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Marriage Engagements And English Wedding Breakfasts

MARRIAGE engagements, as all the world knows, are made in this country by the young people themselves, and very seldom by their parents. Managing mammas or matchmaking friends may contrive ways and means to bring a young couple together; but these outside influences are exerted indirectly, and the main actors in the drama are almost without exception the two parties directly interested.

A certain inconvenience sometimes results from this American plan; as, for instance, where two families who differ much from each other in their tastes, views and habits, suddenly find themselves on the verge of an unlooked-for and undesired connection through the threatened union of two of their members. We do not in these days "have it out " like the Capulets and Montagues; but we sometimes feel very much as they did, and look daggers if we don't draw them. .

Under these circumstances, much depends upon our Romeos and Juliets; and if they are wise they will endeavor to smooth out matters (without resorting to the apothecary), and to soften the hearts of the obdurate parents. Juliet should remember that Romeo's parents may have had other and more ambitious views for their only son. Instead of feeling anger at their disappointment, she should try to change it to a pleasant one by making herself as agreeable to them as she can. Unless they are very obdurate or worldly people she will be apt to succeed, because she has a powerful ally under their own roof in the person of their son.

The elder Montagues and Capulets also should endeavor to modify their transports of wrath, unless in cases where they feel very sure that the proposed marriage would not be a happy one, or where there is some very serious objection to Romeo or Juliet. A little time ought to be given them to recover from their surprise, to make inquiries perhaps, and to determine what course they will pursue. But let it not be a half-way course. The fiancée of a son ought to be cordially received by her future father-in-law and mother-in-law, and a young girl's betrothed should be treated with kindness and courtesy by her relatives. Otherwise ill feeling is engendered which often will not be wiped out for two or three generations. To be treated with coldness or half-concealed contempt, especially under such circumstances, is a blow to their pride which most people do not readily forgive. A parent may be pardoned if he hesitates to give his consent to the marriage of a favorite child with a person about whom he knows little or feels uncertain. But if he decides to yield to his daughter's wishes, his con-sent should be given fully and cordially.

Few American men follow the European custom of asking the father's permission to pay their addresses to his daughter. A young man of proper feeling will however call upon the latter, to ask his sanction to the engagement, at the earliest opportunity. Some persons hold that an offer of marriage should not be made until a man is in a position to marry, or expects to be able to do so before long. This rule is constantly broken by young and ardent lovers. It would be cruel to forbid a man to woo the woman of his choice, because he had not yet established himself in business or in a profession. He should clearly explain his circumstances to paterfamilias, who has a right to know the prospects of a suitor for his daughter's hand.

The accepted lover, if he is wise, will tell the good news to his own parents without delay. If they are kept long in ignorance of it, they will feel hurt. It is their place to call first upon their son's fiancée and her parents.

The announcement of the engagement should come first from the bride and her family. This is sometimes made at a luncheon. Since near relatives and intimate friends would feel hurt, if they were not notified of the happy news in advance of the general public, it is usual to write informing them of the engagement, and fixing a day in the near future when it will be made known to the world. The notes sometimes name one or more days when the young lady will be at home to receive her friends and those of her fiancé. The young man in the meantime writes to his kindred and special friends. The mothers of the young couple often lend their aid in writing the notes.

All who have received these letters should call on the bride, or send a note wishing her happiness. One should not use the term congratulate " in addressing her, as it is thought bad form. Congratulations are reserved for the fortunate man who has won her hand.

His parents invite the bride and her father and mother to dinner, or show them hospitality in some form. The latter reciprocate, and many entertainments are given for the young couple, where there is a large family connection or a wide circle of friends.

When the engagement is announced, intimate girl friends may if they please send their young companion a tea cup and saucer or some other little gift. Engagement presents are by no means obligatory however, nor is the ring, although it has become quite customary for the prospective bridegroom to give one to his fiancée. If he is wise, he will consult the tastes and wishes of his lady-love, before buying it. If he cannot well afford a costly one, he should say so very frankly. Sapphires and other precious stones are popular with those who can afford them. A solitaire diamond is perhaps the most fashionable engagement ring, though no young woman should expect or even wish to receive such an one where she knows that her lover's means are too limited to justify his making such an expensive present.

Very strict people say that a young man should make an offer of marriage to a young lady nowhere but under her father's roof. To most of us this seems over-strained; but he should certainly never make such an offer when the young lady is a guest in his own house.

Many fathers and mothers allow young people who are engaged to do pretty much as they please; but the world is so censorious, that a young girl will do well to observe the strict rules of etiquette on the subject. The parents of her fiancé may be very punctilious people, and she ought not to do anything to give them cause of offence.

According to the rules of etiquette a young lady cannot travel alone with the young man to whom she is engaged, nor stay at the same hotel with him, nor go to theatres, concerts and parties alone with him.

Fifty years ago brides did not leave the house — except after dark — after the invitations to the marriage were sent out. But public opinion no longer demands this unhealthy and absurd seclusion. Some young ladies, however, do not accept any invitations after their wedding cards have been issued.

Some years ago a young girl at a fashionable watering-place greatly shocked public opinion by going down to the surf beach and bathing on the morning of her wedding day.

