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Before The Wedding and After

  The reception of an engaged girl by the family of her future husband should be most cordial, and no time should be lost in giving her a warm welcome. It is the moment of all others when she will feet such a welcome most gratefully, and when any neglect will be certain to give her the keenest unhappiness.

It is the fashion for the mother of the groom to invite both the family of the expectant bride and herself to a dinner as soon as possible after the formal announcement of the engagement. The two families should meet and should make friendships at once. This is important.

It is to these near relatives that the probable date of the wedding-day is first whispered, in time to allow of much consultation and preparation in the selection of wedding gifts. In opulent families each has sometimes given the young couple a silver dinner service and much silver besides, and the rooms of the bride's father's house look like a jeweler's shop when the presents are shown. All the magnificent ormolu ornaments for the chimney-piece, handsome clocks and lamps, fans in large quantities, spoons, forks by the hundred, and of late years the fine gilt ornaments, furniture, camel's-hair shawls, bracelets--all are piled up in most admired confusion. And when the invitations are out, then come in the outer world with their more hastily procured gifts; rare specimens of china, little paintings, ornaments for the person--all, all are in order.

A present is generally packed where it is bought, and sent with the giver's card from the shop to the bride directly. She should always acknowledge its arrival by a personal note written by herself. A young bride once gave mortal offence by not thus acknowledging her gifts. She said she had so many that she could not find time to write the notes, which was naturally considered boastful and most ungracious.

Gifts which owe their value to the personal taste or industry of the friend who sends are particularly complimentary. A piece of embroidery, a painting, a water-color, are most flattering gifts, as they betoken a long and predetermined interest.

No friend should be deterred from sending a small present, one not representing a money value, because other and richer people can send a more expensive one. Often the little gift remains as a most endearing and useful souvenir. As for showing the wedding gifts, that is a thing which must be left to individual taste. Some people disapprove of it, and consider it ostentatious; others have a large room devoted to the display of the presents, and it is certainly amusing to examine them.

As for the conduct of the betrothed pair during their engagement, our American mammas are apt to be somewhat more lenient in their views of the liberty to be allowed than are the English. With the latter, no young lady is allowed to drive alone with her fiancé, there must be a servant in attendance. No young lady must visit in the family of her fiancé, unless he has a mother to receive her. Nor is she allowed to go to the theatre alone with him, or to travel under his escort, to stop at the same hotel, or to relax one of those rigid rules which a severe chaperon would enforce; and it must be allowed that this severe and careful attention to appearances is in the best taste.

As for the engagement-ring, modern fashion prescribes a diamond solitaire, which may range in price from two hundred and fifty to two thousand dollars. The matter of presentation is a secret between the engaged pair.

Evening weddings do not differ from day weddings essentially, except that the bridegroom wears evening dress.

If the wedding is at home, the space where the bridal party is to stand is usually marked off by a ribbon, and the clergyman comes down in his robes before the bridal pair; they face him, and he faces the company. Hassocks are prepared for them to kneel upon. After the ceremony the clergyman retires, and the bridal party take his place, standing to receive their friends' congratulations.

Should there be dancing at a wedding, it is proper for the bride to open the first quadrille with the best man, the groom dancing with the first bridesmaid. It is not, however, very customary for a bride to dance, or for dancing to occur at an evening wedding, but it is not a bad old custom.

After the bridal pair return from their wedding-tour, the bridesmaids each give them a dinner or a party, or show some attention, if they are so situated that they can do so. The members of the two families, also, each give a dinner to the young couple.

It is now a very convenient and pleasant custom for the bride to announce with her wedding-cards two or more reception days during the winter after her marriage, on which her friends can call upon her. The certainty of finding a bride at home is very pleasing. On these occasions she does not wear her wedding-dress, but receives as if she had entered society as one of its members. The wedding trappings are all put away, and she wears a dark silk, which may be as handsome as she chooses. As for wearing her wedding-dress to balls or dinners after her marriage, it is perfectly proper to do so, if she divests herself of her veil and her orange-blossoms.

The bride should be very attentive and conciliatory to all her husband's friends, They will look with interest upon her from the moment they hear of the engagement, and it is in the worst taste for her to show indifference to them.

Quiet weddings, either in church or at the house, are very much preferred by some families. Indeed, the French, from whom we have learned many--and might learn more--lessons of grace and good taste, infinitely prefer them.

