities across the Western world.
In England marriage before a priest only dates back to 1552. That sparked off a question in my head of when and what form did marriage originate in Orthodoxy? Such research as I have tried, limited as I am as a carer and now sitter for a puppy (time consuming or what?), didn't enlighten much.
Anyone got any information, please?
Where did you get the English data? I don't think it is right. In England priests were the only parties capable of solemnizing marriages, which, before the Reformation, were viewed as a sacrament solemnized by the couple with the priest as a witness.
In all the Catholic states of Western Europe marriage could only be solemnized by a couple in the presence of a priest.
Thats why, when Henry VIII mandated registration of baptisms, marriages and funerals in his realm in 1538, he required the priests to register them. No one else really could. It was only the Puritans in the 1600s who began the practice of marriage before a magistrate. This was because they viewed marriage as a contractual covenant rather than a sacrament. They viewed most relationships with God and man thusly which explains a lot. But they forbade marriage before a clergyman for this reason. It was the role of God's ordained government not His ordained Church. In America marriage by a civil magistrate at the brides home was the norm well into the 1800s, as it was a tenet of Puritan thought. Some immigrant groups such as Germans practiced church marriage however.
The Quakers advocated self marriage from the late 1600s. They rejected all clergy.
In Russia the church also had a monopoly on marriage - civil marriage was not introduced until after the Revolution when religious marriage was given no legal effect. It has none today. Marriages before then had to be solemnized by a religious official of one's approved community, be it Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish or in some places Islamic.
In Western Europe everything was done by the Church but the introduction of the Napoleonic Code in the 1800s began to change things there. I am not familiar with this development as much.