Manners and Social Usages
Mrs. John M. E. W. Sherwood
Part 2 out of 7
very delicious porridge made of oatmeal and raisins, brandy,
spices, and sugar, and formally served in the lady's chamber
before the month's seclusion is broken. It will be remembered that
Tom Thumb was dropped into a bowl of fermity, which many
antiquarians suppose to have been caudle. Nowadays a caudle party
is a very gay, dressy affair, and given about six weeks after
young master or mistress is ready to be congratulated or condoled
with on his or her entrance upon this mundane sphere. We find in
English books of etiquette very formal directions as to these
cards of compliment. "Cards to inquire after friends during
illness must be left in person, and not sent by post. On a lady's
visiting-card must be written above the printed name, 'To
inquire,' and nothing else should be added to these words."
For the purpose of returning thanks, printed cards are sold, with
the owner's name written above the printed words. These printed
cards are generally sent by post, as they are despatched while the
person inquired after is still an invalid. These cards are also
used to convey the intelligence of the sender's recovery.
Therefore they would not be sent while the person was in danger or
seriously ill. But this has always seemed to us a very poor and.
business-like way of returning "kind inquiries." The printed card
looks cheap. Far better the engraved and carefully prepared card
of Mrs. ____, which has the effect of a personal compliment.
We do not in this country send those hideous funeral or memorial
cards which are sold in England at every stationer's to apprise
one's friends of a death in the family. There is no need of this,
as the newspapers spread the sad intelligence.
There is, however, a very elaborate paper called a "_faire part_,"
issued in both England and France after a death, in which the
mourner announces to you the lamented decease of some person
connected with him. Also on the occasion of a marriage, these
elaborate papers, engraved on a large sheet of letter-paper, are
sent to all one's acquaintances in England and on the Continent.
Visits of condolence can begin the week after the event which
occasions them. Personal visits are only made by relatives or very
intimate friends, who will of course be their own judges of the
propriety of speaking fully of the grief which has desolated the
house. The cards are left at the door by the person inquiring for
the afflicted persons, and one card is as good as half a dozen. It
is not necessary to deluge a mourning family with cards. These
cards need not be returned for a year, unless our suggestion be
followed, and the card engraved as we have indicated, and then
sent by post. It is not yet a fashion, but it is in the air, and
deserves to be one.
Cards of congratulation are left in person, and if the ladies are
at home the visitor should go in, and be hearty in his or her good
wishes. For such visits a card sent by post would, among intimate
friends, be considered cold-blooded. It must at least be left in
Now as to cards of ceremony. These are to be forwarded to those
who have sent invitations to weddings, carefully addressed to the
person who invites you; also after an entertainment to which you
have been asked, within a week after a dinner (this must be a
personal visit), and on the lady's "day," if she has one; and we
may add here that if on making a call a lady sees that she is not
recognized, she should hasten to give her name. (This in answer to
many inquiries.) Only calls of pure ceremony are made by handing
in cards, as at a tea or general reception, etc. When cards have
been left once in the season they need not be left again.
Under the mixed heads of courtesy and compliment should be those
calls made to formally announce a betrothal. The parents leave the
cards of the betrothed pair, with their own, on all the
connections and friends of the two families. This is a formal
announcement, and all who receive this intimation should make a
congratulatory visit if possible.
As young people are often asked without their parents, the
question arises, What should the parents do to show their sense of
this attention? They should leave or send their cards with those
of their children who have received the invitation. These are
cards of courtesy. Cards ought not to be left on the daughters of
a family without also including the parents in courteous
formality. Gentlemen, when calling on any number of ladies, send
in only one card, and cards left on a reception day where a person
is visiting are not binding on the visitor to return. No separate
card is left on a guest on reception days.
When returning visits of ceremony, as the first visit after a
letter of introduction, or as announcing your arrival in town or
your intended departure, one may leave a card at the door without
inquiring for the lady.
Attention to these little things is a proof at once of
self-respect and of respect for one's friends. They soon become
easy matters of habit, and of memory. To the well-bred they are
second nature. No one who is desirous of pleasing in society
should neglect them.
A lady should never call on a gentleman unless professionally or
officially. She should knock at his door, send in her card, and be
as ceremonious as possible, if lawyer, doctor, or clergyman. On
entering a crowded drawing-room it may be impossible to find the
hostess at once, so that in many fine houses in New York the
custom of announcing the name has become a necessary fashion. It
is impossible to attempt to be polite without cultivating a good
memory. The absent or self-absorbed person who forgets names and
faces, who recalls unlucky topics, confuses relationships, speaks
of the dead as if they were living, or talks about an unlucky
adventure in the family, who plunges into personalities, who
metaphorically treads on a person's toes, will never succeed in
society. He must consider his "cards of courtesy."
The French talk of "_la politesse du foyer_." They are full of it.
Small sacrifices, little courtesies, a kindly spirit,
insignificant attentions, self-control, an allowance for the
failings of others--these go to make up the elegance of life. True
politeness has its roots very deep. We should not cultivate
politeness merely from a wish to please, but because we would
consider the feelings and spare the time of others. Cards of
compliment and courtesy, therefore, save time as well as express a
kindly remembrance. Everything in our busy world--or "whirl," as
some people call it--that does these two things is a valuable
A card of courtesy is always sent with flowers, books,
bonbonnieres, game, sweetmeats, fruits--any of the small gifts
which are freely offered among intimate friends. But in
acknowledging these gifts or attentions a card is not a sufficient
return. Nor is it proper to write "regrets" or "accepts" on a
card. A note should be written in either case.
A card of any sort must be scrupulously plain. Wedding cards
should be as simple and unostentatious as possible.
The ceremony of paying visits and of leaving cards has been
decided by the satirist as meaningless, stupid, and useless; but
it underlies the very structure of society. Visits of form, visits
of ceremony, are absolutely necessary. You can hardly invite
people to your house until you have called and have left a card.
And thus one has a safeguard against intrusive and undesirable
acquaintances. To stop an acquaintance, one has but to stop
leaving cards. It is thus done quietly but securely.
Gentlemen who have no time to call should be represented by their
cards. These may well be trusted to the hands of wife, mother,
daughter, sister, but should be punctiliously left.
The card may well be noted as belonging only to a high order of
development. No monkey, no "missing link," no Zulu, no savage,
carries a card. It is the tool of civilization, its "field-mark
and device." It may be improved; it may be, and has been, abused;
but it cannot be dispensed with under our present environment.
THE ETIQUETTE OF WEDDINGS.
Scarcely a week passes during the year that the fashionable
journals do not publish "answers to correspondents" on that
subject of all others most interesting to young ladies, the
etiquette of weddings. No book can tell the plain truth with
sufficient emphasis, that the etiquette at a grand wedding is
always the same. The next day some one writes to a newspaper
"Shall the bridegroom wear a dress-coat at the hour of eleven
A.M., and who pays for the wedding-cards?" The wedding of to-day
in England has "set the fashion" for America. No man ever puts on
a dress-coat before his seven-o'clock dinner, therefore every
bridegroom is dressed in a frock-coat and light trousers of any
pattern he pleases; in other words, he wears a formal morning
dress, drives to the church with his best man, and awaits the
arrival of the bride in the vestry-room. He may wear gloves or not
as he chooses. The best man is the intimate friend, sometimes the
brother, of the groom. He accompanies him to the church, as we
have said, follows him to the altar, stands at his right hand a
little behind him, and holds his hat during the marriage-service.
After that is ended he pays the clergyman's fee, accompanies, in a
coup, by himself, the bridal party home, and then assists the
ushers to introduce friends to the bridal pair.
The bridegroom is allowed to make what presents he pleases to the
bride, and to send something in the nature of a fan, a locket, a
ring, or a bouquet to the bridesmaids; he has also to buy the
wedding-ring, and, of course, he sends a bouquet to the bride; but
he is not to furnish cards or carriages or the wedding-breakfast;
this is all done by the bride's family. In England the groom is
expected to drive the bride away in his own carriage, but in
America even that is not often allowed.
The bride meantime is dressed in gorgeous array, generally in
white satin, with veil of point-lace and orange blossoms, and is
driven to the church in a carriage with her father, who gives her
away. Her mother and other relatives having preceded her take the
front seats. Her bridesmaids should also precede her, and await
her in the chancel of the church.
