Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Etiquette for the Victorian or Edwardian Bride and Groom

No sensible woman will set a standard of expenditure too high for her future income, in what she buys for her wedding wardrobe. The only circumstances in which she should exceed the modest sum of her usual outlay... The Bride of 1902

Preparation for a Wedding

The preparation which the bridegroom makes for the new home, is, of course, by far the larger share of its establishment. He provides the home, furnishes it with everything but the linen, which the bride will bring, and the ornamental decorations, including silver for the table, which the wedding guests may, in these days of lavish presents, be expected to furnish. 

Even if he does not choose to set up a house-home at once, the provision for the future is all his, and he has to bring to the wedding the wherewithal to make a home, whether it be in household furniture or only the certificates of wealth with which to provide for the bride. This is a matter of pride with even the poorest lover, with all save that small class of men who, either from the most worldly of motives or, in the very opposite extreme, from motives so high that they will not permit personal pride to stand in the way of the real union of hearts, submit to the indignity of becoming pensioners rather than donors. Whatever the custom for the division of responsibility in regard to the home and the future, in actual life, in every true home responsibility is equal, and convenience alone decrees what the bride and the bridegroom shall each contribute to the common hoard.

The bridegroom also provides a part of the wedding, and although his share is minimized, yet it is often a costly and important part. He should provide the flowers which the bride and her attendants carry. The bride usually chooses her flowers, which are ordinarily white roses, lilies of the valley, or fragrant white flowers of her favorite kind. Besides providing the wedding ring, the bridegroom usually presents to the bride some gift. It is perhaps the deed of the house he has bought and furnished for her. Or it may be jewelry, or anything else that she desires and that he may have it in his power to bestow. The bride makes him no special gift other than her hand, as that is her supreme gift.

The personal provision of the bridegroom sometimes consists of a new wardrobe throughout, besides his wedding suit. If he is wise he will wear his new suits somewhat before he appears in them as newly married. His wedding suit will consist of evening dress, if he is to be married in the evening, complete with white gloves and tie, and boutonnière of the same flowers as the bride's bouquet. If married in the afternoon, or any time before six o'clock, he will wear a frock coat of black, white vest, gray trousers, and white tie and gloves. In case the wedding is in the evening and the bride is to wear her traveling dress, hat, and gloves, the bridegroom may wear the same suit as for an afternoon wedding, if he chooses.

The custom of having a new wardrobe throughout is not necessarily followed, of course. It is through the bridegroom's consideration for the bride, and his appreciation of the housewifely duties which she undertakes on his behalf, that he makes those as small as possible at first, knowing that the years will bring her her full share. The bride's wedding wardrobe is made a matter of special moment, because it is for the last time that she is outfitted by her father. Therefore, he wishes to give her all that she needs for some time to come, that she may grow used to reliance upon her husband before he has to undertake the burden of her personal expenses in the matter of clothes. The outlay, however, is limited in quantity to the probable needs of the first season of married life, if the bride is wise, as there is no wisdom in having more garments than can be worn to advantage before the style changes.

No sensible woman will set a standard of expenditure too high for her future income, in what she buys for her wedding wardrobe. The only circumstances in which she should exceed the modest sum of her usual outlay, beyond the fact that she needs more and special garments for the different social occasions, and has a pride in having them as nice as possible, are those in which she marries a man of much higher social station and much larger income than her own. In that case it may be well for her to put some of her savings for the future into the gowns which she knows will be necessary for her in her new station. 

Ball and dinner dress fashions from 1910

The special gowns necessary for a bride are: 

Her wedding gown, which is of pure white if a maiden, or pearl gray or some other delicate color if a widow, the wedding veil, the traveling suit, a reception gown, a church suit, a somewhat elaborate visiting suit, a plain street suit, house dresses, a dainty wrapper, and a new outfitting of underclothing, in number and quality to suit her usual custom, or as nice as she can afford.

For the bride whose purse is not overfull the number of gowns and suits can be materially diminished; the wedding gown, with some slight changes, such as the removal of the high collar and long sleeves, can be used as an evening dress; the traveling, church, and visiting suit may be one and the same; the house dresses may be reduced to a minimum by frequent washing. That one cannot provide an elaborate wardrobe with which to begin married life should not be a barrier to a marriage which in every other respect appears to be auspicious.

