TO begin with, before deciding the date of the wedding, the brides mother must find out definitely on which day the clergyman who is to perform the ceremony is disengaged, and make sure that the church is bespoken for no other service. If it is to be an important wedding, she must also see that the time available for the church is also convenient to the caterer.
Sundays, and days in Lent, are not chosen for weddings, and Friday being a fast day in Catholic and very high Episcopal churches, weddings on that day, if not forbidden, are never encouraged. But the superstition that Friday and the month of May are unlucky, is too stupid to discuss.
Having settled upon a day and hour, the next step is to decide the number of guests that can be provided for, which is determined by the size of the church and the house, and the type of reception intended.
The bride-elect and her mother then go to the stationer and decide details, such as size and texture of paper and style of engraving, for the invitations. The order is given at once for the engraving of all the necessary plates, and probably for the full number of house invitations, especially if to a sit-down breakfast where the guests are limited. There are also ordered a moderate number of general church invitations or announcements, which can be increased later when the lists are completed and the definite number of guests more accurately known.
The brides mother then consults with the groom, or more likely, with his mother, as to how the house-list is to be divided between them. This never means a completely doubled list, because, if the two families live in the same city, many names are sure to be in duplicate. If the grooms people live in another place, invitations to the house can be liberally sent, as the proportion of guests who will take a long trip seldom go beyond those of the immediate family and such close friends as would be asked to the smallest of receptions.
Usually if Mrs. Smith tells Mrs. Smartlington that two hundred can be included at the breakfast, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Smartlington will each make a list of one hundred and fifty, certain that one hundred will be in duplicate.
Invitations to a big church wedding are always sent to the entire visiting list, and often the business acquaintances of both families, no matter how long the combined number may be, or whether they can by any chance be present or not. Even people in deep mourning are included as well as those who live thousands of miles away, as the invitations not merely proffer hospitality but are messengers carrying the news of the marriage.
After a house wedding, or a private ceremony where invitations were limited to relatives and closest personal friends of the young couple, general announcements are sent out to the entire visiting list.
Those who keep their visiting list in order have comparatively little work. But those who are not in the habit of entertaining on a general scale, and yet have a large unassorted visiting list, will have quite a piece of work ahead of them, and cannot begin making it soon enough.
In the cities where a Social Register or other Visiting Book is published, people of social prominence find it easiest to read it through, marking XX in front of the names to be asked to the house, and another mark, such as a dash, in front of those to be asked to the church only, or to have announcements sent them. Other names which do not appear in the printed list may be written as thought of at the top or bottom of pages. In country places and smaller cities, or where a published list is not available, or of sufficient use, the best assistant is the telephone book.
List-making should be done over as long a period and for as short sessions as possible, in order that each name as it is read may bring to memory any other that is similar. Long reading at a time robs the repetition of names of all sense, so that nothing is easier than to pass over the name of a friend without noticing it.
A word of warning: To leave out old friends because they are neither rich nor fashionable and to include comparative strangers because they are of great social importance, not alone shows a want of loyalty and proper feeling, but is to invite the contempt of those very ones whom such snobbery seeks to propitiate.
Four lists, therefore, are combined in sending out wedding invitations; the bride and the groom make one each of their own friends, to which is added the visiting list of the brides family (made out by her mother, or other near relative) and the visiting list of the grooms family made out by his mother, or a relative. Each name is clearly marked, of course, whether for house or church invitation.
When the four lists are completed, it is the duty of some one to arrange them into a single one by whatever method seems most expedient. When lists are very long, the compiling is usually one by a professional secretary, who also addresses the envelopes, encloses the proper number of cards, and seals, stamps and posts the invitations. The address of a professional secretary can always be furnished by the stationer. Very often, especially where lists do not run into inordinate length, the envelopes are addressed and the invitations sent out by the bride herself and some of her friends who volunteer to help her.
This is the huge wedding of the daughter of ultra rich and prominent people in a city such as New York, or, more probably, a high-noon wedding out of town. The details would in either case be the same, except that the country setting makes necessary the additional provision of a special train which takes the guests to a station where they are met by dozens of motors and driven to the church. Later they are driven to the house, and later again, to the returning special train.
Otherwise, whether in the city or the country, the church (if Protestant) is decorated with masses of flowers in some such elaborateness as standards, or arches, or hanging garlands in the church itself, as well as the floral embellishment of the chancel. The service is conducted by a bishop or other distinguished clergyman, with assistant clergymen, and accompanied by a full choral service, possibly with the addition of a celebrated opera soloist. The costumes of the bride and her maids are chosen with painstaking attention to perfection, and with seeming disregard of cost.
Later, at the house, there is not only a floral bower under which the bridal couple receive, but every room has been turned into a veritable woodland or garden, so massed are the plants and flowers. An orchestraor two, so that the playing may be without intermissionis hidden behind palms in the hall or wherever is most convenient. A huge canopied platform is built on the lawn or added to the veranda (or built out over the yard of a city house), and is decorated to look like an enclosed formal garden. It is packed with small tables, each seating four, six, or eight, as the occasion may require.
The more usual fashionable wedding is merely a modification of the one outlined above. The chancel of the church is decorated exactly the same, but except in summer when garden flowers are used, there is very little attempted in the body of the church other than sprays of flowers at the ends of the ten to twenty reserved pews, or possibly only at the ends of the first two pews and the two that mark the beginning of the ribboned section. There is often a choral service and a distinguished officiating clergyman. The costumes of bride and bridesmaids are usually the same in effect, though they may be less lavish in detail.