The ushers then proceed to form the procession with which almost
all city weddings are begun. The ushers first, two and two; then
the bridesmaids, two and two; then some pretty
children--bridesmaids under ten; and then the bride, leaning on
her father's right arm. Sometimes the child bridesmaids precede
the others. As the cortege reaches the lowest altar-step the
ushers break ranks and go to the right and left; the bridesmaids
also separate, going to the right and left, leaving a space for
the bridal pair. As the bride reaches the lowest step the
bridegroom advances, takes her by her right hand, and conducts her
to the altar, where they both kneel. The clergyman, being already
in his place, signifies to them when to rise, and then proceeds to
make the twain one.
The bridal pair walk down the aisle arm-in-arm, and are
immediately conducted to the carriage and driven home; the rest
follow. In some cases, but rarely in this country, a bridal
register is signed in the vestry.
Formerly brides removed the whole glove; now they adroitly cut the
finger of the left-hand glove, so that they can remove that
without pulling off the whole glove for the ring. Such is a church
wedding, performed a thousand times alike. The organ peals forth
the wedding-march, the clergyman pronounces the necessary vows to
slow music, or not, as the contracting parties please. Music,
however, adds very much to this ceremony. In a marriage at home,
the bridesmaids and best man are usually dispensed with. The
clergyman enters and faces the company, the bridal pair follow and
face him. After the ceremony the clergyman retires, and the wedded
pair receive congratulations.
An attempt has been made in America to introduce the English
fashion of a wedding-breakfast. It is not as yet acclimated, but
it is, perhaps, well to describe here the proper etiquette. The
gentlemen and ladies who are asked to this breakfast should be
apprised of that honor a fortnight in advance, and should accept
or decline immediately, as it has all the formality of a dinner,
and seats are, of course, very important. On arriving at the house
where the breakfast is to be held, the gentlemen leave their hats
in the hall, but ladies do not remove their bonnets. After
greeting the bride and bridegroom, and the father and mother, the
company converse for a few moments until breakfast is announced.
Then the bride and groom go first, followed by the bride's father
with the groom's mother, then the groom's father with the bride's
mother, then the best man with the first bridesmaid, then the
bridesmaids with attendant gentlemen, who have been invited for
this honor, and then the other invited guests, as the bride's
mother has arranged. Coffee and tea are not offered, but bouillon,
salads, birds, oysters, and other hot and cold dishes, ices,
jellies, etc., are served at this breakfast, together with
champagne and other wines, and finally the wedding-cake is set
before the bride, and she cuts a slice.
The health of the bride and groom is then proposed by the
gentleman chosen for this office, generally the father of the
groom, and responded to by the father of the bride. The groom is
sometimes expected to respond, and he proposes the health of the
bridesmaids, for which the best man returns thanks. Unless all are
unusually happy speakers, this is apt to be awkward, and
"stand-up" breakfasts are far more commonly served, as the French
say, _en buffet_. In the first place, the possibility of asking
more people commends this latter practice, and it is far less
trouble to serve a large, easy collation to a number of people
standing about than to furnish what is really a dinner to a number
Wedding presents are sent any time within two months before the
wedding, the earlier the better, as many brides like to arrange
their own tables artistically, if the presents are shown. Also,
all brides should write a personal note thanking each giver for
his gift, be it large or small.
All persons who send gifts should be invited to the wedding and to
the reception, although the converse of this proposition does not
hold true; for not all who are asked to the wedding are expected
to send gifts.
Wedding presents have now become almost absurdly gorgeous. The old
fashion, which was started among the frugal Dutch, of giving the
young couple their household gear and a sum of money with which to
begin, has now degenerated into a very bold display of wealth and
ostentatious generosity, so that friends of moderate means are
afraid to send anything. Even the cushion on which a wealthy bride
in New York was lately expected to kneel was so elaborately
embroidered with pearls that she visibly hesitated to press it
with her knee at the altar. Silver and gold services, too precious
to be trusted to ordinary lock and key, are displayed at the
wedding and immediately sent off to some convenient safe. This is
one of the necessary and inevitable overgrowths of a luxury which
we have not yet learned to manage. In France they do things
better, those nearest of kin subscribing a sum of money, which is
sent to the bride's mother, who expends it in the bridal
trousseau, or in jewels or silver, as the bride pleases.
So far has this custom transcended good taste that now many
persons of refined minds hesitate to show the presents.
After giving an hour and a half to her guests, the bride retires
to change her dress; generally her most intimate friends accompany
her. She soon returns in her travelling-dress, and is met at the
foot of the stairs by the groom, who has also changed his dress.
The father, mother, and intimate friends kiss the bride, and, as
the happy pair drive off, a shower of satin slippers and rice
follows them. If one slipper alights on the top of the carriage,
luck is assured to them forever.
Wedding-cake is no longer sent about. It is neatly packed in
boxes; each guest takes one, if she likes, as she leaves the
Wedding-favors made of white ribbon and artificial flowers are
indispensable in England, but America has had the good taste to
abjure them until lately. Such ornaments are used for the horses'
ears and the servants' coats in this country. Here the groom wears
a _boutonniere_ of natural flowers.
A widow should never be accompanied by bridesmaids, or wear a veil
or orange-blossoms at her marriage. She should at church wear a
colored silk and a bonnet. She should be attended by her father,
brother, or some near friend.
It is proper for her to remove her first wedding-ring, as the
wearing of that cannot but be painful to the bridegroom.
If married at home, the widow bride may wear a light silk and be
bonnetless, but she should not indulge in any of the signs of
It is an exploded idea that of allowing every one to kiss the
bride. It is only meet that the near relatives do that.
The formula for wedding-cards is generally this:
Mr. and Mrs. Brown
request the pleasure of your company
at the wedding of their daughter Maria to John Stanley,
at Ascension Church,
on Tuesday, November fifteenth,
at two o'clock.
These invitations are engraved on note-paper.
If friends are invited to a wedding-breakfast or a reception at
the house, that fact is stated on a separate card, which is
enclosed in the same envelope.
Of course in great cities, with a large acquaintance, many are
asked to the church and not to the house. This fact should never
The smaller card runs in this fashion:
99 B Street, at half-past two.
To these invitations the invited guests make no response save to
go or to leave cards. All invited guests, however, are expected to
call on the young couple and to invite them during the year.
Of course there are quieter weddings and very simple arrangements
as to serving refreshments: a wedding-cake and a decanter of
sherry often are alone offered to the witnesses of a wedding.
Many brides prefer to be married in travelling-dress and hat, and
leave immediately, without congratulations.
The honey-moon in our busy land is usually only a fortnight in the
sky, and some few bridal pairs prefer to spend it at the quiet
country house of a friend, as is the English fashion. But others
make a hurried trip to Niagara, or to the Thousand Islands, or go
to Europe, as the case may be. It is extraordinary that none stay
at home; in beginning a new life all agree that a change of place
is the first requisite.
After the return home, bridal dinners and parties are offered to
the bride, and she is treated with distinction for three months.
Her path is often strewed with flowers from the church to her own
door, and it is, metaphorically, so adorned during the first few
weeks of married life. Every one hastens to welcome her to her new
condition, and she has but to smile and accept the amiable
congratulations and attentions which are showered upon her. Let
her parents remember, however, in sending cards after the wedding,
to let the bride's friends know where she can be found in her
Now as to the time for the marriage. There is something
exquisitely poetical in the idea of a June wedding. It is the very
month for the softer emotions and for the wedding journey. In
England it is the favorite month for marriages. May is considered
unlucky, and in an old almanac of 1678 we find the following
notice: "Times prohibiting marriage: Marriage comes in on the 13th
day of January and at Septuagesima Sunday; it is out again until
Low Sunday, at which time it comes in again and goes not out until
Rogation Sunday. Thence it is forbidden until Trinity Sunday, from
whence it is unforbidden until Advent Sunday; but then it goes out
and comes not in again until the 18th of January next following."
Our brides have, however, all seasons for their own, excepting
May, as we have said, and Friday, an unlucky day. The month of
roses has very great recommendations. The ceremony is apt to be
performed in the country at a pretty little church, which lends
its altar-rails gracefully to wreaths, and whose Gothic windows
open upon green lawns and trim gardens. The bride and her maids
can walk over the delicate sward without soiling their slippers,
and an opportunity offers for carrying parasols made entirely of
flowers. But if it is too far to walk, the bride is driven to
church in her father's carriage with him alone, her mother,
sisters, and bridesmaids having preceded her. In England etiquette
requires that the bride and groom should depart from the church in
the groom's carriage. It is strict etiquette there that the groom
furnish the carriage with which they return to the
wedding-breakfast and afterwards depart in state, with many
wedding-favors on the horses' heads, and huge white bouquets on
the breasts of coachman and footman.