For the October Bride

The bride's trousseau proper, or that store of linen which she provides for her new home, should consist of approximately the following:

For every bed three pairs of sheets, three pairs of pillow cases, three bolster cases, one or two pairs of blankets, two counterpanes, and an extra quilt. For her bedrooms she should provide table, stand, and bureau covers, as the style of the furniture may suggest, and also such covers for couch pillows or armchairs as a thrifty housewife would desire for the sake of cleanliness. For the bath-room there should be three dozen towels, a half-dozen bath towels. Towels for the maid should  also be included. 

For the dining-room, four tablecloths and two dozen napkins for common use, with two finer tablecloths and two dozen napkins for special occasions, make ample provision for the average home. There should be doilies and tray cloths, covers for the sideboard, also mats and centerpieces for the table. For the kitchen, three dozen cloth towels for dishes, hand towels, cleaning cloths, holders, and every necessary sort of towel in abundance. With the increasing use of the paper towel, much of this provision for bath-room and kitchen may be dispensed with, as the paper towel is much neater and more economical.

The wedding gown, which is of white satin or silk, and usually as rich and elegant as the bride can afford, is always cut high in the neck and with long sleeves, or, if elbow sleeves, they are supplemented by long gloves, which are not removed even at the wedding breakfast. The custom is to wear white exclusively from veil to shoes. Whether or not the veil is worn, a hat is never provided for this gown. It is customary, in case a bride is married in her traveling suit, for her to wear the hat and gloves which go with it. At a home wedding, however, this rule is not usually adhered to, unless the couple leave at once. The bridal veil and orange blossoms are worn only at the first marriage of a woman, and usually only with a gown made with a train.

The bridegroom should acquaint himself with the rules and regulations in regard to the marriage license some weeks ahead of the date set for the wedding, if possible, as the rules vary in different states, and in some a period of residence or notification is necessary.  A marriage certificate, furnishing easily available knowledge of the legality of the marriage and its date, is often of great convenience in the disposition of property, the probating of wills, and in the settlement of numerous questions which might arise in minor matters. This should be provided before the ceremony, filled out and signed immediately after it by the officiating clergyman, and signed by several witnesses.

The wedding ring is, by long established custom, a plain gold band. It should be of the best gold, and the fashion now is for it to be moderately narrow and thin rather than wide and thick. The ring, the unbroken circle, is symbolic of eternity. The bridegroom gives it into the keeping of the best man, whose duty it is to hand it promptly to him at the proper moment of the ceremony. The initials and date are engraved upon the inner surface of the ring. When wider rings were worn some appropriate sentiment was also often engraved. Once placed upon the bride's finger, it is her pride to see that it is never removed. As Mrs. Sangster feelings says, "It is a badge of honor, and, worn on any  woman's hand, a symbol of her right to belong to the ranks of worthy matrons."

It is well to rehearse the movements of the bridal procession within a day or two of the ceremony, that there may be no flaw in the conduct of the actors in this dramatic bit of realism. If it is to be a church wedding, more than one rehearsal may be required. In that case the organist should be present, as well as every member of the bridal party, except the clergyman. The opening of the church for such rehearsal is included in the fee which the sexton receives, which ranges from ten to fifty dollars.

Usually refreshments, in the form of either a dinner or supper, follow the rehearsal, the bride entertaining at her home. If the Episcopal service is to be used, or any other service in which the bride and bridegroom kneel, cushions for their use should be provided. These are usually covered in white satin, with outer covers of very sheer lawn upon which the initials may be worked.

The floral decorations of the church or home should be subordinated to the main interest; that is, they should not be too elaborate, take up too much room, or do other than furnish a fitting background for the bridal couple. The decorations usually follow some definite color scheme, although simply the white flowers with green foliage are appropriate and symbolic for a church wedding. A few palms, simple bouquets of flowers arranged naturally and gracefully, with foliage to contrast and fill the corners, will decorate an altar or make a pleasant bower. When costliness rather than beauty is the effect of flowers, the display is vulgar.
An awning should be stretched from the house or church door to the sidewalk, so that the guests and bridal party may not be subjected to the gaze of curious passers-by as they leave the carriages. An attendant should be stationed at the sidewalk to open the doors of the carriages, and to give to the coachmen and guests numbers by which their carriages may be speedily called. While the provision of the carriages belongs with all other things to the bride's family, the carriages for the bridegroom and his family are provided by them.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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