The real difference begins at the breakfast, where probably a hundred guests are invited, or two hundred at most, instead of from five hundred to a thousand, and except for the canopied background against which the bride and groom receive, there is very little floral decoration of the house. If a tent is built, it is left as it isa tentwith perhaps some standard trees at intervals to give it a decorated appearance. The tables, even that of the bride, their garniture, the service, and the food are all precisely the same, the difference being in the smaller number of guests provided for.
A prayer bench has been placed at the end of the drawing-room or living-room. Back of it is a screen or bower of palms or other greens. One decoration thus serves for chancel and background at the reception. A number of small tables in the dining-room may seat perhaps twenty or even fifty guests, besides the brides table placed in another room. If the bride has no attendants, she and the groom choose a few close friends to sit at the table with them.
Or, at a smaller wedding, there is a private marriage in a little chapel, or the clergyman reads the service at the house of the bride in the presence of her parents and his and a small handful of guests, who all sit down afterwards at one table for a wedding breakfast.
No matter whether a wedding is to be large or tiny, there is one unalterable rule: the reception must be either at the house of the brides parents or grandparents or other relative of hers, or else in assembly rooms rented by her family. Never under any circumstances should a wedding reception be given at the house of the grooms family. They may give a ball or as many entertainments of whatever description they choose for the young couple after they are married, but the wedding breakfast and the trousseau of the bride must be furnished by her own side of the house!
When a poor girl marries, her wedding must be in keeping with the means of her parents. It is not only inadvisable for them to attempt expenditure beyond what they can afford, but they would lay themselves open to far greater criticism through inappropriate lavishness, than through meagerness of arrangementwhich need not by any means lack charm because inexpensive.
Some years ago there was a wedding when a girl who was poor married a man who was rich and who would gladly have given her anything she chose, the beauty of which will be remembered always by every witness in spite of, or maybe because of, its utter lack of costliness.
It was in June in the country. The invitations were by word of mouth to neighbors and personal notes to the grooms relatives at a distance. The village church was decorated by the bride, her younger sisters, and some neighbors, with dogwood, than which nothing is more bridelike or beautiful. The shabbiness of her fathers little cottage was smothered with flowers and branches cut in a neighboring wood. Her dress, made by herself, was of tarlatan covered with a layer or two of tulle, and her veil was of tulle fastened with a spray, as was her girdle, of natural bridal wreath and laurel leaves. Her bouquet was of trailing bridal wreath and white lilacs. She was very young, and divinely beautiful, and fresh and sweet. The tulle for her dress and veil and her thin silk stockings and white satin slippers represented the entire outlay of any importance for her costume. A little sister in smock of pink sateen and a wreath and tight bouquet of pink laurel clusters, toddled after her and held her bouquetafter first laying her own on the floor!
The collation was as simple as the dresses of the bride and bridesmaid. A home-made wedding cake, professionally iced and big enough for every one to take home a thick slice in waxed paper piled near for the purpose, and a white wine cup, were the most pretentious offerings. Otherwise there were sandwiches, hot biscuits, cocoa, tea and coffee, scrambled eggs and bacon, ice cream and cookies, and the music was a victrola, loaned for the occasion. The brides going away dress was of brown Holland linen and her hat a plain little affair as simple as her dress; again her only expenditure was on shoes, stockings and gloves. Later on, she had all the clothes that money could buy, but in none of them was she ever more lovely than in her fashionless wedding dress of tarlatan and tulle, and the plain little frock in which she drove away. Nor are any of the big parties that she gives to-day more enjoyable, though perfect in their way, than her wedding on a June day, a number of years ago.
The fashionable wedding hour in New York is either noon, or else in the afternoon at three, three-thirty or four oclock, with the reception always a half hour later. High noon, which means that the breakfast is at one oclock, and four oclock in the afternoon, with the reception at half after, are the conventional hours.
In San Francisco and generally throughout the West altogether smart weddings are celebrated at nine oclock in the evening. The details are precisely the same as those of morning or afternoon. The bride and bridesmaids wear dresses that are perhaps more elaborate and evening in model, and the bridegroom as well as all men present wear evening clothes, of course. If the ceremony is in a church, the women should wear wraps and an ornament or light scarf of some sort over their hair, as ball dresses are certainly not suitable, besides which church regulations forbid the uncovering of womens heads in consecrated places of worship.
To some, nine oclock in the morning may sound rather eccentric for a wedding, but to people of the Atlantic Coast it is not a bit more so than an evening hourless so, if anything, because morning is unconventional anyway and etiquette, never being very strong at that hour, is not defied, but merely left quiescent.
If, for any reason, such as taking an early morning train or shipan early morning wedding might be a good suggestion. The bride should, of course, not wear satin and lace; she could wear organdie (let us hope the nine oclock wedding is in summer!), or she could wear very simple white crêpe de chine. Her attendants could wear the simplest sort of morning dresses with garden hats; the groom a sack suit or flannels. And the breakfastreally breakfastcould consist of scrambled eggs and bacon and toast and coffeeand griddle cakes!
The above is not written in ridicule; the hour would be unusual, but a simple early morning wedding where every one is dressed in morning clothes, and where the breakfast suggests the first meal of the daycould be perfectly adorable! The evening wedding on the other hand, lays itself open to criticism because it is a functiona function is formal, and the formal is always strictly in the province of that austere and inflexible lawmaker, Etiquette. And Etiquette at this moment says: Weddings on the Atlantic seaboard are celebrated not later than four-thirty oclock in the afternoon!
