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For love, or for land?

WHILE we can only guess as to whether this young couple from Rozbehy in the Záhorie region married out of love, it is likely they did not. Not that people were incapable of falling in love in the past, but in the countryside marriage was viewed quite differently than it is today.

WHILE we can only guess as to whether this young couple from Rozbehy in the Záhorie region married out of love, it is likely they did not. Not that people were incapable of falling in love in the past, but in the countryside marriage was viewed quite differently than it is today.

For women, marriage used to be the only form of economic security, as there was practically no work for them in the villages. For men, marriage was a precondition for acquiring property and gaining independence.

Both sexes were forced into marriages that parents selected for them. Young men were forced to marry girls of the same social standing, which sometimes included distant relatives. The main impetus for a wedding was to connect possessions, not people. An estate married another estate, or, as was said in the Gemer region: one small plot joins another small plot to create a bigger one.

Of course, options for people from poor families were limited. Thus, poor, single girls sometimes relied on a tactic that occasionally worked: they would discreetly invite boys over for the night – especially wealthier ones – and thus try to trap them into marriage by becoming pregnant. In conservative village communities this bold scheme was sometimes successful, but if it backfired, it would spell disaster for the girl: being unmarried and pregnant was a humiliating and disadvantageous position for women.

The newly weds in this postcard were photographed some time in the 1920s by Karel Plicka, a well-known photographer of the period. Their beautifully embroidered folk wedding costumes are worth mentioning, too.

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