Marriage Illustration

Maya Empire for Kids

After the coming of age ceremony, which occurred when children turned 15, boys and girls could get married. Most marriages were arranged. Most people were married by age 20.

The bride and groom could not have the same last name, although it was encouraged that they be from the same village or town, and they had to be from the same social class.

MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE: Once selection was made, a priest performed a simple ceremony, usually in the house of the bride's parents. Both the woman and the man kept their own last name. Their children carried the name of both parents. Family was very important to the Mayas. Keeping your own last name helped to establish family lines. If the marriage did not work out for whatever reason, divorce was simple. Remarriage was simple. The Mayas treated single people who lived together as married, and those who did not live together either as single (if they had never married) or as divorced.

FAMILIES WITH A SON: If a family had a son, the newly married couple lived with her parents, sometimes as long as several years. Her husband worked in her family's business, be it farming or whatever, to pay for his wife. If he didn't help enough in the father's eyes, he could be thrown out of the house and out of that family, and the marriage would be over. For those who stayed married, ultimately, the husband would return home to his father's compound, bringing with him his wife and family. He would then build a home in his father's compound for himself and his family. When his father died, he would inherit his father's land and other goods.

FAMILIES WITHOUT A SON: Daughters could not inherit from their parents. For those families who had no son, when a daughter married, she had to leave home immediately, and live with her husband's parents until her first child was born. While the daughter was living with her husband's parents, the Maya had a very strange custom. His parents could treat her horribly. They could not kill her, but they could starve her and beat her, and usually did. This continued until her first baby was born. Once that happened, the village gave the young couple a piece of land, and they could finally live on their own, and hopefully have some sons as well as daughters. When her parents died, their land and belongings were assigned to someone else. Their land would not be given to her male children. Families who did not have sons ultimately lost their land.

The Importance of Sons: Although women were very important in Maya society, because they had the children, it was equally important for each family to have at least one son, and more than one son was encouraged. If you didn't have sons, a daughter was at the mercy of her husband's parents until she had children of her own. You might think under these conditions that some young women would prefer to stay single. But women of child bearing years were not allowed to stay single. Marriages were arranged, and a husband would be found for her, like it or not.

Coming of Age Ceremony

Daily Life

Mayas for Kids