It is in England, also, etiquette to drive with four horses to the
place where the honey-moon is to be spent; but in America the
drive is generally to the nearest railway-station.
Let us give a further sketch of the duties of the best man. He
accompanies the groom to the church and stands near him, waiting
at the altar, until the bride arrives; then he holds the groom's
hat. He signs the register afterwards as witness, and pays the
clergyman's fee, and then follows the bridal procession out of the
church, joining the party at the house, where he still further
assists the groom by presenting the guests. The bridesmaids
sometimes form a line near the door at a June wedding, allowing
the bride to walk through this pretty alley-way to the church.
The bridegroom's relatives sit at the right of the altar or
communion rails, thus being on the bridegroom's right hand, and
those of the bride sit on the left, at the bride's left hand. The
bridegroom and best man stand on the clergyman's left hand at the
altar. The bride is taken by her right hand by the groom, and of
course stands on his left hand; her father stands a little behind
her. Sometimes the female relatives stand in the chancel with the
bridal group, but this, can only happen in a very large church;
and the rector must arrange this, as in high churches the
marriages take place outside the chancel.
After the ceremony is over the clergyman bends over and
congratulates the young people. The bride then takes the left arm
of the groom, and passes down the aisle, followed by her
bridesmaids and the ushers.
Some of our correspondents have no good asked us what the best man
is doing at this moment? Probably waiting in the vestry, or, if
not, he hurries down a side aisle, gets into a carriage, and
drives to the house where the wedding reception is to be held.
October is a good month for both city and country weddings. In our
climate, the brilliant October days, not too warm, are admirable
for the city guests, who are invited to a country place for the
wedding, and certainly it is a pleasant season for the wedding
journey. Travelling costumes for brides in England are very
elegant, even showy. Velvet, and even light silks and satins, are
used; but in our country plain cloth and cashmere costumes are
more proper and more fashionable.
For weddings in families where a death has recently occurred, all
friends, even the widowed mother, should lay aside their mourning
for the ceremony, appearing in colors. It is considered unlucky
and inappropriate to wear black at a wedding. In our country a
widowed mother appears at her daughter's wedding in purple velvet
or silk; in England she wears deep cardinal red, which is
considered, under these circumstances, to be mourning, or proper
for a person who is in mourning.
We should add that ushers and groomsmen are unknown at an English
wedding. The sexton of the church performs the functions which are
attended to here by ushers.
Note.--The young people who are about to be married make a list
together as to whom cards should be sent, and all cards go from
the young lady's family. No one thinks it strange to get cards for
a wedding. A young lady should write a note of thanks to every one
who sends her a present before she leaves home; all her husband's
friends, relatives, etc., all her own, and to people whom she does
not know these notes should especially be written, as their gifts
may be prompted by a sense of kindness to her parents or her
_fianc,_, which she should recognize. It is better taste to write
these notes on note-paper than on cards. It is not necessary to
send cards to each member of a family; include them all under the
head of "Mr. and Mrs. Brown and family." It would be proper for a
young lady to send her cards to a physician under whose care she
has been if she was acquainted with him socially, but it is not
expected when the acquaintance is purely professional. A
fashionable and popular physician would be swamped with
wedding-cards if that were the custom. If, however, one wishes to
show gratitude and remembrance, there would be no impropriety in
sending cards to such a gentleman.
"WHO PAYS FOR THE CARDS?"
We have received a number of letters from our correspondents
asking whether the groom pays for the wedding cards. This question
we have answered so often in the negative that we think it well to
explain the philosophy of the etiquette of weddings, which is
remotely founded on the early savage history of mankind, and which
bears fruit in our later and more complex civilization, still
reminding us of the past. In early and in savage days the man
sought his bride heroically, and carried her off by force. The
Tartar still does this, and the idea only was improved in
patriarchal days by the purchase of the bride by the labor of her
husband, or by his wealth in flocks and herds. It is still a
theory that the bride is thus carried off. Always, therefore, the
idea has been cherished that the bride is something carefully
guarded, and the groom is looked upon as a sort of friendly enemy,
who comes to take away the much-prized object from her loving and
jealous family. Thus the long-cherished theory bears fruit in the
English ceremonial, where the only carriage furnished by the groom
is the one in which he drives the bride away to the spending of
the honeymoon. Up to that time he has had no rights of
proprietorship. Even this is not allowed in America among
fashionable people, the bride's father sending them in his own
carriage on the first stage of their journey. It is not etiquette
for the groom to furnish anything for his own wedding but the ring
and a bouquet for the bride, presents for the bridesmaids and the
best man, and some token to the ushers. He pays the clergyman.
He should _not_ pay for the cards, the carriages, the
entertainment, or anything connected with the wedding. This is
decided in the high court of etiquette. That is the province of
the family of the bride, and should be insisted upon. If they are
not able to do this, there should be no wedding and no cards. It
is better for a portionless girl to go to the altar in a
travelling dress, and to send out no sort of invitations or
wedding cards, than to allow the groom to pay for them. This is
not to the disparagement of the rights of the groom. It is simply
a proper and universal etiquette.
At the altar the groom, if he is a millionaire, makes his wife his
equal by saying, "With all my worldly goods I thee endow;" but
until he has uttered these words she has no claim on his purse for
clothes, or cards, or household furnishing, or anything but those
articles which come under the head of such gifts as it is a
lover's province to give.
A very precise, old-time aristocrat of New York broke her
daughter's engagement to a gentleman because he brought her a
dress from Paris. She said, if he did not know enough _not_ to
give her daughter clothes while she was under her roof, he should
not have her. This is an exaggerated feeling, but the principle is
a sound one. The position of a woman is so delicate, the relations
of engaged people so uncertain, that it would bring about an
awkwardness if the gentleman were to pay for the shoes, the gowns,
the cards of his betrothed.
Suppose, as was the case twice last winter, that an engagement of
marriage is broken after the cards are out. Who is to repay the
bridegroom if _he_ has paid for the cards? Should the father of
the bride send him a check? That would be very insulting, yet a
family would feel nervous about being under pecuniary indebtedness
to a discarded son-in-law. The lady can return her ring and the
gifts her lover has made her; they have suffered no contact that
will injure them. But she could not return shoes or gowns or
It is therefore wisely ordered by etiquette that the lover be
allowed to pay for nothing that could not be returned to him
without loss, if the engagement were dissolved, even on the
Of course in primitive life the lover may pay for his lady-love,
as we will say in the case of a pair of young people who come
together in a humble station. Such marriages are common in
America, and many of these pairs have mounted to the very highest
social rank. But they must not attempt anything which is in
imitation of the etiquette of fashionable life unless they can do
it well and thoroughly.
Nothing is more honorable than a marriage celebrated in the
presence only of father, mother, and priest. Two young people
unwilling or unable to have splendid dresses, equipages, cards,
and ceremony, can always be married this way, and go to the Senate
or White House afterwards. They are not hampered by it hereafter.
But the bride should never forget her dignity. She should never
let the groom pay for cards, or for anything, unless it is the
marriage license, wherever it is needful in this country, and the
clergyman's fee. If she does, she puts herself in a false
A very sensible observer, writing of America and its young people,
and the liberty allowed them, says "the liberty, or the license,
of our youth will have to be curtailed. As our society becomes
complex and artificial, like older societies in Europe, our
children will be forced to approximate to them in status, and
parents will have to waken to a sense of their responsibilities."
This is a remark which applies at once to that liberty permitted
to engaged couples in rural neighborhoods, where the young girl is
allowed to go on a journey at her lover's expense. A girl's
natural protectors should know better than to allow this. They
know that her purity is her chief attraction to man, and that a
certain coyness and virginal freshness are the dowry she should
bring her future husband. Suppose that this engagement is broken
off. How will she be accepted by another lover after having
enjoyed the hospitality of the first? Would it not always make a
disagreeable feeling between the two men, although No. 2 might
have perfect respect for the girl?