The invitations are mailed about three weeks before the wedding. As soon as they are out, the presents to the bride begin coming in, and she should enter each one carefully in her gift book. There are many published for the purpose, but an ordinary blank book, nicely bound, as she will probably want to keep it, about eight to ten inches square, will answer every purpose. The usual model spreads across the double page, as follows:
All gifts as they arrive should be put in a certain room, or part of a room, and never moved away until the description is carefully entered. It will be found a great help to put down the addresses of donors as well as their names so that the bride may not have to waste an unnecessary moment of the overcrowded time which must be spent at her desk.
The bride who is happy in receiving a great number of presents spends every spare moment in writing her notes of thanks, which must always be written by her personally. Telephoning wont do at all, and neither will a verbal Thank you so much, as she meets people here and there. She must write a separate letter for each presenta by no means small undertaking! A bride of this year whose presents, because of her familys great prominence, ran far into the hundreds, never went to bed a single night before her wedding until a note of thanks was checked against every present received that day. To those who offered to help her through her overwhelming task, she, who is supposed to be very spoiled, answered: If people are kind enough to go out and buy a present for me, I think the least I can do is to write at once and thank them. That her effort was appreciated was evident by everyones commenting on her prompt and charming notes.
Notes of thanks can be very short, but they should be written with as little delay as possible. When a present is sent by a married couple, the bride writes to the wife and thanks both: Thank you for the lovely present you and Mr. Jones sent me.
Not so much in an effort to parade her possessions as to do justice to the kindness of the many people who have sent them, a bride should show her appreciation of their gifts by placing each one in the position of greatest advantage. Naturally, all peoples tastes are not equally pleasing to the taste of the bridenor are all pocketbooks equally filled. Very valuable presents are better put in close contrast with others of like qualityor others entirely different in character. Colors should be carefully grouped. Two presents, both lovely in themselves, can be made completely destructive to each other if the colors are allowed to clash.
Usually china is put on one table, silver on another, glass on another, laces and linens on another. But pieces that jar together must be separated as far apart as possible and perhaps even moved to other surroundings. A crudely designed piece of silverware should not be left among beautiful examples, but be put among china ornaments, or other articles that do not reveal its lack of fineness by too direct comparison. For the same reason imitation lace should not be put next to real, nor stone-ware next to Chinese porcelain. To group duplicates is another unfortunate arrangement. Eighteen pairs of pepper pots or fourteen sauceboats in a row might as well be labeled: Look at this stupidity! What can she do with all of us? They are sure to make the givers feel at least a little chagrined at their choice.
When Mrs. Smith orders a present sent to a bride, she encloses a card reading: Mr. & Mrs. John Huntington Smith. Nearly every married woman has a plate engraved with both names, but if she hasnt, then she encloses Mr. Smiths card with hers.
There is absolutely no impropriety in showing the presents at the wedding reception. They are always shown at country weddings, and, more often than not, at the most fashionable town houses. The only reason for not showing them, is lack of room in an apartment house. In a town house, an upstairs library, or even a bedroom, from which all the furniture has been removed, is suitable. Tables covered with white damask (plain) tablecloths are put like counters around the sides, and down the center of the room. The cards that were sent with the gifts are sometimes removed, but there is no impropriety in leaving them on, and it certainly saves members of the family from repeating many times who sent this one, and who sent that!
If the house is small so that there is no room available for this display at the wedding, the presents are shown on the day before, and intimate friends are especially asked to come in for tea, and to view them. This is not done if they are to be displayed at the wedding.
Wedding presents are all sent to the bride, and are, according to law, her personal property. Articles are marked with her presentnot her futureinitials. Mary Smith who is going to marry Jim Smartlington is fortunate as M. S. stands for her future as well as her present name. But in the case of Muriel Jones who is to marry Ross, not a piece of linen or silver in Ross house will be marked otherwise than M. J. It is one of the most senseless customs: all her life which will be as Muriel Ross, she uses linen and silver marked with a J. Later on many people who go to her houseespecially as Ross comes from California where she will naturally be livingwill not know what J stands for, and many even imagine that the linen and plate have been acquired at auction! Sounds impossible? It has happened more than once.
The groom receives few presents. Even those who care about him in particular and have never met his bride, send their present to her, unless they send two presents, one in courtesy to her and one in affection to him. Occasionally some one does send the groom a present, addressed to him and sent to his house. Rather often friends of the groom pick out things particularly suitable for him, such as cigar or cigarette boxes, or rather masculine looking desk sets, etc., which are sent to her but are obviously intended for his use.
Some people think it discourteous if a bride changes the present chosen for her. All brides exchange some presents, and no friends should allow their feelings to be hurt, unless they are very close to the bride and have chosen the present with particular sentiment. A bride never changes the presents chosen for her by her or the grooms familyunless especially told that she may do so. But to keep twenty-two salt cellars and sixteen silver trays when she has no pepper-pots or coffee spoons or platters or vegetable dishes, would be putting sentiment above sense.
A trousseau, according to the derivation of the word, was a little trusse or bundle that the bride carried with her to the house of her husband. In modern times the little bundle often requires the services of a van to transport.
