English and Scottish Sayings About Marrying
Looking at older English and Scottish proverbs, I’m struck by two things: the vast disproportion between the many that offer advice to prospective husbands and the few that offer advice to prospective wives; and the importance of the dowry in considerations of marriage. Both factors reduce the likelihood of finding an established saying comparable to “marry a guy and he’ll provide,” and indeed I didn't find any that came very close to the mark.
I did, however, find some sayings that direct their attention to the woman's motives or (purported) interests with regard to marriage. First, from James Kelly, Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721, the proverb being followed by the author’s explanation of its meaning):
His old Brass will buy you a new Pan.
An Encouragement to a young Woman to marry an old wealthy Man : because his Riches will get her a new Husband, when he shall dye.
The same source has this:
Marry a Beggar, and get a Louse for your Togher good [that is, for your portion].
although Kelly says that this proverb is used figuratively as “a Dissuasive from joyning in Trade, or Farm, with a poor Man, where the whole Loss must lye on you.”
Before thou marry, be sure of a House where to tarry.
which may be advice to the prospective bride to look to her future accommodations, or to the prospective groom to ensure that he has a suitable home at the ready for his new wife.
Charles Spurgeon, The Salt-Cellars (1889) has two proverbs that address prospective wives:
Marry a man, not a clothes-horse.
It’s a silly mouse that falls in love with a cat.
Robert Christy, Proverbs, Maxims, and Phrases of All Ages (1887) includes this adage—perhaps coined by an old man—aimed at young single women:
Better have an old man to humor than a young man to break your heart.
and this warning, from a Dutch proverb:
Who weds a sot to get his cot,/Will lose the cot and get the sot.
And Martin Manser, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (2002) has this gender-neutral recommendation:
Never marry for money, but marry where money is.
To end on a less mercenary note, here, from Christy’s Proverbs, is a quotation from Ovid that I think the wisest counsel of all, for any marriage-minded person:
If thou wouldst marry wisely, marry thy equal.