Etiquette may sometimes make blunders, but it is generally based
on a right principle, and here it is undoubtedly founded in truth
and justice. In other countries this truth is so fully realized
that daughters are guarded by the vigilance of parents almost to
the verge of absurdity. A young girl is never allowed to go out
alone, and no man is permitted to enter the household until his
character has undergone the closest scrutiny. Marriage is a unique
contract, and all the various wrongs caused by hasty marriages,
all the troubles before the courts, all the divorces, are
multiplied by the carelessness of American parents, who,
believing, and truly believing, in the almost universal purity of
their daughters, are careless of the fold, not remembering the one
This evil of excessive liberty and of the loose etiquette of our
young people cannot be rooted out by laws. It must begin at the
hearth-stone, Family life must be reformed; young ladies must be
brought up with greater strictness. The bloom of innocence should
not be brushed off by careless hands. If a mother leaves her
daughter matronless, to receive attentions without her dignified
presence, she opens the door to an unworthy man, who may mean
marriage or not. He may be a most unsuitable husband even if he
_does_ mean marriage. If he takes the young lady about, paying for
her cab hire, her theatre tickets, and her journeyings, and then
drops her, whom have they to thank but themselves that her bloom
is brushed off, that her character suffers, that she is made
ridiculous, and marries some one whom she does not love, for a
Men, as they look back on their own varied experience, are apt to
remember with great respect the women who were cold and distant.
They love the fruit which hung the highest, the flower which was
guarded, and which did not grow under their feet in the highway.
They look back with vague wonder that they were ever infatuated
with a fast girl who matured into a vulgar woman.
And we must remember what a fatal effect upon marriage is the
loosing of the ties of respect. Love without trust is without
respect, and if a lover has not respected his _fianc,e_, he will
never respect his wife.
It is the privilege of the bride to name the wedding day, and of
her father and mother to pay for her trousseau. After the wedding
invitations are issued she does not appear in public.
The members of the bride's family go to the church before the
bride; the bridegroom and his best man await them at the altar.
The bride comes last, with her father or brother, who is to give
her away. She is joined at the altar step by her _fianc,_, who
takes her hand, and then she becomes his for life.
All these trifles mean much, as any one can learn who goes through
with the painful details of a divorce suit.
Now when the circle of friends on both sides is very extensive, it
has of late become customary to send invitations to some who are
not called to the wedding breakfast to attend the ceremony in
church. This sometimes takes the place of issuing cards. No one
thinks of calling on the newly married who has not received either
an invitation to the ceremony at church or cards after their
establishment in their new home.
Now one of our correspondents writes to us, "Who pays for the
_after_-cards?" In most cases these are ordered with the other
cards, and the bride's mother pays for them. But if they are
ordered after the marriage, the groom may pay for these as he
would pay for his wife's ordinary expenses. Still, it is stricter
etiquette that even these should be paid for by the bride's
People who are asked to the wedding send cards to the house if
they cannot attend, and in any case send or leave cards within ten
days after, unless they are in very deep mourning, when a
dispensation is granted them.
The etiquette of a wedding at home does not differ at all from the
etiquette of a wedding in church with regard to cards. A great
confusion seems to exist in the minds of some of our
correspondents as to whom they shall send their return cards on
being invited to a wedding. Some ask: "Shall I send them to the
bride, as I do not know her mother?" Certainly not; send them to
whomsoever invites you. Afterwards call on the bride or send her
cards, but the first and important card goes to the lady who gives
The order of the religious part of the ceremony is fixed by the
church in which it occurs. The groom must call on the rector or
clergyman, see the organist, and make what arrangements the bride
pleases, but, we repeat, all _expenses_, excepting the fee to the
clergyman, are borne by the bride's family.
The sexton should see to it that the white ribbon is stretched
across the aisle, that the awning and carpet are in place, and it
would be well if the police regulations could extend to the group
of idlers who crowd around the church door, to the great
inconvenience of the guests.
A wedding invitation requires no answer, unless it be to a
sit-down wedding breakfast. Cards left afterwards are
all-sufficient. The separate cards of the bride and groom are no
longer included in the invitation. Nothing black in the way of
dress but the gentlemen's coats is admissible at a wedding.
WEDDINGS AFTER EASTER.
We may expect a great deal of color in the coming bridal
trousseau, beginning at the altar. The bridesmaids have thus lost
one chance of distinguishing themselves by a different and a
colored dress. But although some eccentric brides may choose to be
married in pink, we cannot but believe, from the beautiful dresses
which we have seen, that the greater number will continue to be
wedded in white; therefore dressmakers need not turn pale.
And all our brides may rejoice that they are not French brides. It
is very troublesome to be married in France, especially if one of
the high contracting parties be a foreigner. A certificate of
baptism is required, together with that of the marriage of the
father and mother, and a written consent of the grandfather and
grandmother, if either is alive and the parents dead. The names of
the parties are then put up on the door of the _mairie_, or
mayor's office, for eleven days.
In England there are four ways of getting married. The first is by
special license, which enables two people to be married at any
time and at any place; but this is very expensive, costing fifty
pounds, and is only obtainable through an archbishop. Then there
is the ordinary license, which can be procured either at Doctors'
Commons or through a clergyman, who must also be a surrogate, and
resident in the diocese where the marriage is to take place; both
parties must swear that they are of age, or, if minors, that they
have the consent of their parents. But to be married by banns is
considered the most orthodox as well as the most economical way of
proceeding. The banns must be published in the church of the
parish in which the lady lives for three consecutive Sundays prior
to the marriage, also the same law holds good for the gentleman,
and the parties must have resided fifteen days in the parish. Or
the knot may be tied at a licensed chapel, or at the office of a
registrar, notice being given three weeks previously.
We merely quote these safeguards against imprudent marriages to
show our brides how free they are. And perhaps, as we sometimes
find, they are too free; there is danger that there may be too
much ease in tying the knot that so many wish untied later,
judging from the frequency of divorce.
However, we will not throw a damper on that occasion which for
whirl and bustle and gayety and excitement is not equalled by any
other day in a person's life. The city wedding in New York is
marked first by the arrival of the caterer, who comes to spread
the wedding breakfast; and later on by the florist, who appears to
decorate the rooms, to hang the floral bell, or to spread the
floral umbrella, or to build a grotto of flowers in the bow-window
where the happy couple shall stand. Some of the latest freaks in
floral fashion cause a bower of tall-growing ferns to be
constructed, the ferns meeting over the bridal pair. This is, of
course, supposing that the wedding takes place at home. Then
another construction is a house entirely of roses, large enough to
hold the bride and bridegroom. This is first built of bamboo or
light wood, then covered thick with roses, and is very beautiful
and almost too fragrant. If some one had not suggested
"bathing-house," as he looked at this floral door to matrimony, it
would have been perfect. It also looks a little like a
confessional. Perhaps a freer sweep is better for both bride and
groom. There should not be a close atmosphere, or too many
overfragrant flowers; for at a home wedding, however well the
arrangements have been anticipated, there is always a little time
spent in waiting for the bride, a few presents arrive late, and
there is always a slight confusion, so that the mamma is apt to be
nervous and flushed, and the bride agitated.
A church wedding involves a great deal more trouble with carriages
for the bridesmaids and for the family, and for the bride and her
father, who must go together to the church.
Fortunately there is no stern law, if every one is late at church,
for the hour appointed, as in England. There the law would read,
"The rite of marriage is to be performed between the hours of 8
A.M. and noon, upon pain of suspension and felony with fourteen
years' transportation." Such is the stern order to the officiating
The reason for this curious custom and the terrible penalty
awaiting its infringement is traceable, it is said, to the wrongs
committed on innocent parties by the "hedge" parsons. Also, alas!
because our English ancestors were apt to be drunk after midday,
and unable to take an oath.
Here the guests arrive first at the church. The groom emerges from
the vestry, supported by his best man, and then the organ strikes
up the Wedding March.
Two little girls, beautifully dressed in Kate Greenaway hats and
white gowns, and with immense sashes, carrying bouquets, come in
first; then the bridesmaids, who form an avenue. Then the bride
and her father walk up to the altar, where the groom claims her,
and her father steps back. The bride stands on the left hand of
the bridegroom; her first bridesmaid advances nearly behind her,
ready to receive the glove and bouquet. After the ceremony is
over, the bride and groom walk down the aisle first, and the
children follow; after them the bridesmaids, then the ushers, then
the father and mother, and so on. Sometimes the ushers go first,
to be ready to cloak the bride, open the doors, keep back the
people, and generally preserve order.
The signing of the register in the vestry is not an American
custom, but it is now the fashion to have a highly illuminated
parchment certificate signed by the newly married pair, with two
or three witnesses, the bridesmaids, the best man, the father and
mother, and so on, generally being the attesting parties.