The wrappers and underclothes of a young girl are usually very simple, but when she is to be a bride, her mother buys her, as lavishly as she can, and of the prettiest possible assortment of lace trimmed lingerie, tea gowns, bed sacques and caps, whatever may be thought especially becoming. The various undress garments which are to be worn in her room or at the breakfast table, and for the sole admiration of her husband, are of far greater importance than the dresses and hats to be worn in public.
In Europe it is the custom to begin collecting linen for a girls trousseau as soon as she is born, but the American bride cares nothing for dozens upon dozens of stout linen articles. She much prefers gossamer texture lavishly embellished with equally perishable lace. Everything must be bought for beauty; utility is not considered at all. No stout hand-woven underwear trimmed with solidly stitched needlework! Modern Miss Millions demands handkerchief linen and Valenciennes lace of a quality that used to be put as trimming on a ball gown, and Miss Smallpurse asks for chiffon and less expensive but even more sheer and perishable laces. Not long ago a stocking was thought fine if it could be run through a wedding ring; to-day no stocking is considered fit to put on for town or evening wear unless several together can slip through the measure once the test for one.
One tablecloth, six or eight yards long, of finest but untrimmed damask with embroidered monogram on each side, or four corners. Three dozen dinner napkins to match. (Lace inserted and richly embroidered tablecloths of formal dinner size are not in the best taste.)
Four to a dozen tea cloths, of filet lace or drawn work or Russian embroidery, with tiny napkins to match. Table pieces and tea-cloths have monograms if there is any plain linen where a monogram can be embroidered, otherwise monograms or initials are put on the napkins only.
In addition to the above, there are two to four dozen servants sheets and pillow cases (cotton); six to twelve woolen blankets, six to twelve wool filled quilts, four to six dozen towels, and one or two dozen bath towels; six to twelve white damask (cotton or linen and cotton mixed) tablecloths and six to twelve dozen napkins, all marked with machine embroidery.
How many dresses can a bride wear? It all dependsis she to be in a big city for the winter season, or at a watering place for the summer? Is she going to travel, or live quietly in the country? It is foolish to get more outside clothes than she has immediate use for; fashions change too radically. The most extravagant list for a bride who is to go out continually in New York or Newport, would perhaps include a dozen evening dresses, two or three evening wraps, of varying weights. For town there would be from two to four street costumes, a fur coat, another long coat, a dozen hats and from four to ten house dresses. In this day of week-ends in the country, no trousseau, no matter how town-bred the bride, is complete without one or two country coats, of fur, leather or woolen materials; several homespun, tweed or tricot suits or dresses; skirts with shirt-waists and sweaters in endless variety; low or flat heeled shoes; woolen or woolen and silk mixture stockings; and sport hats.
If the season is to be spent out of towneven in Newport or Palm Beachthe most extravagant bride will find little use for any but country clothes, a very few frocks for Sunday, and possibly a lot of evening dresses. Of course, if she expects to run to town a great deal for lunch, or if she is to travel, she chooses her clothes accordingly.
So much for the outer things. On the subject of the under things, which being of first importance are saved for the last, one can dip into any of the womens magazines devoted to fashion and fashionables, and understand at first sight that the furnishings which may be put upon the person of one young female would require a catalogue as long and as varied as a seedsmans. An extravagant trousseau contains every article illustratedand more besidesin quality never illustratedand by the dozens! But it must not for a moment be supposed that every fashionable bride has a trousseau like thisespecially the household linen which requires an outlay possible only to parents who are very rich and also very indulgent.
The moderate trousseau simply cuts the above list into a fraction in quantity and also in quality. There is nothing of course that takes the place of the smooth fineness of really beautiful linenit can no more be imitated than can a diamond, and its value is scarcely less. The linen of a really modest trousseau in this day of high prices must of necessity be cotton. Fortunately, however, many people dislike the chill of linen sheets, and also prefer cotton-face towels, because they absorb better, and cotton is made in attractive designs and in endless variety.
For her personal trousseau, a bride can have everything that is charming and becoming at comparatively little expense. She who knows how to do fine sewing can make things beautiful enough for any one, and the dress made or hat trimmed at home is often quite as pretty on a lovely face and figure as the article bought at exorbitant cost at an establishment of reputation. Youth seldom needs expensive embellishment. Certain things such a footwear and gloves have to be bought, and are necessary. The cost, however, can be modified by choosing dresses that one-color slippers look well with.
In cities such as New York, Washington or Boston, it has never been considered very good taste to make a formal display of the trousseau. A bride may show an intimate friend or two a few of her things, but her trousseau is never spread out on exhibition. There can, however, be no objection to her so doing, if it is the custom of the place in which she lives.
The costumes of the bridesmaids, slippers, stockings, dresses, bouquets, gloves and hats, are selected by the bride, without considering or even consulting them as to their taste or preferences. The bridesmaids are always dressed exactly alike as to texture of materials and model of making, but sometimes their dresses differ in color. For instance, two of them may wear pale blue satin slips covered with blue chiffon and cream lace fichus, and cream-colored picture hats trimmed with orchids. The next two wear orchid dresses, cream fichus, and cream hats trimmed with pale blue hydrangeas. The maid of honor likewise wears the same model, but her dress is pink chiffon over pink satin and her cream hat is trimmed with both orchids and hydrangeas. The bouquets would all be alike of orchids and hydrangeas. Their gloves all alike of cream-colored suede, and their slippers, blue, orchid, and pink, with stockings to match. Usually the bridesmaids are all alike in color as well as outline, and the maid of honor exactly the same but in reverse colors. Supposing the bridesmaids to wear pink dresses with blue sashes and pink hats trimmed in blue, and their bouquets are of larkspurthe maid of honor wears the same dress in blue, with pink sash, blue hat trimmed with pink, and carries pink roses.
