Pam Crooks: Weddings, Then and Now–Part 2!

Pam Sig

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.

krissam

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.

bridesmaidsWell, right out of the gate, Kristi is going to break that rule.  Two of her bridesmaids will be older than she is.  Not only that, they’re married.  Not only THAT–one of them is pregnant. 

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.weddingdress

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. 

Say what?

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?

During the ceremony, they stand at the bride’s left, the first bridesmaid holding the bride’s bouquet and gloves.

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.

bride2In leaving the church, bride and groom walk arm-in-arm.  Usually a two hours’ reception follows at home, their intimate friends being present, and partaking of the wedding breakfast.

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!

bride1What 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? 

Pam Crooks
Pam has written 24 romances, most of them historical westerns. She has just released her newest sweet historical romance, TRACE, the launch book for the Bachelors & Babies series starting in June, More of her books are coming! Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com
Updated: February 16, 2009 — 10:24 pm

30 Comments

  1. Oh, this is fun…

    I bought my wedding dress for an October church wedding and we ended up getting married in August. Outside! 100 plus degrees. I don’t really remember the heat. I found ‘the one’ dress, too and then was delighted when it was featured in a magazine that same year! It had long sleeves, a long train, and then a veil even longer. I must have been wanting to be a princess.

    My color was peach. I made the bridesmaids dresses, and all the flowers! Amazing how the bouquets kept getting smaller. 🙂 My grandparents had the cake made, and it was peach with ivory decorations. Quite beautiful.

    After the ceremony in my grandparent’s back yard everyone sat around under a tree and we opened gifts. You’re so right that the custom of someone else opening your gifts is a silly one. You go ahead and pout, girl!

    I’m sure I got a prezzie from the then husband, but don’t have a clue.

    Most memorable moment–when my sister fainted. I looked down on her and thought, why is Jennifer lying on the ground? 🙂

  2. Love this, Pam (and I was a very pregnant Maid of Honor at my sister’s wedding).
    I’ve blocked my own wedding but I loved my daughter’s–Halloween, on a California beach, with the bride in beautiful dark red Indian silk, the guests in black, and the groom’s 80 year old grandfather performing the ceremony. Self-appointed bridesmaids were two gay friends in full drag, dressed as witches. It was wonderful!

  3. I loved reading about your wedding, *lizzie. I can just envision you in that long flowing dress–you would’ve looked like a queen. But, oh, it’s a wonder you didn’t faint right along with your sister!

    I’ve only been to one outdoor wedding. It was alongside a lake, and the gnats just about drove me crazy. Bummer that that’s what I remember about the ceremony–the gnats.

    Thank you for sharing your wedding memories with us, dear!

  4. Oh, gosh, Elizabeth. I think your daughter gets the prize for the most unusual wedding! LOL.

  5. My dress was a plain simple white dress. We had a very small wedding in a small country church. We bought a small house before we got married and decided it was best to use the money for the house. We waited a year before we went on our honeymoon. We still live in this house today but we have added on and remodeled the house and this is about 25 year later.

  6. I’ve been to many outdoor weddings, many in my own family alone. My own were not the mention kind. However, the Halloween wedding of Elizabeth’s daughter sounds like one I would have loved to see. My favorite day, anyway. The Bride’s dress must have been beautiful.

  7. Oh, Pam–I love that real pic of the old fashioned wedding dress. What a great post!

    CONGRATULATIONS to Kristi and Sam (A fave name of mine*g*)!!!! How exciting!

    My colors were black (of course!) and forrest green (anyone who knows me, knows I’m crazy for green). We were married on Feb. 25…rained all morning and the skies cleared just for us 😉 My girls dresses were black velvet on top and shiny dark green tea-length skirts. Guys wore black tux’s. Hubby wore a white tux, short jacket front with the long tails in the back. My dress was made of this heavy white fabric, long sleeves, fitted up top with sparkly lace at the top of the bodice and a plain white a-frame skirt. My favorite part was the bustle on the back–the only other part that had sequence. The long train hooked up under the buslte, after lots of folding and hooking *g*. I wore these white ballarina-type slippers which drove my mom crazy–had to have an expensive dress, and I was wearing slippers under it!! *LOL*

    Fun memories–Thanks, Pam!!

  8. Oh, another fun memory was that our wedding was the same night as the high school FFA Barn Dance (open to alumni, and we’d just graduated the year before–we were babies!) so half our guests were in boots, wranglers and big belt buckles *LOL*

  9. You know, Quiltlady, from the (ridiculously) high cost of weddings these days, young couples could put a ver-ry nice down payment on a house that will last them for years and years. Having four daughters, and having paid for most of two weddings, I get a little queasy knowing all that money was gone in just a few hours.