If a sit-down wedding breakfast has been arranged, it occurs about
half an hour after the parties return from church. An attempt is
being made to return to the manners of the past, and for the
bridegroom (_... la_ Sir Charles Grandison) to wait on the guests
with a napkin on his arm. This often makes much amusement, and
breaks in on the formality. Of course his waiting is very much of
a sinecure and a joke.
The table for a wedding breakfast of this sort should be of a
horseshoe shape. But for a city wedding, where many guests are to
be invited in a circle which is forever widening, this sort of an
exclusive breakfast is almost impossible, and a large table is
generally spread, where the guests go in uninvited, and are helped
by the waiters.
Eight bridesmaids is a fashionable number; and the bride has, of
course, the privilege of choosing the dresses. The prettiest
toilettes we have seen were of heliotrope _gaze_ over satin; and
again clover red, lighted up with white lace. The bonnets were of
white chip, with feathers of red, for this last dress; broad hats
of yellow satin, with yellow plumes, will surmount the heliotrope
bridesmaids. One set of bridesmaids will wear Nile-green dresses,
with pink plumes in their coiffures; another set, probably those
with the pink bride, will be in white satin and silver.
A bride's dress has lately been ornamented with orange blossoms
and lilacs. The veil was fastened on with orange flowers; the
corsage bouquet was of orange flowers and lilacs mixed; the lace
over-dress was caught up with lilac sprays; the hand bouquet
wholly of lilacs; The gardener's success in producing these dwarf
bushes covered with white lilacs has given us the beautiful flower
in great perfection. Cowslips are to be used as corsage and hand
bouquets for bridesmaids' dresses, the dresses being of pale blue
surah, with yellow satin Gainsborough hats, and yellow plumes.
White gloves and shoes are proper for brides. The white undressed
kid or Swedish glove will be the favorite; and high princesse
dresses with long sleeves are still pronounced the best style.
As for wedding presents, great favor is shown to jewelry and
articles somewhat out of the common. Vases of costly workmanship,
brass wine-coolers, enamelled glass frames, small mirrors set in
silver, belt clasps, pins of every sort of conceit for the hair,
choice old Louis Treize silver boxes of curious design, and
watches, even old miniatures, are all of the order of things most
desired. So many of our spring brides are going immediately to
Europe that it seems absurd to load them down with costly dinner
sets, or the usual lamps and pepper-casters. These may come later.
How much prettier to give the bride something she can wear!
Wedding presents, if shown, will be in the second-story front
room, spread on tables and surrounded by flowers. Some brides will
give an afternoon tea the day before to show the presents to a few
intimate friends. Each present will bear the name of the giver on
his or her card.
One bride intends to make a most original innovation. Instead of
going immediately out of town, she will remain at home and attend
the Bachelors' Ball, in the evening, leaving for Philadelphia at
three in the morning. At several of the church weddings the guests
are only bidden there; there will be no reception.
Widows who are to be married again should be reminded that they
can neither have wedding favors nor wear a veil or orange
blossoms. A widow bride should wear a bonnet, she should have no
bridesmaids, and a peach-blossom silk or velvet is a very pretty
dress. At a certain up-town wedding all the gentlemen will wear a
wedding favor excepting the groom. He always wears only a flower.
Wedding favors should be made of white ribbon and silver leaves.
Large bouquets of white flowers should ornament the ears of the
horses and the coats of the coachmen and footmen.
It is a matter of taste whether the bride wears her gloves to the
altar or whether she goes up with uncovered hands. "High-Church"
brides prefer the latter custom, The bride carries a prayer-book,
if she prefers, instead of a bouquet. The Holy Communion is
administered to the married pair if they desire it.
One correspondent inquires, "Who should be asked to a wedding?" We
should say all your visiting list, or none. There is an unusual
feeling about being left out at a wedding, and no explanation that
it is "a small and not general invitation" seems to satisfy those
who are thus passed over. It is much better to offend no one on so
important an occasion.
Wedding cards and wedding stationery have not altered at all. The
simple styles are the best. The bridal linen should be marked with
the maiden name of the bride.
If brides could only find out some way to let their friends know
where they are to be found after marriage it, would be a great
The newest style of engagement ring is a diamond and a ruby, or a
diamond and a sapphire, set at right angles or diagonally. Bangles
with the bridal monogram set in jewels are very pretty, and a
desirable ornament for the bridesmaids' gifts, serving as a
memento and a particularly neat ornament. They seem to have
entirely superseded the locket. The bride's name cut in silver or
gold serves for a lace pin, and is quite effective.
A new fashion in the engraving of the wedding note-paper is the
first novelty of the early summer wedding. The card is entirely
discarded, and sheets of note-paper, with the words of the
invitation in _very fine_ running script, are now universally
used, without crests or ciphers. We are glad to see that the very
respectful form of invitation, "Mr. and Mrs. John H. Brown request
the honor of your presence," etc., is returning to fashionable
favor. It never should have gone out. Nothing is more
self-respecting than respect, and when we ask our friends to visit
us we can well afford to be unusually courteous. The brief, curt,
and not too friendly announcement, "Mr. and Mrs. John H. Brown
request your presence," etc., etc., may well yield to the much
more elegant and formal compliment.
From high social authority in New York we have an invitation much
simpler and more cordial, also worthy of imitation: "Mr. and Mrs.
Winslow Appleblossom request the pleasure of your company at the
wedding reception of their daughter, on Tuesday afternoon June the
sixteenth." This is without cards or names, presuming that the
latter will follow later on.
Another very comprehensive and useful announcement of a wedding,
from a lady living out of town, conveys, however, on one sheet of
paper the desired information of where to find the bride:
_Mrs. Seth Osborne
announces the marriage of her daughter
Mr. Joseph Wendon,
Wednesday, September the ninth,
At Home after January first,
at 758 Wood Street._
This card of announcement is a model of conciseness, and answers
the oft-repeated question, "Where shall we go to find the married
couple next winter?"
In arranging the house for the spring wedding the florists have
hit upon a new device of having only _one_ flower in masses; so we
hear of the apple-blossom wedding, the lilac wedding, the lily
wedding, the rose wedding and the daffodil wedding, the violet
wedding, and the daisy wedding. So well has this been carried out
that at a recent daisy wedding the bride's lace and diamond
ornaments bore the daisy pattern, and each bridesmaid received a
daisy pin with diamond centre.
This fashion of massing a single flower has its advantages when
that flower is the beautiful feathery lilac, as ornamental as a
plume; but it is not to be commended when flowers are as sombre as
the violet, which nowadays suggests funerals. Daffodils are lovely
and original, and apple-blossoms make a hall in a Queen Anne
mansion very decorative. No one needs to be told that roses look
better for being massed, and it is a pretty conceit for a bride to
make the flower which was the ornament of her wedding _her_ flower
The passion for little girls as bridesmaids receives much
encouragement at the spring and summer weddings. One is reminded
of the children weddings of the fifteenth century, as these
darlings, wearing Kate Greenaway hats, walk up the aisle,
preceding the bride. The young brother of the bride, a mere boy,
who, in the fatherless condition of his sister, recently gave her
away, also presented a touching picture. It has become a fashion
now to invoke youth as well as age to give the blessings once
supposed to be alone at the beck and call of those whom Time had
The bridal dresses are usually of white satin and point lace, a
preference for tulle veils being very evident. A pin for the veil,
with a diamond ornament, and five large diamonds hanging by little
chains, makes a very fine effect, and is a novelty. The groom at a
recent wedding gave cat's-eyes set round with diamonds to his
ushers for scarf pins, the cat's-eye being considered a very lucky
The ushers and the groom wear very large _boutonnieres_ of
stephanotis and gardenias, or equally large bunches of
lilies-of-the-valley, in their button-holes.
At one of the country weddings of the spring a piper in full
Scotch costume discoursed most eloquent music on the lawn during
the wedding ceremony. This was a compliment to the groom, who is a
captain in a Highland regiment.
A prevailing fashion for wedding presents is to give heavy pieces
of furniture, such as sideboards, writing-tables, cabinets, and
A favorite dress for travelling is heliotrope cashmere, with
bonnet to match. For a dark bride nothing is more becoming than
dark blue tailormade with white vest and sailor collar. Gray
cashmere with steel passementerie has also been much in vogue. A
light gray mohair, trimmed with lace of the same color, was also
We have mentioned the surroundings of the brides, but have not
spoken of the background. A screen hung with white and purple
lilacs formed the background of one fair bride, a hanging curtain
of Jacque-minot roses formed the appropriate setting of another.
