A couple of weeks ago, I announced my daughter, Kristi, got engaged over the holidays. We talked about engagement etiquette in times past and how it compared to young couples today.
Kristi & Sam
My 1892 reference, “A Practical Guide to Deportment, Easy Manners, and Social Etiquette,” goes on to give explicit directions about how one should conduct their wedding in the 19th century. Let’s take another peek into the past and compare it to the times we live in, shall we?
The bridesmaids should be younger than the bride.
Oh, my. Such a thing would NEVER happen in 1892. The scandal would be mortifying. One never even *said* the word ‘pregnant’ let alone portrayed themselves in public and/or in a solemn ceremony as such.
Their dresses should be conformed to hers; they should not be more expensive, though they are permitted more ornament. Some light, graceful material is usually selected, and flowers are the principal decoration.
More rule-breaking. Kristi is letting her bridesmaids wear whatever dress they want, so long as they are black and below the knee. So in a deviation from a tradition of which most of us are familiar with, the bridesmaids will not match one another.
The bride’s dress is marked by its simplicity. Few jewels or ornaments should be worn, and these should be the gift either of the bridegroom or the parents. A veil and garland are the distinguishing features of the bride’s costume.
Well, Kristi is all about simplicity. She bought her dress new online for the bargain price of $100. Save for a few pleats on the bodice, some little rhinestones on the spaghetti straps, and a teensy train, her dress will be devoid of ornamentation. The dress hugs her willowy figure, and she fell in love with it on the spot. She’s happy. Mama’s happy.
She’ll be wearing a strand of my pearls. Not sure about the earrings yet, but it doesn’t sound like Sam will be adding to her jewelry collection.
He’s giving her an iPod for a wedding gift.
The bridesmaids assist is dressing the bride, receiving the company, etc.
Evidently, the modern tradition of hiding the bride away until she walks down the aisle wasn’t practiced, eh?
No mention of the term ‘Maid of Honor’ or ‘Matron of Honor’ – but otherwise, this seems to be pretty standard stuff. Except for the gloves.
When the ceremony takes place in church, the bride enters at the left, with her father, mother, and bridesmaids. The groom enters at the right, followed by his attendants. The parents stand behind, the attendants at either side.
Makes you wonder when the practice of the bride making her grand entrance from the back of the church came into place, doesn’t it? Today, she comes in on her father’s arm, after her mother is already escorted in, usually after grandparents. Different, yes, but these are clearly remnants of old traditions.
Another big difference. Kristi and Sam will head straight over to a ballroom, where a buffet supper will be held for 200 guests. Afterwards, there will be a dance and DJ until midnight.
When the cake has been cut, and the health of bride and groom has been duly drunk, the bride, attended by her friends, withdraws, and when ready for her departure, the newly-wedded pair start on their wedding journey, generally about 2 or 3 o’clock, the rest of the company shortly after taking their leave.
Kristi and Sam will likely spend their wedding night at her house, then come over to ours the next day for a post-wedding lunch. They’ll open their gifts after that, privately. A ‘wedding journey’ is uncertain at this point, since they’ll be preparing for a major move to Virginia in the fall.
Back in my day, friends and/or family opened the wedding gifts for the bride and groom, then displayed them on tables in the back of the hall. That’s a part of my wedding that I’ll always miss–someone opening MY gifts and depriving me of the pleasure of seeing them first. (Can you imagine me pouting, 33 years later? LOL.)
Last time, I loved hearing about how so many of you became engaged. Now tell me about your weddings!
What were your colors? (Mine were mint green and yellow. My maid of honor wore the yellow, and the others wore the green. My mother and I made all the floor-length dresses–they were southern-belle style will rows and rows of 3 inch ruffles. Each maid wore a white, wide-brimmed straw hat and carried white lace parasols down the aisle.)
Did your groom get you a gift? (Mine got me a pair of diamond earrings which I still treasure today. No electronics for us!)
Was your wedding dress elaborate? Expensive? (I bought my dress for $200–a hefty sum back then–all by myself while Doug sat in the car and waited. The bridal shop was in a tiny town 20 minutes away, and we drove out there on a whim. As soon as I saw my dress, I knew it was The One. He never saw me in it until I walked down the aisle.)
No one ever wore strapless dresses like they do now. Everyone wore long sleeves, often puffy, and high-necked gowns. What was your dress like?