For a quiet wedding the bride dresses in a traveling dress and bonnet, and departs for her wedding-tour. It is the custom in England, as we have said, for the bride and groom to drive off in their own carriage, which is dressed with white ribbons, the coach-man and groom wearing white bouquets, and favors adorning the horses' ears, and for them to take a month's honeymoon. There also the bride (if she be Hannah Rothschild or the Baroness Burdett-Coutts) gives her bridesmaids very elegant presents, as a locket or a bracelet, while the groom gives the best man a scarf-pin or some gift. The American custom is not so universal. However, either bride or groom gives something to the bridesmaid and a scarf-pin to each usher. Thus a wedding becomes a very expensive and elaborate affair, which quiet and economical people are sometimes obliged to avoid.

After the marriage invitations are issued, the lady does not appear in public. The period of card-leaving after a wedding is not yet definitely fixed. Some authorities say ten days, but that in a crowded city, and with an immense acquaintance, would be quite impossible.

If only invited to the church, many ladies consider that they perform their whole duty by leaving a card sometime during the winter, and including the young couple in their subsequent invitations. Very rigorous people call, however, within ten days, and if invited to the house, the call is still more imperative, and should be made soon after the wedding.

But if a young couple do not send their future address, but only invite one to a church-wedding, there is often a very serious difficulty in knowing where to call, and the first visit must be indefinitely postponed until they send cards notifying their friends of their whereabouts.

Wedding invitations require no answer. But people living at a distance, who cannot attend the wedding, should send their cards by mail, to assure the hosts that the invitation has been received. The usual form for wedding-cards is this:

Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Chapman
request your presence at the
marriage of their daughter, on Wednesday evening,
November fourth, at eight o'clock.
Grace Church.

The card of the young lady, that of her intended husband, and another card to the favored--

At Home
after the ceremony,
7 East Market Street--

is also enclosed.

People with a large acquaintance cannot always invite all their friends, of course, to a wedding reception, and therefore invite all to the church. Sometimes people who are to give a small wedding at home request an answer to the wedding invitation; in that case, of course, an answer should be sent, and people should be very careful not to ignore these flattering invitations. Any carelessness is inexcusable when so important an event is on the tapis. Bridesmaids, if prevented by illness or sudden bereavement from officiating, should notify the bride as soon as possible, as it is a difficult thing after a bridal cortège is arranged to reorganize it.

As to the wedding-tour, it is no longer considered obligatory, nor is the seclusion of the honey-moon demanded. A very fashionable girl who married an Englishman last summer at Newport returned in three days to take her own house at Newport, and to receive and give out invitations. If the newly married pair thus begin house-keeping in their own way, they generally issue a few "At Home" cards, and thereby open an easy door for future hospitalities. Certainly the once perfunctory bridal tour is no longer deemed essential, and the more sensible fashion exists of the taking of a friend's house a few miles out of town for a month.

If the bridal pair go to a watering-place during their early married days, they should be very careful of outward display of tenderness.

Such exhibitions in the cars or in public places as one often sees, of the bride laying her head on her husband's shoulder, holding hands, or kissing, are at once vulgar and indecent. All public display of an affectionate nature should be sedulously avoided. The affections are too sacred for such outward showing, and the lookers-on are in a very disagreeable position. The French call love-making _l'  deux, and no egotism is agreeable. People who see a pair of young doves cooing in public are apt to say that a quarrel is not far off. It is possible for a lover to show every attention, every assiduity, and not to overdo his demonstrations. It is quite possible for the lady to be fond of her husband without committing the slightest offence against good taste.

The young couple are not expected, unless Fortune has been exceptionally kind, to be immediately responsive in the matter of entertainments. The outer world is only too happy to entertain them. Nothing can be more imprudent than for a young couple to rush into expenditures which may endanger their future happiness and peace of mind, nor should they feel that they are obliged at once to return the dinners and the parties given to them. The time will come, doubtless, when they will be able to do so.

But the announcement of a day on which the bride will receive her friends is almost indispensable. The refreshments on these occasions should not exceed tea and cake, or, at the most, punch, tea, chocolate, and cakes, which may stand on a table at one end of the room, or may be handed by a waiter. Bouillon, on a cold day of winter, is also in order, and is perhaps the most serviceable of all simple refreshments. For in giving a "four-o'clock tea," or several day receptions, a large entertainment is decidedly vulgar.


Website: The History
Article Name: Before the Wedding and After
Researcher/Transcriber: Miriam Medina


Bibliography:  Manners and Social Usages by Mrs. John Sherwood; Harper & Brothers-New York 1894 Chapter XIII Loc
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