At Lucy Gildings wedding, her bridesmaids were dressed in deep shades of burnt orange and yellow, wood-colored slippers and stockings, skirts that shaded from brown through orange to yellow; yellow leghorn hats trimmed with jonquils, and jonquil bouquets. The maid of honor wore yellow running into cream, and her hat, tho of the same shape of leghorn, was trimmed with cream feathers, and she carried a huge cream feather fan.
As in the case of the wedding dress, it is foolish to enter into descriptions of clothes more than to indicate that they are of light and fragile materials, more suitable to evening than to daytime. Flower girls and pages are dressed in quaint old-fashioned dresses and suits of satin with odd old-fashioned bonnetsor whatever the bride fancies as being especially picturesque.
If a bridesmaid is in mourning, she wears colors on that one day, as bridesmaids dresses are looked upon as uniforms, not individual costumes. Nor does she put a black band on her arm. A young girl in deepest mourning should not be a bridesmaidunless at the very private wedding of a bride or groom also in mourning. In this case she would most likely be the only attendant and wear all white.
As a warning against the growing habit of artifice, it may not be out of place to quote one commentary made by a man of great distinction who, having seen nothing of the society of very young people for many years, had to go to the wedding of a niece. It was one of the biggest weddings of the spring season in New York. The flowers were wonderful, the bridesmaids were many and beautiful, the bride lovely. Afterwards the family talked long about the wedding, but the distinguished uncle said nothing. Finally, he was asked point blank: Dont you think the wedding was too lovely? Werent the bridesmaids beautiful?
No, said the uncle, I did not think it was lovely at all. Every one of the bridesmaids was so powdered and painted that there was not a sweet or fresh face among themI can see a procession just like them any evening on the musical comedy stage! One expects make-up in a theater, but in the house of God it is shocking!
It is unnecessary to addif youth, the most beautiful thing in the world, would only appreciate how beautiful it is, and how opposite is the false bloom that comes in boxes and bottles! Shiny noses, colorless lips, sallow skins hide as best they may, and with some excuse, behind powder or lip-stick; but to rouge a rose!
With the exception of parasols, or muffs or fans, which are occasionally carried in place of bouquets and presented by the bride, every article worn by the bridesmaids, flower girls or pages, although chosen by the bride, must be paid for by the wearers.
It is perhaps an irrefutable condemnation of the modern wedding display that many a young girl has had to refuse the joy of being in the wedding party because a complete bridesmaid outfit costs a sum that parents of moderate means are quite unable to meet for popular daughters. And it is seldom that the bride is herself in a position to give six or eight complete costumes, much as she may want all of her most particular friends with her on her day of days. Very often a bride tries especially to choose clothes that will not be expensive, but New York prices are New York prices, and the chic which is to make the wedding a perfect picture is the thing of all others that has to be paid for.
Even though one particular girl may be able to dress herself very smartly in homemade clothes of her own design and making, those same clothes duplicated eight times seldom turn out well. Why this is so, is a mystery. When a girl looks smart in inferior clothes, the merit is in her, not in the clothesand in a group of six or eight, five or seven will show a lack of finish, and the tender-hearted bride who, for the sake of their purses sends her bridesmaids to an average little woman to have their clothes made, and to a little hat-place around the corner, is apt to have a rather dowdy little flock fluttering down the aisle in front of her.
This question is answered by: How many friends has she whom she has always promised to have with her on that day? Has she a large circle of intimates or only one or two? Her sister is always maid of honor; if she has no sister, she chooses her most intimate friend.
A bride may have a veritable procession: eight or ten bridesmaids, a maid of honor, flower girls and pages. That is, if she follows the English custom, where every younger relative even including the little boys as pages, seems always to be brought into a perfect May-pole procession of ragged ages and sizes.
Or she may have none at all. She almost always has at least one maid, or matron, of honor, as the picture of her father standing holding her bouquet and stooping over to adjust the fall of her dress, would be difficult to witness with gravity.
At an average New York wedding, there are four or six bridesmaidshalf of the maids may be matrons, if most of the brides group of friends have married before her. It is, however, not suitable to have young married women as bridesmaids, and then have an unmarried girl as maid of honor.
The bridegroom always has a best manhis brother if he has one, or his best friend. The number of his ushers is in proportion to the size of the church and the number of guests invited. At a house wedding, ushers are often merely honorary and he may have many or noneaccording to the number of his friends.
As ushers and bridesmaids are chosen only from close friends of the bride and groom, it is scarcely necessary to suggest how to word the asking! Usually they are told that they are expected to serve at the time the engagement is announced, or at any time as they happen to meet. If school or college friends who live at a distance are among the number, letters are necessary. Such as:
Mary and I are to be married on the tenth of November, and, of course, you are to be an usher. Usually he adds: My dinner is to be on the seventh at eight oclock at, naming the club or restaurant.
The bride returns the compliment by asking the sister of the groom who is nearest her own age, to be bridesmaid, or if he has no sister, she asks a cousin or even occasionally shows her courtesy by asking the groom to name a particular friend of his. The bride in asking her does not say:
Will you be one of my bridesmaids because Jim wants me to ask you. If the bridesmaid is not a particular friend of the bride, she knows perfectly that it is on Jims account that she has been asked. It is the same with the brides usher. The groom merely asks him as he asks all of the others.
