Culture and Dress
of the Best American Society.

By Richard A. Wells, A.M.

King, Richardson &: Co., Publishers
Springfield, Mass.; Cincinnati; Sacramento; Dallas, Texas.
"Sold only by our Authorized Agents."

From the chapter on COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE:


The Marriage ceremony varies with the fortunes and wishes of those interested.

In regard to the form of the rite, no specific directions are necessary; for those who are to be married by ministers, will study the form of their particular church - the Methodists their "Book of Discipline," the Episcopalians their "Book of Common Prayer," the Catholics their Ritual, etc., etc. In most cases a rehearsal of the ceremony is made in private, that the pair may the more perfectly understand the necessary forms. If the parties are to be wedded by a magistrate, the ceremony is almost nominal - it is a mere repetition of a vow. The Catholic and Episcopal forms have the most ceremony, and doubtless are the most impressive, though no more effectually marrying than the simplest form.


There are, however, some generally received rules which govern this momentous and interesting occasion, and to these we refer all interested.

When the wedding is not strictly in private, it is customary for bridesmaids and groomsmen to be chosen to assist in the duties of the occasion.

The bridesmaids should be younger than the bride, their dresses should be conformed to hers; they should not be any more expensive, though they are permitted more ornament. They are generally chosen of light, graceful material; flowers are the principal decoration.

The bride's dress is marked by simplicity. But few jewels or ornaments should be worn, and those should be the gift of the bridegroom or parents. A veil and garland are the distinguishing features of the dress.

The bridesmaids assist in dressing the bride, receiving the company, etc.; and, at the time of the ceremony, stand at her left side, the first bridesmaid holding the bouquet and gloves.

The groomsmen receive the clergyman, present him to the couple to be married, and support the bridegroom upon the right, during the ceremony.


If it is an evening wedding, at home immediately after "these twain are made one," they are congratulated: first by the relatives, then by the friends, receiving the good wishes of all; after which, they are at liberty to leave their formal position, and mingle with the company. The dresses, supper, etc., are usually more festive and gay than for a morning wedding and reception, where the friends stop for a few moments only, to congratulate the newly-married pair, taste the cake and wine and hurry away.


When the ceremony is performed in church, the bride enters at the left, with her father, mother, and bridesmaids; or, at all events, with a bridesmaid. The groom enters at the right, followed by his attendants. The parents stand behind, the attendants at either side.

The bride should be certain that her glove is readily removable; the groom, that the ring is where he can find it, to avoid delay and embarrassment.


When they leave the church, the newly-married couple walk arm-in-arm. They have usually a reception of a couple of hours at home, for their intimate friends, then a breakfast, then leave upon the 'bridal tour.'


A rich man may give the officiating clergyman any sum from five dollars to five hundred, according as his liberality dictates. A person of moderate means may give from five dollars to twenty.


On such festive occasions, all appear in their best attire, and assume their best manners. Peculiarities that pertain to past days, or have been unwarily adopted, should be guarded against; mysteries concerning knives, forks, and plates, or throwing 'an old shoe' after the bride, are highly reprehensible, and have long been exploded. Such practices may seem immaterial, but they are not so. Stranger guests often meet at a wedding breakfast; and the good breeding of the family may be somewhat compromised by neglect in small things.


If the lady appears at breakfast, which is certainly desirable, she occupies, with her husband, the center of the table, and sits by his side - her father and mother taking the top and bottom, and showing all honor to their guests. When the cake has been cut, and every one is helped - when, too, the health of the bride and bridegroom has been drunk, and every compliment and kind wish has been duly proffered and acknowledged - the bride, attended by her friends, withdraws; and when ready for her departure the newly-married couple start off on their wedding journey, generally about two or three o'clock, and the rest of the company shortly afterward take their leave.


In some circles it is customary to send cards almost immediately to friends and relations, mentioning at what time and hour the newly-married couple expect to be called upon. Some little inconvenience occasionally attends this custom, as young people may with to extend their wedding tour beyond the time first mentioned, or, if they go abroad, delays may unavoidably occur. It is therefore better to postpone sending cards, for a short time at least.


Fashions change continually with regard to wedding cards. A few years since they were highly ornamented, and fantastically tied together; now silver-edged cards are fashionable; but, unquestionably, the plainer and more unostentatious a wedding card, the more becoming and appropriate it will be.

No one to whom a wedding-card has not been sent ought to call upon a newly-married couple.


When the days named for seeing company arrive, remember to be punctual. Call, if possible, the first day, but neither before nor after the appointed hour. Wedding-cake and wine are handed round, of which every one partakes, and each expresses some kindly wish for the happiness of the newly-married couple.


Taking possession of their home by young people is always a joyous period. The depressing influence of a wedding breakfast, where often the hearts of many are sad, is not felt, and every one looks forward to years of prosperity and happiness.


If the gentleman is in a profession, and it happens that he cannot await the arrival of such as call according to invitation on the wedding-card, and apology must be made, and, if possible, an old friend of the family should represent him. A bride must on no account receive her visitors without a mother, or sister, or some friend being present, not even if her husband is at home. This is imperative. To do otherwise is to disregard the usages of society.


Wedding visits must be returned during the course of a few days, and parties are generally made for the newly-married couple, which they are expected to return. This does not, however, necessarily entail much visiting; neither is it expected from young people, whose resources may be somewhat limited, or when the husband has to make his way in the world.

To participate in a Victorian Ball, please look at our Victorian Events Page.

To see another chapter from this book please look at the section on dancing.

This page is sponsored by J.R. Burrows & Company, Historical-Design Merchants.

*J.R. Burrows & Company