The pre-1857 system was barely a century old, itself replacing the Hardwicke's Act system. Before that, marriage was a matter of canon law, first introduced at the Reformation. Before the Reformation (the Book of Common Prayer in the Church of England - the Council of Trent in Catholic countries) marriage was not an exclusively religious institution - marriage "by habit and repute" (as the old Scots law had it) was the norm for the lower classes. My point is that there isn't an ancient tradition that was modified at various times but that marriage has been continuously redefined and rewritten to suit the spirit of the times.
There’s only thing that puzzles me about people who base their opposition to same-sex marriage on the idea that marriage is an institution which has been around for hundreds of years and whose basic elements must not be changed.
It’s the question of what is so special and immutable about 1858 whilst 1856 is fine to discard.
Why those two years? Well in between, in 1857, marriage was massively changed in this country. Divorce was greatly expanded. The role of the state in marriage was significantly altered with civil courts taking over power and responsibility from ecclesiastical courts. Parliament even had its powers over divorces taken away from it, with divorce was no longer a matter of Private Acts in Parliament.
Big changes all round to the fundamental nature of marriage and who had power over it.
So if you think marriage must stay as it has over centuries, what is so special about marriage, 1858 vintage?
You want traditional marriage? Then let’s hear you argue for respecting what was done for centuries since the Bible. Let’s hear you argue for proper, traditional marriage. Say goodbye to most divorce. Strip away the powers of the courts. Restore the dominance of Parliament.
Now that would be a campaign for traditional marriage.