Perhaps the most regal of these floral screens was one formed of
costly orchids, each worth a fortune. One of the most beautiful of
the spring wedding dresses was made of cream-white satin over a
tulle petticoat, the tulle being held down by a long diagonal band
of broad pearl embroidery, the satin train trimmed with bows of
ribbon in true-lovers' knots embroidered in seed-pearls; a shower
of white lilacs trimmed one side of the skirt.
Another simple dress was made of white silk, trimmed with old
Venetian point, the train of striped ivory point and white satin
depending _... la_ Watteau from the shoulders, and fastened at the
point of the waist. At the side three large pleats formed a
drapery, which was fringed with orange-blossoms.
From England we hear of the most curious combinations as to
travelling-dresses. Biscuit-colored canvas, embroidered around the
polonaise in green and gold, while the skirt is edged with a broad
band of green velvet. The new woollen laces of all colors make a
very good effect in the "going-away dress" of a bride.
We are often asked by summer brides whether they should wear
bonnets or round hats for their travelling-dress. We
unhesitatingly say bonnets. A very pretty wedding bonnet is made
of lead-colored beads without foundation, light and transparent;
strings of red velvet and a bunch of red plums complete this
bonnet. Gold-colored straw, trimmed with gold-brown velvet and
black net, makes a pretty travelling-bonnet. Open-work black straw
trimmed with black lace and red roses, very high in the crown,
with a "split front," is a very becoming and appropriate bonnet
for a spring costume.
A pretty dress for the child bridemaids is a pink faille slip
covered with dotted muslin, not tied in at the waist, and the
broadest of high Gainsborough hats of pale pink silk with immense
bows, from the well-known pictures of Gainsborough's pretty women.
But if a summer bride must travel in a bonnet, there is no reason
that her trousseau should not contain a large Leghorn hat, the
straw caught up on the back in long loops, the spaces between
filled in with bows of heliotrope ribbon. The crown should be
covered with white ostrich tips. This is a very becoming hat for a
It would be a charming addition to our well-known and somewhat
worn-out Wedding-March, always played as the bride walks up the
aisle, if a chorus of choir boys would sing an epithalamium, as is
now done in England. These fresh young voices hailing the youthful
couple would be in keeping with the child bridesmaids and the
youthful brothers. Nay, they would suggest those frescoes of the
Italian villas where Hymen and Cupid, two immortal boys, always
precede the happy pair.
It is a pleasant part of weddings everywhere that the faithful
domestics who have loved the bride from childhood are expected to
assist by their presence at the ceremony, each wearing a wedding
favor made by the fair hand of the bride herself. An amusing
anecdote is told of a Yorkshire coachman, who, newly arrived in
America, was to drive the bride to church. Not knowing him,
particularly as he was a new addition to the force, the bride sent
him his favor by the hands of her maid. But Yorkshire decided
stoutly against receiving such a vicarious offering, and remarked,
"Tell she I'd rather 'ave it from she." And so "she" was obliged
to come down and affix the favor to his livery coat, or he would
have resigned the "ribbons." The nurses, the cook, the maids, and
the men-servants in England always expect a wedding favor and a
small gratuity at a wedding, and in this country should be
remembered by a box of cake, and possibly by a new dress, cap, or
bonnet, or something to recall the day.
The plan of serving the refreshments at a buffet all through the
reception retains its place as the most convenient and appropriate
of forms. The wedding breakfast, where toasts are drunk and
speeches made, is practicable in England, but hardly here, where
we are not to the manner born. The old trained domestics who serve
such a feast can not be invented at will in America, so that it is
better to allow our well-filled tables to remain heavily laden, as
they are, with dainties which defy competition, served by a corps
The pretty plan of cutting the bride cake and hunting for a ring
has been long exploded, as the bridesmaids declare that it ruins
their gloves, and that in these days of eighteen buttons it is too
much trouble to take off and put on a glove for the sake of
finding a ring in a bit of greasy pastry. However, it might
supplement a wedding supper.
The first thing which strikes the eye of the fortunate person who
is invited to see the bridal gifts is the predominance of
silver-ware. We have now passed the age of bronze and that of
brass, and silver holds the first place of importance. Not only
the coffee and tea sets, but the dinner sets and the whole
furniture of the writing-table, and even brooms and brushes, are
made with repouss, silver handles--the last, of course, for the
toilette, as for dusting velvet, feathers, bonnets, etc.
The oxidized, ugly, discolored silver is not so fashionable as it
was, and the beautiful, bright, highly polished silver, with its
own natural and unmatchable color, has come in. The salvers afford
a splendid surface for a monogram, which is now copied from the
old Dutch silver, and bears many a true-lovers' knot, and every
sort and kind of ornamentation; sometimes even a little verse, or
posy, as it was called in olden time. One tea-caddy at a recent
wedding bore the following almost obsolete rhyme, which Corydon
might have sent to Phyllis in pastoral times:
"My heart to you is given;
Oh do give yours to me:
We'll lock them up together,
And throw away the key."
It should be added that the silver tea-caddy was in the shape of a
heart, and that it had a key. Very dear to the heart of a
housewife is the tea-caddy which can be locked.
Another unique present was a gold tea scoop of ancient pattern,
probably once a baby's pap spoon. There were also apostle-spoons,
and little silver canoes and other devices to hold cigarettes and
ashes; little mysterious boxes for the toilette, to hold the tongs
for curling hair, and hair-pins; mirror frames, and even
chair-backs and tables--all of silver.
Several beautiful umbrellas, with all sorts of handles, recalled
the anecdote of the man who said he first saw his wife in a storm,
married her in a storm, lived with her in a hurricane, but buried
her in pleasant weather; parasols with jewelled handles, and
beautiful painted fans, are also favorite offerings to the newly
Friends conspire to make their offerings together, so that there
may be no duplicates, and no pieces in the silver service which do
not match. This is a very excellent plan. Old pieces like silver
tankards, Queen Anne silver, and the ever beautiful Baltimore
workmanship, are highly prized.
It is no longer the fashion to display the presents at the
wedding. They are arranged in an upper room, and shown to a few
friends of the bride the day before the ceremony. Nor is it the
fashion for the bride to wear many jewels. These are reserved for
her first appearance as a married woman.
Clusters of diamond stars, daisies, or primroses that can be
grouped together are now favorite gifts. In this costly gift
several friends join again, as in the silver presentation. Diamond
bracelets that can be used as necklaces are also favorite
presents. All sorts of vases, bits of china, cloisonn,, clocks
(although there is not such a stampede of clocks and lamps as a
few years ago), choice etchings framed, and embroidered
table-cloths, doyleys, and useful coverings for bureau and
wash-stands, are in order.
The bride now prefers simplicity in her dress--splendid and costly
simplicity. An elegant white-satin and a tulle veil, the latter
very full, the former extremely long and with a sweeping train,
high corsage, and long sleeves, long white gloves, and perhaps a
flower in the hair--such is the latest fashion for an autumn
bride. The young ladies say they prefer that their magnificence
should wait for the days after marriage, when their jewels can be
worn. There is great sense in this, for a bride is interesting
enough when she is simply attired.
The solemnization of the marriage should be in a church, and a
high ecclesiastical functionary should be asked to solemnize it.
The guests are brought in by the ushers, who, by the way, now wear
pearl-colored kid-gloves, embroidered in black, as do the groom
and best man. The front seats are reserved for the relatives and
intimate friends, and the head usher has a paper on which are
written the names of people entitled to these front seats. The
seats thus reserved have a white ribbon as a line of demarcation.
Music should usher in the bride.
The fashion of bridesmaids has gone out temporarily, and one
person, generally a sister, alone accompanies the bride to the
altar as her female aid. The bride, attended by her father or near
friend, comes in last, after the ushers. After her mother, sister,
and family have preceded her, these near relatives group
themselves about the altar steps. Her sister, or one bridesmaid,
stands near her at the altar rail, and kneels with her and the
bridegroom, as does the best man. The groom takes his bride from
the hand of her father or nearest friend, who then retires and
stands a little behind the bridal pair. He must be near enough to
respond quickly when he hears the words, "Who giveth this woman to
be married to this man?" The bride and groom walk out together
after the ceremony, followed by the nearest relatives, and proceed
to the home where the wedding breakfast is served. Here the bridal
pair stand under an arch of autumn-leaves, golden-rod, asters, and
other seasonable flowers, and receive their friends, who are
presented by the ushers.