A whole outfit of new clothes is never considered necessary for a bridegroom, but shabby ones are scarcely appropriate. Whatever his wardrobe may stand in need of should be bought, if possible. He should have, not necessarily new, plenty of good shirts of all kinds, handkerchiefs, underwear, pajamas, socks, ties, gloves, etc., and a certain number of fresh, or as good as new, suits of clothes.
There was a wedding not long ago which caused quite a lot of derisive comment because the grooms mother provided him with a complete and elaborate trousseau from London, enormous trunks full of every sort of raiment imaginable. That part of it all was very nice; her mistake was in inviting a group of friends in to see the finery. The son was so mortified by this publicity that he appeared at the wedding in clothes conspicuously shabby, in order to counteract the Mamas-darling-little-newly-wed effect that the publicity of her generous outlay had produced.
It is proper and fitting for a groom to have as many new clothes as he needs, or pleases, or is able to getbut they are never shown to indiscriminate audiences, they are not featured, and he does not go about looking dressed up.
If he does not already possess a well fitting morning coat (often called a cutaway) he must order one for his wedding. The frock coat is out of fashion at the moment. He must also have dark striped gray trousers. At many smart weddings, especially in the spring, a groom (also his best man) wears a white piqué high double-breasted waistcoat, because the more white that can be got into an otherwise sombre costume the more wedding-like it looks; conventionally he wears a black one to match his coat, like the ushers. The white edge to a black waistcoat is not, at present, very good form. As to his tie, he may choose an Ascot of black and white or gray patterned silk. Or he may wear a four-in-hand matching those selected for the ushers, of black silk with a narrow single, or broken white stripe at narrow or wide intervals. At one of the ultra smart weddings in New York last spring, after the London fashion, the groom and all the men of the wedding party wore bow ties of black silk with small white dots.
White buckskin gloves are the smartest, but gray suede are the most conventional. White kid is worn only in the evening. It is even becoming the fashion for ushers at small country weddings not to wear gloves at all! But at every wedding, great or small, city or country, etiquette demands that the groom, best man, and ushers, all wear high silk hats, and that the groom carry a walking stick.
The best man wears precisely what the groom wears, with only one small exception: the grooms boutonnière is slightly different and more elaborate. The groom and best man often wear ties that are different from those worn by the ushers, and occasionally white waistcoats. Otherwise the two principal men are dressed like the ushers.
Everyone knows what a ragged-edged appearance is produced by a company of recruits whose uniforms are odd lots. An after-effect of army training was evident at one or two smart New York weddings where the grooms were in each case ex-officers and their ushers turned out in military uniformity. Each of these grooms sent typewritten instructions to his ushers, covering every detail of the equipment exacted. Few people may have reasoned why, but scarcely any one failed to notice what smart looking men all the ushers were. It is always just such attention to detail that produces a perfectly finished result. The directions sent by one of the grooms was as follows:
Wedding rehearsal on Tuesday, St. Bartholomews at 5 P. M.
Wedding on Wednesday at 4 P. M.
Black calfskin low shoes.
Plain black silk socks.
Gray striped trousers (the darkest you have).
Morning coat and single-breasted black waistcoat.
White dress shirt (see that cuffs show three-quarters of an inch below coat sleeves).
Stand-up wing collar.
Tie and gloves are enclosed.
Boutonnière will be at the church.
Be at the church yourself at three oclock, sharp.
Very occasionally, too, a nervous groom appoints an especially reliable friend head usher so as to be sure that all details will be carried outincluding the prompt and proper appearance at the church of the other ushers. Usually, the ushers divide the arrangements among themselves. The groom decides who goes on which aisle. One of them volunteers or is asked to look out for the brides coming and to notify the groom, another is especially detailed to take the two mothers up the aisle. But very often this arrangement is arbitrarily decided by height. If one mother is very tall and the other very short, they generally go up with different ushers, the tallest being chosen for the taller lady, and one of medium height for the shorter.
In many sections of America, especially in the country and in small towns, brides make an especial feature of asking their bridesmaids to a farewell luncheon. The table is elaborately decorated (invariably in pink with bridesmaids roses), there is a brides cake (lady cake) and there are favors in the cake, and mottoes, and altogether it is a lovely party. In New York there is nothing like that at all. If the bride chooses to give a luncheon to her bridesmaids on whatever day suits her best, there is no objection to her doing so, or in fact, to her inviting whom she pleases to whatever sort of a party her mother is willing she should give. It is not a question of approved etiquette but of her own inclination seconded by the consent of her mother!
If her mother keeps open house, probably they lunch with her many times before the wedding; if, on the other hand, it is not the habit of the family to have people running in for meals, it is not necessary that she ask them to lunch at all. But whether they lunch often or never, the chances are that they are in and out of her house every day, looking at new presents as they come, perhaps helping her to write the descriptions in the gift book, and in arranging them in the room where they are to be displayed.
The bride usually goes to oversee the last fittings of the bridesmaids dresses in order to be sure that they are as she wants them. This final trying-on should be arranged for several days at least before the wedding, so there may be sufficient time to make any alterations that are found necessary. Often the bride tries on her wedding dress at the same time so that she may see the effect of the whole wedding picture as it will be, or if she prefers, she tries on her dress at another hour alone.
Usually her bridesmaids lunch quite informally with her, or come in for tea, the day before the wedding, and on that day the bride gives them each her present which is always something to wear. It may be the muffs they are to carry, or parasols, if they have been chosen instead of bouquets. The typical bridesmaids present is a bangle, a breast pin, a hat pin, which, according to the means of the bride, may have great or scarcely any intrinsic value.