    Ah, well. The memories are priceless, eh?

  10. Oh, Stacey! You have such *vivid* memories of your dresses. You described them so beautifully, I can just see them.

    I remember the first time I ever heard of bridesmaids wearing black at a wedding. I was just appalled–black was more for funerals and completely inappropriate for a wedding.

    Obviously, my thinking has changed! Black has become quite common; indeed, it’s elegant, especially for an evening wedding.

    Thank you for sharing your wedding day with us!

  11. Oh Pam, we’re in wedding mode here ourselves. What a great post. You’re so right. Strapless would have been shocking…in fast when a friend had bridesmaids wear halter/bare backed dresses in 1996, she had to have them wear shawls during the mass!

    Dang, even though it was August and hot, I had a Victorian gown with a high neck and long sleeves. It cost $350 which also was shocking. (1974) I found the bridesmaids dresses off the rack at a big department store! They were only $24–also shocking! (cheap) They were a similar style to mine in a cream voile scattered with tiny blue and purple flowers. They wore big cartwheel hats they decorated themselves, and I made everybody a bouquet of straw flowers.

    For her bridesmaids, our Christi (great name, different spelling 🙂 picked yellow to honor Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation (Her dad is a ten-month survivor of testicular cancer, praise God). She’s doing daisies and callas for the girls, and somehow, lemon slices in table vases, and yellow roses for her.

    Her dress is a dream! (strapless) Her dad even went with us to shop for gowns. It was great fun. Fortunately Gramma is buying it. Whew.

    When our son married five years ago, the MOH was 71/2 months pregnant and wanted to opt out but my DIL wouldn’t let year…they’ve been best friends since childhood. She looked lovely and had a little girl not long after. (Actually there were two MOH’s…Christi also. They both wore champagne-colored dresses)

    Oh how I do go on and on and on!

    Thanks for the great post, Pam. oxoxoxoxoxoxox

  12. Hi Pam,
    Your daughter looks so happy in the picture. Is that their engagement picture? Congratulations!
    We’re in wedding mode again, but this time I’ll be the groom’s mother. Much different.

    My bridemaids dresses were pink with baskets of flowers instead of bouquets and white hats. I wore a beautiful appliqued dress with a long train. My hubby’s tux was also white. We were so young, and in those days, I had very little say in my wedding. Not like today, when the kids are older and have definite ideas about their wedding day.
    But my parents made us a lovely wedding and our reception was at a ballroom overlooking the entire valley.

  13. Hello, Tanya! You and I were in the same era–I got married in 1975, and yep, those long-sleeved, high-necked dresses were the fashion. And I, too, remember when showing skin up on the altar was a huge no-no! I think the priests have mellowed big-time. Every single bride I have ever seen have worn strapless dresses up there.

    Amazing that our daughters are both named Kristi/Christi!

    I love that Christi has a theme in honor of her dad. That’s wonderful! Yellow is perfect for a summer wedding, too. Keep us posted on how your wedding plans progress!!

  14. Howdy, Charlene!

    No, the pic was taken last summer, but I just love the spontaneity of their laughter in it. The pic that I had up on my blog two weeks ago is the pic they used on their Save the Date cards, which I suppose is their official engagement pic, eh?

    Doug wore a white tux, too–and hats were very popular back in the 70s and 80s, weren’t they?

    We were young as well. I picked out most everything, but I do recall that my mom handled the reception. Our church’s Altar Society took care of the luncheon, and the menu was pretty standard. I don’t think we even had a choice on the food.

    Thank you for stopping by today!

  15. Marriage in medieval times! That’s how my children
    described our 1961 wedding! My attendants wore mint green brocade in a very simple style: round, slightly scooped neckline, fitted bodice, gathered
    skirt. They made their own dresses, except for my
    two sisters. I made those and my dress. I wore ivory poie de soie with a slightly lower neckline than the attendants, fitted bodice,and fuller gathered skirt. We all wore white satin 3-inch heels. My veil was shoulder length, slightly longer in the back and topped with a pearl tiara. The bouquets were white roses except mine, which was white roses with white spider mums & orange blossoms. Ken and all the men wore navy blue suits. Memorable moments: the priest mistakenly scheduled two wedding on our date. He actually asked if we would have a double wedding! With strangers? Not a chance!! Mother, who had headed up the fundraising group that built the chapel where we were to be married, was livid! When Mother, a life-long, devout, Hispanic, Catholic woman, got through “talking” to Father, he never again scheduled anything without going to the parish secretary first!