The father and mother do not take any stated position on this
occasion, but mingle with the guests, and form a part of the
company. In an opulent countryhouse, if the day is fine, little
tables are set out on the lawn, the ladies seat themselves around,
and the gentlemen carry the refreshments to them; or the piazzas
are beautifully decorated with autumn boughs and ferns, flowers,
evergreens, and the refreshments are served there. If it is a bad
day, of course the usual arrangements of a crowded buffet are in
order; there is no longer a "sit-down" wedding breakfast; it does
not suit our American ideas, as recent experiments have proved. We
have many letters asking if the gentlemen of the bride's family
should wear gloves. They should, and, as we have indicated, they
should be of pearl-colored kid, embroidered in the seams with
The one bridesmaid must be dressed in colors. At a recent very
fashionable wedding the bridesmaid wore bright buttercup yellow, a
real Directoire dress, white lace skirt, yellow bodice, hat
trimmed with yellow--a very picturesque, pretty costume. The silk
stockings and slippers were of yellow, the hat of Leghorn, very
large, turned up at one side, yellow plumes, and long streamers of
yellow-velvet ribbon. Yellow is now esteemed a favorite color and
a fortunate one. It once was deemed the synonym for envy, but that
has passed away.
The carrying of an ivory prayer-book was found to be attended with
inconvenience, therefore was discontinued. Still, if a young lady
wishes to have her prayer-book associated with her vows at the
altar, she can properly carry it. Brides are, however, leaving
their bouquets at home, as the immense size of a modern bouquet
interfered with the giving and taking of the ring.
A very pretty bit of ornamentation for an autumn wedding is the
making of a piece of tapestry of autumn leaves to hang behind the
bride as she receives. This can be done by sewing the leaves on a
piece of drugget on which some artist has drawn a clever sketch
with chalk and charcoal. We have seen some really elaborate and
artistic groups done in this way by earnest and unselfish girl
friends. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia, Tristan and Iseult,
can thus be made to serve as decorations.
The walls of the church can, of course, be exquisitely decorated
with palms in an Oriental pattern, flowers, and leaves. The season
is one when nature's bounty is so profuse that even the fruits can
be pressed into service. Care should be taken not to put too many
tuberoses about, for the perfume is sickening to some.
The engagement ring should be worn on the third finger of the left
hand. It should have a solitaire stone--either a diamond or a
colored stone. Colored stones and diamonds, set diagonally, as a
sapphire and a diamond, are also worn; but not a pearl, as,
according to the German idea, "pearls are tears for a bride." The
wedding ring is entirely different, being merely a plain gold
ring, not very wide nor a square band, as it was a few years
since, and the engagement ring is worn as a guard above the
wedding ring. It is not usual for the bride expectant to give a
ring to her intended husband, but many girls like to give an
engagement gift to their betrothed. Inside the engagement ring is
the date of the engagement and the initials of each of the
contracting parties. The wedding ring has the date of the marriage
and the initials.
If the marriage takes place at home, the bride and groom enter
together, and take their place before the clergyman, who has
already entered; then come the father and mother and other
friends. A pair of hassocks should be arranged for the bridal pair
to kneel upon, and the father should be near to allow the
clergyman to see him when he asks for his authority.
For autumn weddings nothing is so pretty for the travelling-dress
as a tailor-made costume of very light cloth, with sacque to match
for a cold day. No travelling-dress should of itself be too heavy,
as our railway carriages are kept so very warm.
We have been asked to define the meaning of the word "honeymoon."
It comes from the Germans, who drank mead, or metheglin--a
beverage made of honey--for thirty days after the wedding.
The bride-cake is no longer cut and served at weddings; the
present of cake in boxes has superseded that. At the wedding
breakfast the ices are now packed in fancy boxes, which bear
nuptial mottoes and orange-blossoms and violets on their surfaces.
As the ring is the expressive emblem of the perpetuity of the
compact, and as the bride-cake and customary libations form
significant symbols of the nectar sweets of matrimony, it will not
do to banish the cake altogether, although few people eat it, and
few wish to carry it away.
Among the Romans, June was considered the most propitious month
for marriage; but with the Anglo-Saxons October has always been a
favorite and auspicious season. We find that the festival has
always been observed in very much the same way, whether druidical,
pagan, or Christian.
We have been asked, Who shall conduct the single bridesmaid to the
altar? It should be the brother of the groom, her own _fianc,_, or
some chosen friend--never the best man; he does not leave his
friend the groom until he sees him fairly launched on that hopeful
but uncertain sea whose reverses and whose smiles are being
"That man must lead a happy life
Who is directed by a wife.
Who's freed from matrimonial claims
Is sure to suffer for his pains."
This is a "posy" for some October silver.
BEFORE THE WEDDING AND AFTER.
The reception of an engaged girl by the family of her future
husband should be most cordial, and no time should be lost in
giving her a warm welcome. It is the moment of all others when she
will feet such a welcome most gratefully, and when any neglect
will be certain to give her the keenest unhappiness.
It is the fashion for the mother of the groom to invite both the
family of the expectant bride and herself to a dinner as soon as
possible after the formal announcement of the engagement. The two
families should meet and should make friendships at once. This is
It is to these near relatives that the probable date of the
wedding-day is first whispered, in time to allow of much
consultation and preparation in the selection of wedding gifts. In
opulent families each has sometimes given the young couple a
silver dinner service and much silver besides, and the rooms of
the bride's father's house look like a jeweller's shop when the
presents are shown. All the magnificent ormolu ornaments for the
chimney-piece, handsome clocks and lamps, fans in large
quantities, spoons, forks by the hundred, and of late years the
fine gilt ornaments, furniture, camel's-hair shawls,
bracelets--all are piled up in most admired confusion. And when
the invitations are out, then come in the outer world with their
more hastily procured gifts; rare specimens of china, little
paintings, ornaments for the person--all, all are in order.
A present is generally packed where it is bought, and sent with
the giver's card from the shop to the bride directly. She should
always acknowledge its arrival by a personal note written by
herself. A young bride once gave mortal offence by not thus
acknowledging her gifts. She said she had so many that she could
not find time to write the notes, which was naturally considered
boastful and most ungracious.
Gifts which owe their value to the personal taste or industry of
the friend who sends are particularly complimentary. A piece of
embroidery, a painting, a water-color, are most flattering gifts,
as they betoken a long and predetermined interest.
No friend should be deterred from sending a small present, one not
representing a money value, because other and richer people can
send a more expensive one. Often the little gift remains as a most
endearing and useful souvenir.
As for showing the wedding gifts, that is a thing which must be
left to individual taste. Some people disapprove of it, and
consider it ostentatious; others have a large room devoted to the
display of the presents, and it is certainly amusing to examine
As for the conduct of the betrothed pair during their engagement,
our American mammas are apt to be somewhat more lenient in their
views of the liberty to be allowed than are the English. With the
latter, no young lady is allowed to drive alone with her _fianc,_;
there must be a servant in attendance. No young lady must visit in
the family of her _fianc,_, unless he has a mother to receive her.
Nor is she allowed to go to the theatre alone with him, or to
travel under his escort, to stop at the same hotel, or to relax
one of those rigid rules which a severe chaperon would enforce;
and it must be allowed that this severe and careful attention to
appearances is in the best taste.
As for the engagement-ring, modern fashion prescribes a diamond
solitaire, which may range in price from two hundred and fifty to
two thousand dollars. The matter of presentation is a secret
between the engaged pair.
Evening weddings do not differ from day weddings essentially,
except that the bridegroom wears evening dress.
If the wedding is at home, the space where the bridal party is to
stand is usually marked off by a ribbon, and the clergyman comes
down in his robes before the bridal pair; they face him, and he
faces the company. Hassocks are prepared for them to kneel upon.
After the ceremony the clergyman retires, and the bridal party
take his place, standing to receive their friends'
Should there be dancing at a wedding, it is proper for the bride
to open the first quadrille with the best man, the groom dancing
with the first bridesmaid. It is not, however, very customary for
a bride to dance, or for dancing to occur at an evening wedding,
but it is not a bad old custom.