If a wedding is being held in the country, or where most of the bridesmaids or ushers come from a distance, and they are therefore stopping at the brides house, or with her neighbors, there is naturally a dinner in order to provide for the visitors. But where the wedding is in the cityespecially when all the members of the bridal party live there alsothe custom of giving a dinner has gone rather out of fashion.
If the bridal party is asked to dine at the house of the bride on the evening before the wedding, it is usually with the purpose of gathering a generally irresponsible group of young people together, and seeing that they go to the church for rehearsal, which is of all things the most important. More often the rehearsal is in the afternoon, after which the young people go to the brides house for tea, allowing her parents to have her to themselves on her last evening home, and giving her a chance to go early to bed so as to be as pretty as possible on the morrow.
It is quite true that certain big clubs and restaurants had rooms especially constructed for the purpose, with walls of stone and nothing breakable within hitting distance, which certainly does rather suggest frightfulness. As a matter of fact, an orgy was never looked upon with favor by any but silly and wholly misguided youths, whose idea of a howling good time was to make a howling noise; chiefly by singing at the top of their lungs andbreaking crockery. A boisterous picture, but scarcely a vicious one! Especially as quantities of the cheapest glassware and crockery were always there for the purpose.
The breaking habit originated with drinking the brides health and breaking the stem of the wine glass, so that it might never serve a less honorable purpose. A perfectly high-minded sentiment! And this same time-honored custom is followed to this day. Toward the latter end of the dinner the groom rises, and holding a filled champagne glass aloft says: To the bride! Every man rises, drinks the toast standing, and then breaks the delicate stem of the glass. The impulse to break more glass is natural to youth, and probably still occurs. It is not hard to understand. The same impulse is seen at every county fair where enthusiastic youths (and men) delight in shooting, or throwing balls, at clay pipes and ducks andcrockery!
Aside from toasting the bride and its glass-smashing result, the grooms farewell dinner is exactly like any other mans dinner, the details depending upon the extravagance or the frugality of the host, and upon whether his particular friends are staid citizens of sober years or mere boys full of the exuberance of youth. Usually there is music of some sort, or Neapolitans or coons who sing, or two or three instrumental pieces, and the dinner party itself does the singing. Often the dinner is short and all go to the theater.
The grooms presents to his ushers are always put at their places at the bachelor dinner. Cuff links are the most popular gift; scarf-pins in localities where they are still fashionable. Silver or gold pencils, belt buckles, key-rings in gold, key-chains in silver, cigarette cases, bill-folders, card-cases, or other small and personal articles are suitable.
Most of us are familiar with the wedding service, and its form seems simple enough. But, unless one has by experience learned to take care of seemingly non-existent details, the effect (although few may be able to say why) is hitchy and disjointed, and all the effort spent in preparation is wasted. It is not that gauche happenings are serious offenses, no matter how awkward the incident. Even were the wedding party to get hopelessly entangled, no crime would have been committed; but any detail that destroys the smoothness of the general impression is fatal to dignityand dignity is the qualification necessary above all else in ceremonial observances.
The organist must always be at the rehearsal, as one of the most important details is marking the time of the wedding march. Witnesses of most weddings can scarcely imagine that a wedding march is a march at all; more often than not, the heads of ushers and bridesmaids bob up and down like something boiling in a pan. A perfectly drilled wedding procession, like a military one, should move forward in perfect step, rising and falling in a block or unit. To secure perfection of detail, the bars of the processional may be counted so that the music comes to an end at precisely the moment the bride and groom stand side by side at the chancel steps. This is not difficult; it merely takes time and attention.
First of all, it is necessary to determine the exact speed at which the march is to be played. The ushers are asked to try it out. They line up at the door, walk forward two and two. The audience, consisting of the bride and her mother, and the bridesmaids, decides whether the pace looks well. It must not be fast enough to look brisk, or so slow as to be funereal. At one wedding the ushers counted two beats as one and the pace was so slow that they all wabbled in trying to keep their balance. The painfulness to everyone may be imagined. On the other hand it is unsuitable to trot up the aisle of a church.
The audience having decided the speed, and the organist having noted the tempo, the entire procession, including the bridesmaids and a substitute, instead of the real bride, on her fathers arm, go out into the vestibule and make their entry. Remember, the father is an important factor in the ceremony, and must take part in the rehearsal.
The procession is arranged according to height, the two shortest ushers leadingunless others of nearly the same height are found to be more accurate pacemakers. The bridesmaids come directly after the ushers, two and two, also according to height, the shortest in the lead. After the bridesmaids, the maid (or matron) of honor walks alone; flower girls come next (if there are any) and last of all, the understudy bride leaning on the arm of the father, with pages (if she has any) holding up her train. Each pair in the procession follows the two directly in front by four paces or beats of time. In the vestibule, every one in the procession must pay attention to the feet directly in front, the pacemakers can follow the army sergeants example and say very softly left, left! At the end the bride counts eight beats before she and the father put left foot forward. The whole trick is starting; after that they just walk naturally to the beat of the music, but keeping the ones in front as nearly as possible at the same distance.
At the foot of the chancel, the ushers divide. In a small church, the first two go up the chancel steps and stand at the top; one on the right, the other on the left. The second two go to a step or two below the first. If there are more, they stand below again. Chalk marks can be made on the chancel floor if necessary, but it ought not to be difficult, except for very little children who are flower girls or pages, to learn their position.
