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The Etiquette of Weddings

  Scarcely a week passes during the year that the fashionable journals do not publish "answers to correspondents" on that subject of all others most interesting to young ladies, the etiquette of weddings. No book can tell the plain truth with sufficient emphasis, that the etiquette at a grand wedding is always the same. The next day some one writes to a newspaper again,

"Shall the bridegroom wear a dress-coat at the hour of eleven A.M., and who pays for the wedding-cards?" The wedding of to-day in England has "set the fashion" for America. No man ever puts on a dress-coat before his seven-o'clock dinner, therefore every bridegroom is dressed in a frock-coat and light trousers of any pattern he pleases; in other words, he wears a formal morning dress, drives to the church with his best man, and awaits the arrival of the bride in the vestry-room. He may wear gloves or not as he chooses. The best man is the intimate friend, sometimes the brother, of the groom. He accompanies him to the church, as we have said, follows him to the altar, stands at his right hand a little behind him, and holds his hat during the marriage-service. After that is ended he pays the clergyman's fee, accompanies, in a coup, by himself, the bridal party home, and then assists the ushers to introduce friends to the bridal pair.

The bridegroom is allowed to make what presents he pleases to the bride, and to send something in the nature of a fan, a locket, a ring, or a bouquet to the bridesmaids; he has also to buy the wedding-ring, and, of course, he sends a bouquet to the bride; but he is not to furnish cards or carriages or the wedding-breakfast; this is all done by the bride's family. In England the groom is expected to drive the bride away in his own carriage, but in America even that is not often allowed.

The bride meantime is dressed in gorgeous array, generally in white satin, with veil of point-lace and orange blossoms, and is driven to the church in a carriage with her father, who gives her away. Her mother and other relatives having preceded her take the front seats. Her bridesmaids should also precede her, and await her in the chancel of the church.

The ushers then proceed to form the procession with which almost all city weddings are begun. The ushers first, two and two; then the bridesmaids, two and two; then some pretty children--bridesmaids under ten; and then the bride, leaning on her father's right arm. Sometimes the child bridesmaids precede the others. As the cortege reaches the lowest altar-step the ushers break ranks and go to the right and left; the bridesmaids also separate, going to the right and left, leaving a space for the bridal pair. As the bride reaches the lowest step the bridegroom advances, takes her by her right hand, and conducts her to the altar, where they both kneel. The clergyman, being already in his place, signifies to them when to rise, and then proceeds to make the twain one.

The bridal pair walk down the aisle arm-in-arm, and are immediately conducted to the carriage and driven home; the rest follow. In some cases, but rarely in this country, a bridal register is signed in the vestry.

Formerly brides removed the whole glove; now they adroitly cut the finger of the left-hand glove, so that they can remove that without pulling off the whole glove for the ring. Such is a church wedding, performed a thousand times alike. The organ peals forth the wedding-march, the clergyman pronounces the necessary vows to slow music, or not, as the contracting parties please. Music, however, adds very much to this ceremony. In a marriage at home, the bridesmaids and best man are usually dispensed with. The clergyman enters and faces the company, the bridal pair follow and face him. After the ceremony the clergyman retires, and the wedded pair receive congratulations.

An attempt has been made in America to introduce the English fashion of a wedding-breakfast. It is not as yet acclimated, but it is, perhaps, well to describe here the proper etiquette. The gentlemen and ladies who are asked to this breakfast should be apprised of that honor a fortnight in advance, and should accept or decline immediately, as it has all the formality of a dinner, and seats are, of course, very important. On arriving at the house where the breakfast is to be held, the gentlemen leave their hats in the hall, but ladies do not remove their bonnets. After greeting the bride and bridegroom, and the father and mother, the company converse for a few moments until breakfast is announced. Then the bride and groom go first, followed by the bride's father with the groom's mother, then the groom's father with the bride's mother, then the best man with the first bridesmaid, then the bridesmaids with attendant gentlemen, who have been invited for this honor, and then the other invited guests, as the bride's mother has arranged. Coffee and tea are not offered, but bouillon, salads, birds, oysters, and other hot and cold dishes, ices, jellies, etc., are served at this breakfast, together with champagne and other wines, and finally the wedding-cake is set before the bride, and she cuts a slice.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Etiquette of Weddings
Researcher/Transcriber: Miriam Medina


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