The arrival of the wedding presents is always a signal for great interest and excitement in the household; but, strange to say, brides often forget or neglect to write and thank, the donors. This is a very grave oversight, and makes the young woman appear very ungrateful. She should always write and cordially thank each person who has sent her a present, before the wedding or as soon after as possible.

It is now the custom to send these notes very promptly. Friends whose gifts have not been acknowledged, sometimes telephone, to ask if they have been received. This is mortifying to the bride, hence she tries to write a letter of thanks for each present, on the day she receives it. If she has a large circle of friends and acquaintances, this correspondence takes a good deal of time. She and her mother should plan, therefore, to have all the trousseau in readiness, two or three weeks before the day of the wedding, in order to leave time to attend to the receiving of the presents, and to the other preparations for the joyful event.

A bride should write these letters of thanks with her own hand, if she can possibly do so. She should bear in mind the kind thought which has prompted the giver, and express her gratitude for and appreciation of the gift, even if it is a sixth pair of candlesticks. The commercial spirit in which some young women receive their presents is vulgar, and cannot be too strongly condemned. A recent bride was so thoroughly imbued with it, as to leave word at the principal jewelry stores of the city in which she lived, that no more silver pepper-pots and salt-cellars, would be received by Miss X. ! !

A bride-book will be found a great convenience. It is ruled off into columns, headed " Number of gift," "Name of donor," " Day received," Day acknowledged," " Where bought," etc. Sheets of pasters with duplicate numbers accompany it. One is pasted on the under side of each gift, so that its whole record can readily be looked up.

Wedding breakfasts after the English fashion are sometimes given in this country, but are not very common. They may be either sit-down or stand-up affairs. The latter are less formal, and do not so severely limit the number of guests as the former necessarily must. At a stand-up breakfast small tables are arranged on one side of the room for the bridal party, while a long table occupies the centre. The gentlemen help the ladies and themselves or servants may perform this duty, and the menu is much the same as at a sit-down breakfast, save that hot entrées are not provided.

Those who are invited to a wedding breakfast answer promptly, just as they would in the case of a dinner invitation. Ladies do not remove their hats. When breakfast is announced, the bride and bridegroom lead the way to the dining-room or other apartment where the collation is served. They are followed by the bride's father with the bridegroom's mother, the bridegroom's father with the bride's mother or nearest female relative, the best man with the maid of honor or the first bridesmaid, and the other bridesmaids with the gentlemen appointed to take them down. The bride's mother sometimes comes last, with the officiating clergyman.

The bride and bridegroom sit at the head of the table or at the centre of one of the sides. Next to the bride sits her father with the bridegroom's mother, and next to the bridegroom comes the bride's mother with the bridegroom's father. The bridesmaids with the gentlemen who have taken them down divide them-selves into two groups, one group sitting on each side of the table. This is the rule where the bridal couple occupy the head of the table; when they are seated at the side, the. bridesmaids sit opposite to them, each sitting at the right hand of her attendant cavalier.

According to modern custom, the breakfast is served in courses and is virtually a luncheon. Tea and coffee are not offered except in the form of after-dinner coffee, champagne or other wines taking their place.

After the more substantial courses have been par-taken of, the bride cuts the cake; though she is not expected to do more than make the first incision, and the real cutting up is done by a servant at the side-table. The cake is then handed to all the guests, and every one eats at least a fragment. English wedding-cake is covered with a very delicious frosting strongly flavored with almonds and of a rather soft consistency.

The health of the bride and bridegroom is proposed by the oldest friend of the family.

The bridegroom responds in behalf of his wife and himself, and proposes the health of the bridesmaids. The best man returns thanks for the bridesmaids.

The health of the bride's father and mother is usually proposed by the bridegroom's father. The bride's father returns thanks and proposes the health of the bridegroom's parents. The bridegroom's father acknowledges the compliment. The speeches are usually made as short as possible; but even with this precaution they are apt to be tedious and stiff, and the fashion of making them is not likely to take root in America. The bride leaves the dining-room to put on her travelling-dress as soon as the healths have been drunk. The gentlemen accompany the ladies to the drawing-room, and do not stay behind to take wine.

At an English wedding the bridegroom always provides the carriage in which he and the bride drive from church and again drive away after the wedding break-fast. White favors and bouquets deck the horses, coach-man and footman. There are neither ushers nor groomsmen at an English wedding. The sexton of the church and the pew-opener officiate instead.

For summer weddings in the country, where many guests are expected 'from out of town, the noon hour is the most convenient: The breakfast is often served at a number of small tables distributed over the veranda and lawn, perhaps in the rooms on the ground floor as well. The wedding-party sit at a special table, the other guests make up little parties and sit together as they please, without special order. Sometimes the refreshments are served in a tent on the lawn.

( Originally Published 1911 )

Social Customs:
Children And How They Should Behave At The Table

Luncheons

Breakfast

Afternoon Teas And Receptions

Balls And Dances, Their Arrangements, Etc.

Etiquette Of The Ballroom

Musical Parties

Etiquette Of Weddings

Marriage Engagements And English Wedding Breakfasts

Chaperon

Read More Articles About: Social Customs



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