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Wedding History - Weddings From The 1850's
( Originally Published 1954 )
Weddings in the 1850's were often a very solemn affair. The over-piety of earlier years still held for most church ceremonies. But here and there, organ music before or after the marriage vows was being per mitted, and soon became customary. At first, the organist was left to select as he pleased from Bach and the other classicists. Gradually, however, two favorites appeared, The Bridal Chorus from Wagner's Lohengrin and the Wedding March which Mendelssohn wrote for Midsummers Night's Dream. Everyone knows the opening strains of Wagner's "Here Comes the Bride", also the gay Mendelssohn music which accompanies the wedding party as they march away from the altar. Thus was set the wedding's traditional musical entrance and exit, which has existed now for over 100 years.
Most 1850 weddings we have been able to check on were church ceremonies. White was not the only color worn by the bride, and she used a short veil-sometimes none at all. Daguerreotypes and ambrotypes ,of these brides are very appealing. Seldom does one find a picture of bride and groom, and one of the entire wedding party is even more rare. In those times, the wedding was invariably followed by a family feast. Gaiety predominated then and guests sometimes stayed to escort the newly married pair to their bedroom-a survival of the old time rural "hornin party."
Honeymoons away from the home locale were quite unusual. Newlyweds stayed at their parents homes or journeyed about among nearby kinfolk. Niagara Falls had not yet taken on glamour as the ideal place for a honey moon trip. We have found a few daguerreotypes of couples taken in front of the real falls-not the fake backdrop which became the wedding photographer's chief "prop" in later years.
Glancing over the album photos indicate considerable about our relatives who lived and loved in those bygone times. They tended to marry young, raised large families, and assumed the lace cap and beard of old age by the time they were 40. They were a stalwart lot, and America owes much to their being.