the victorian mindset

27 January 2010 at 3:57 pm 2 comments

Recently I have been researching Victorian weddings in an effort to prepare for a Living History event at the museum. I found a book titled “Victorian Weddings and Wedding Anniversaries” which was originally published in 1894.

Interestingly enough, the bulk of the modern wedding ceremony has its origins in The Victorian Era, so a lot of the book covers pretty familiar turf. Here are some excerpts from the book that I thought were particularly fascinating and/or funny:

On Congratulations:
“No one congratulates a bride — that is, no one who is desirous of observing the proprieties. Congratulations are for the groom; to the bride one may express the hope that she will be very happy, but to congratulate her would seem to indicate a belief that her success in enticing the groom to her side was a fair mark for applause, and it chivalric as well as delicate to consider the reverse the truth — indeed, no matter what we think, it is bad form to express any feeling contrary to that which leads us to wish all brides much happiness and heartily congratulate the grooms.”

On keeping secrets:
“There are seldom good reasons for keeping a marriage secret, and to do so is ill-advised for obvious reasons. Besides, such a marriage is very bad form.”

On Honeymoons (or The Wedding Tour):
“An English bride would never dream of attempting a sea voyage or of scurrying across a continent sightseeing for a wedding journey. And indeed there is wisdom in this, for traveling is rather trying to one’s nerves and temper, and decidedly demoralizing to one’s personal appearance. Of course a cinder more or less on one’s face, a dismally straightened out bang, ought not to alienate a man’s affections for the woman he has taken for better or for worse, but it is a kind of a shock to have the worse tried on him so soon and when he isn’t really prepared for it.”

On house weddings:
“House weddings are less fatiguing than church weddings, and timid brides prefer that their nuptials shall be celebrated at home.”

On a “Woman’s Fancy”:
“One morning at table, when one of us quoted the lines: ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,’ John, who is a hopeless and crusty old bachelor, remarked that woman’s fancy seemed to turn in the direction of love at all times of year, irrespective of season; if it wasn’t love of self, it veered only sufficiently to include new dresses and hats.
Beth, who is not easily subdued and can uphold her sex with considerable valor, neatly retorted that woman’s fancy had certainly never seemed to veer in his direction.”

On young girl’s ideals:
“Still it is interesting to listen to the young girl’s ideal of a wedding journey, for ideals are such pretty things until they come in contact with reality and get their wings clipped.”

On a Bridesmaids’ responsibility:
“When distance will permit, bridesmaids should call upon the mother of the bride within a day or two after the wedding. It is a delicate courtesy for the maids, one or more daily, to pay little calls of this kind during the absence of the bride, and more than that this attention is made almost obligatory by the tenets of good form.”

On “The Groom’s Dinner” (or The Bachelor Party):
“When there are to be six ushers, they, with the groom and best man will form a pleasant and congenial group. More guests will make the dinner less intimate and lessen the friendly interchange of happy memories and future hopes. Eight is considered an ideal number for any dinner.”

On wedding cake:
“Each departing guest takes from the hall table as a souvenir of the wedding one of the boxes of wedding cake which should be arranged there. To take more than one box, unless asked by the hostess to convey one to a friend, is unpleasant evidence of  very bad breeding.”

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rebekah  |  27 January 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Ooh la la! That’s the prettiest thing I’ve read in ages. Such elegant language. “Woman’s Fancy” is particularly darling.

    I remember you telling me about not congratulating brides before, you explained it in the chapel once. I have no idea who the bride might have been.

    Also, I now desperately want a small box of wedding cake.

  • 2. Michael Critz  |  4 February 2010 at 7:54 am

    I’m a big fan of “woman’s fancy” so to speak.

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