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Wedding History - Weddings From The 1860's
( Originally Published 1954 )
Beginning in 1860, Godey's Ladies Book published its first annual color spread of bridal costumes-a standard feature thereafter. In these, we see that bridesmaids sometimes also wore white and veils-though more often light colors for contrast. In America there had developed an aristocracy of wealth and each family tried to outdazzle the others in the fineness of a girl's trousseau. "Daughter has spent extravagantly before," reported Godey's, "but now mother is expected to help in the selection of the last clothes to be paid for by father . . . for the dress, at least $500. (It is reasonable indeed my dears), and the veil $125.00; this can later be used as a shawl with a ball gown." The hoop skirt had replaced the wedding crinoline, and even greater changes were forecast for the ceremony itself. Double ring was introduced in some localities, also the use or orange blossoms. With California Gold as king, the bridesmaids often received friendship rings from the bride. The bridal bouquet-as yet no MUST substitute for a fan or prayer book-was small and tight, just a nosegay held in the hand with a lace handkerchief.
Change extended beyond dress and ceremony. Napoleon's young brother, Jerome, came to this country and took his Baltimore bride to Niagara Falls. Quite suddenly this spot seems to have become the universal mecca of honeymooners.
Our relatives of this period made a great occasion of their weddings. Invitations were printed on bands of white ribbon and mounted on white parchment. Folded and sealed, they were delivered by hand through family servants. For the house wedding, music such as appearing on accompanying pages was played on the harp and square piano rather than the organ. An afternoon ceremony would be followed by a night of dancing after which all guests were expected to sleep on a piece of the wedding cake. Even in the country districts the house was always decked with ropes of smilax, daisys or some other whitish flower. Six to ten bridesmaids were used, but with nieces, sisters and "kissing cousins" arrived from all points of the compass, there was never any trouble to make up the wedding party. In the plantation homes of the South especially, guests arrived weeks before the wedding and even stayed on weeks after the event.