Or in a big church they go up farther, some of them lining the steps, or all of them in front of the choir stalls. The bridesmaids also divide, half on either side, and always stand in front of the ushers. The maid of honors place is on the left at the foot of the steps, exactly opposite the best man. Flower girls and pages are put above or below the bridesmaids wherever it is thought the picture is best.
The grouping of the ushers and bridesmaids in the chancel or lining the steps also depends upon their number and the size of the church. In any event, the bridesmaids stand in front of the ushers; half of them on the right and half on the left. They never stand all on the brides side, and the ushers on the grooms.
The clergyman who is to perform the marriage comes into the chancel from the vestry. At a few paces behind him follows the groom, who in turn is followed by the best man. The groom stops at the foot of the chancel steps and takes his place at the right, as indicated in the accompanying diagram. His best man stands directly behind him. The ushers and bridesmaids always pass in front of him and take their places as noted above. When the bride approaches, the groom takes only a step to meet her.
A more effective greeting of the bride is possible if the door of the vestry opens into the chancel so that on following the clergyman, the groom finds himself at the top instead of the foot of the chancel steps. He goes forward to the right-hand side (his left), his best man behind him, and waits where he is until his bride approaches, when he goes down the steps to meet herwhich is perhaps more gallant than to stand at the head of the aisle, and wait for her to join him.
The real bride watches carefully how the pseudo bride takes her left hand from her fathers arm, shifts her fan, or whatever represents her bouquet, from her right hand to her left, and gives her right hand to the groom. In the proper maneuver the groom takes her right hand in his own right hand and draws it through his left arm, at the same time turning toward the chancel. If the service is undivided, and all of it is to be at the altar, this is necessary as the bride always goes up to the altar leaning on the arm of the groom.
The organist stops at the moment the bride and groom have assumed their places. That is the cue to the organist as to the number of bars necessary for the procession. After the procession has practised marching two or three times, everything ought to be perfect. The organist, having counted up the necessary bars of music, can readily give the leading ushers their music cueso that they can start on the measure that will allow the procession and the organ to end together. The organist can, and usually does, stop off short, but there is a better finish if the brides giving her hand to the groom and taking the last step that brings her in front of the chancel is timed so as to fall precisely on the last bars of the processional.
The best man follows behind and to the right of the groom, and the maid of honor (or first bridesmaid) leaves her companions and advances behind and to the left of the bride. The pseudo bride (in pantomime) gives her bouquet to the maid of honor; the best man (also in pantomime) hands the ring to the groom, this merely to see that they are at a convenient distance for the services they are to perform. The recessional is played, and the procession goes out in reversed order. Bride and groom first, then bridesmaids, then ushers, again all taking pains to fall into step with the leaders.
On no account must the bridesmaids walk either up or down the aisle with the ushers! Once in a while the maid of honor takes the arm of the best man and together they follow the bride and groom out of the church. But it gives the impression of a double wedding and spoils the picture.
In order that the first days of their life together may be as perfect as possible, the groom must make preparations for the wedding trip long ahead of time, so that best accommodations can be reserved. If they are to stop first at a hotel in their own city, or one near by, he should go days or even weeks in advance and personally select the rooms. It is much better frankly to tell the proprietor, or room clerk, at the same time asking him to keep the secret. Everyone takes a friendly interest in a bridal couple, and the chances are that the proprietor will try to reserve the prettiest rooms in the house, and give the best service.
If their first stop is to be at a distance, then he must engage train seats or boat stateroom, and write to the hotel of their destination far enough in advance to receive a written reply, so that he may be sure of the accommodations they will find.
Just as it is contrary to all laws of etiquette for the bride to accept any part of her trousseau or wedding reception from the groom, so it is unthinkable for the bride to defray the least fraction of the cost of the wedding journey, no matter though she have millions in her own right, and he be earning ten dollars a week. He must save up his ten dollars as long as necessary, and the trip can be as short as they like, but convention has no rule more rigid than that the wedding trip shall be a responsibility of the groom.
There are two modifications of this rule: a house may be put at their disposal by a member of her family, or, if she is a widow, they may go to one of her own, provided it is not one occupied by her with her late husband. It is also quite all right for them to go away in a motor belonging to her, but driven by him, and all garage expenses belong to him; or if her father or other member of the family offers the use of a yacht or private railway car, the groom may accept but he should remember that the incidental and unavoidable expense of such a gift is sometimes greater than the cost of railway tickets.
It is quite usual for the bride to go with the groom when he buys the wedding ring, the reason being that as it stays for life on her finger, she should be allowed to choose the width and weight she likes and the size she finds comfortable.
He is a very exceptional and enviable man who is financially able to take his fiancée to the jewelers and let her choose what she fancies. Usually the groom buys the handsomest ornament he can afforda string of pearls if he has great wealth, or a diamond pendant, brooch or bracelet, or perhaps only the simplest bangle or charmbut whether it is of great or little worth, it must be something for her personal adornment.
Gifts must be provided for his best man and ushers, as well as their ties, gloves and boutonnières, a bouquet for his bride, and the fee for the clergyman, which may be a ten dollar gold piece or one or two new one hundred dollar bills, according to his wealth and the importance of the wedding. Whatever the amount, it is enclosed in an envelope and taken in charge by the best man who hands it to the clergyman in his vestry-room immediately after the ceremony.