    Pat Cochran

  16. Sounds like the wedding plans are moving along smoothly. I was married the day after Christmas so our church was already decorated. My bridesmaids wore long gold dresses and a small veil. The center of the veils were Rolled Oat lids! The dresses were made by a friend of the family. My dress was also about $200. I really felt guilty at the price. In 1964 that was a lot of money for a dress. I always get asked how I could plan a wedding for the day after Christmas. My husband’s family was coming from out of town and that was the only time they could come, plus my husband was in the service and we could get a few extra days for a honeymoon. Three whole days!!

  17. Hello, Pat! Another mint green wedding! The brocade sounds gorgeous, and I’m so impressed you made your own dress! Obviously, you were an accomplished seamstress at such a young age. I don’t think too many brides and her maids make their dresses anymore. Which makes me kinda sad that sewing has fallen off in popularity.

    You remember your flowers so vividly. 🙂 Loved the story about your mom digging in her heels–and I’ll bet you were glad she did! I assume the other couple had to reschedule their wedding time?

  18. I would LOVE a Christmas wedding, Judy. I was married in June, but my second choice would definitely be Christmas. It’s a win-win time for the family–a double celebration!

    I can just envision you surrounded by red poinsettias–and yes, they’d already be there in the church. Each of them free. Lucky you! 🙂

  19. My dress was the same dress my sister wore at her wedding six months earlier. I think we shortened it a bit, like an inch, otherwise I wore it as is. She made it. I think she spent $80 on it and I paid her $30 for the work altering and to defray the cost to her. Then another sister wore it two years later, so we really got our money;s worth out of it, plus it’s a sentimental sweet thing to have shared it.

    My bridesmaids wore blue velvet. I bought the fabric and a pattern and just handed them over. They got them made.
    They were beautiful.

    Men wore doark suits except my husband, he wore a beige suit. It was all lovely

  20. Pam,

    You are so right, Pam! We got the morning hour
    we had originally scheduled. The other couple
    was moved to the afernoon! Mother and Mrs. Allen,
    my Home EC teacher, taught me all that I knew and
    simplicity was my mantra! All my aunts sewed and
    were excellent seamstresses! We didn’t have to
    hire anyone, just went to Mother or one of her
    sisters. And with five daughters, that was great
    assistance!!

    Pat Cochran

  21. Wow! I would really love to see pictures of all of these bridal parties! Maybe somebody could put all that together? Hint hint!

    My husband and I had a tiny ceremony in my aunts backyard. No bridesmaids, etc. My dress was modest, short sleeved with a high waist and gorgeous embroidery around the bottom and the waist. I had it preserved in case my daughter wants to wear it one day, but it will probably be too old-fashioned or something by then. I did have flowers made for the mothers and fathers and such. They were purple and white. My garter had a celtic knotwork button, very pretty. My mom also made my shoes…Keds tennis shoes with lace trim and purple shoelaces. Perfect for a farmhouse wedding!

  22. Hi, Mary,

    I’ll always remember what a bargain your wedding was. Three sisters wearing the same dress–wow! The blue velvet sounds gorgeous!

    I still have my dress in the hopes that one of my daughters will wear it. But I won’t hold my breath.

    Altho my sister wore my mother’s. Mom was really touched over it.

  23. Ah, Pat. I thought so! It’d be so fun to meet you some day. I think we’d have a lot in common. 🙂

  24. Stephanie, what a great idea! Wouldn’t it be a BLAST to see all our wedding pictures?! lol.

    Special shoes for your wedding–Keds, no less. Now *that’s* unique! I hope you still have them. What a delightful symbol of the person you were back then. 🙂

  25. The third sister to wear the dress has it…I think. But she lengthened it a lot.
    I had two other sisters who didn’t wear it…the brats.
    And now we’ve had five girl cousins get married, no takers. So that tradition is dead. Dead. Dead.

  26. I think my oldest daughter holds the record for bridesmaids dresses. She was a bridesmaid throughout her entire five years of college and afterward – and byt the time she got married herself had half a closet full of dresses – only one of which she ever wore again. It was black, with one bare shoulder – gorgeous really – and approporate for other events. She gave me the necklaces from that outfit – strands of multiple tiny beads – one black and one white and the two twisted together. I’ve worn them a few times.

  27. I had a sixties wedding and wore white bellbottoms! Beat that one.

  28. I love my wedding there was a privte balcony and it was wonderful you to see down at the ocean and you could feel a misty breez.I got married on month ago!

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