After the bridal pair return from their wedding-tour, the
bridesmaids each give them a dinner or a party, or show some
attention, if they are so situated that they can do so. The
members of the two families, also, each give a dinner to the young
It is now a very convenient and pleasant custom for the bride to
announce with her wedding-cards two or more reception days during
the winter after her marriage, on which her friends can call upon
her. The certainty of finding a bride at home is very pleasing. On
these occasions she does not wear her wedding-dress, but receives
as if she had entered society as one of its members. The wedding
trappings are all put away, and she wears a dark silk, which may
be as handsome as she chooses. As for wearing her wedding-dress to
balls or dinners after her marriage, it is perfectly proper to do
so, if she divests herself of her veil and her orange-blossoms.
The bride should be very attentive and conciliatory to all her
husband's friends, They will look with interest upon her from the
moment they hear of the engagement, and it is in the worst taste
for her to show indifference to them.
Quiet weddings, either in church or at the house, are very much
preferred by some families. Indeed, the French, from whom we have
learned many--and might learn more--lessons of grace and good
taste, infinitely prefer them.
For a quiet wedding the bride dresses in a travelling dress and
bonnet, and departs for her wedding-tour. It is the custom in
England, as we have said, for the bride and groom to drive off in
their own carriage, which is dressed with white ribbons, the
coach-man and groom wearing white bouquets, and favors adorning
the horses' ears, and for them to take a month's honeymoon. There
also the bride (if she be Hannah Rothschild or the Baroness
Burdett-Coutts) gives her bridesmaids very elegant presents, as a
locket or a bracelet, while the groom gives the best man a
scarf-pin or some gift. The American custom is not so universal.
However, either bride or groom gives something to the bridesmaid
and a scarf-pin to each usher. Thus a wedding becomes a very
expensive and elaborate affair, which quiet and economical people
are sometimes obliged to avoid.
After the marriage invitations are issued, the lady does not
appear in public.
The period of card-leaving after a wedding is not yet definitely
fixed. Some authorities say ten days, but that in a crowded city,
and with an immense acquaintance, would be quite impossible.
If only invited to the church, many ladies consider that they
perform their whole duty by leaving a card sometime during the
winter, and including the young couple in their subsequent
invitations. Very rigorous people call, however, within ten days,
and if invited to the house, the call is still more imperative,
and should be made soon after the wedding.
But if a young couple do not send their future address, but only
invite one to a church-wedding, there is often a very serious
difficulty in knowing where to call, and the first visit must be
indefinitely postponed until they send cards notifying their
friends of their whereabouts.
Wedding invitations require no answer. But people living at a
distance, who cannot attend the wedding, should send their cards
by mail, to assure the hosts that the invitation has been
received. The usual form for wedding-cards is this:
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Chapman
request your presence at the
marriage of their daughter, on Wednesday evening,
November fourth, at eight o'clock.
The card of the young lady, that of her intended husband, and
another card to the favored--
after the ceremony,
7 East Market Street--
is also enclosed.
People with a large acquaintance cannot always invite all their
friends, of course, to a wedding reception, and therefore invite
all to the church. Sometimes people who are to give a small
wedding at home request an answer to the wedding invitation; in
that case, of course, an answer should be sent, and people should
be very careful not to ignore these flattering invitations. Any
carelessness is inexcusable when so important an event is on the
_tapis_. Bridesmaids, if prevented by illness or sudden
bereavement from officiating, should notify the bride as soon as
possible, as it is a difficult thing after a bridal cort,ge is
arranged to reorganize it.
As to the wedding-tour, it is no longer considered obligatory, nor
is the seclusion of the honey-moon demanded. A very fashionable
girl who married an Englishman last summer at Newport returned in
three days to take her own house at Newport, and to receive and
give out invitations. If the newly married pair thus begin
house-keeping in their own way, they generally issue a few "At
Home" cards, and thereby open an easy door for future
hospitalities. Certainly the once perfunctory bridal tour is no
longer deemed essential, and the more sensible fashion exists of
the taking of a friend's house a few miles out of town for a
If the bridal pair go to a watering-place during their early
married days, they should be very careful of outward display of
Such exhibitions in the cars or in public places as one often
sees, of the bride laying her head on her husband's shoulder,
holding hands, or kissing, are at once vulgar and indecent. All
public display of an affectionate nature should be sedulously
avoided. The affections are too sacred for such outward showing,
and the lookers-on are in a very disagreeable position. The French
call love-making _l'...... deux_, and no egotism is agreeable.
People who see a pair of young doves cooing in public are apt to
say that a quarrel is not far off. It is possible for a lover to
show every attention, every assiduity, and not to overdo his
demonstrations. It is quite possible for the lady to be fond of
her husband without committing the slightest offence against good
The young couple are not expected, unless Fortune has been
exceptionally kind, to be immediately responsive in the matter of
entertainments. The outer world is only too happy to entertain
them. Nothing can be more imprudent than for a young couple to
rush into expenditures which may endanger their future happiness
and peace of mind, nor should they feel that they are obliged at
once to return the dinners and the parties given to them. The time
will come, doubtless, when they will be able to do so.
But the announcement of a day on which the bride will receive her
friends is almost indispensable. The refreshments on these
occasions should not exceed tea and cake, or, at the most, punch,
tea, chocolate, and cakes, which may stand on a table at one end
of the room, or may be handed by a waiter. Bouillon, on a cold day
of winter, is also in order, and is perhaps the most serviceable
of all simple refreshments. For in giving a "four-o'clock tea," or
several day receptions, a large entertainment is decidedly vulgar.
GOLD, SILVER, AND TIN WEDDINGS.
Very few people have the golden opportunity of living together for
fifty years in the holy estate of matrimony. When they have
overcome in so great a degree the many infirmities of the flesh,
and the common incompatibility of tempers, they deserve to be
congratulated, and to have a wedding festivity which shall be as
ceremonious as the first one, and twice as impressive. But what
shall we give them?
The gifts of gold must be somewhat circumscribed, and therefore
the injunction, so severe and so unalterable, which holds good at
tin and silver weddings, that no presents must be given of any
other metal than that designated by the day, does not hold good at
a golden wedding. A card printed in gold letters, announcing that
John Anderson and Mary Brown were married, for instance, in 1830,
and will celebrate their golden wedding in 1880, is generally the
only golden manifestation. One of the cards recently issued reads
in this way:
_Mr. and Mrs. John Anderson,
At Home November twenty-first, 1881,
17 Carmichael Street,
at eight o'clock._
All done in gold, on white, thick English paper, that is nearly
all the exhibition of gold necessary at a golden wedding, unless
some friend gives the aged bride a present of jewellery. The bride
receives her children and grandchildren dressed in some article
which she wore at her first wedding, if any remain. Sometimes a
veil, or a handkerchief, or a fan, scarcely ever the whole dress,
has lasted fifty years, and she holds a bouquet of white flowers.
A wedding-cake is prepared with a ring in it, and on the frosting
is the date, and the monogram of the two, who have lived together
These golden weddings are apt to be sad. It is not well for the
old to keep anniversaries--too many ghosts come to the feast.
Still, if people are happy enough to wish to do so, there can be
no harm in it. Their surroundings may possibly surpass their
fondest dreams, but as it regards themselves, the contrast is
painful. They have little in common with bridal joys, and unless
it is the wish of some irrepressible descendant, few old couples
care to celebrate the golden wedding save in their hearts. If they
have started at the foot of the ladder, and have risen, they may
not wish to remember their early struggles; if they have started
high, and have gradually sunk into poverty or ill health, they
certainly do not wish to photograph those better days by the
fierce light of an anniversary, It is only the very exceptionally
good, happy, and serene people who can afford to celebrate a
Far otherwise with the silver wedding, which comes in this country
while people are still young, in the very prime of life, With much
before them, and when to stop midway to take an account of one's
friends and one's blessings is a wise and a pleasant thing. The
cards are issued, printed in silver, somewhat in this style:
_Mr. and Mrs. Carter
request the pleasure of your company
on Wednesday, October the twenty-seventh,
at eight o'clock.
John Carter. Sarah Smith._
Such, at least, is one form. Many people do not, however, add
their names at the end; while, again, some go even farther; and
transcribe the marriage notice from the newspaper of the period.
Gifts of silver being comparatively inexpensive, and always
useful, almost all friends who are invited send a gift of
silver-ware, marked "Silver Wedding" or, still better, marked
with an appropriate motto, and the initials of the pair, engraved
in a true-lover's knot.
In old Dutch silver these pretty monograms and the lover's knot
are very common. This was probably put upon the original wedding
silver, and we know that the art was studied by such men as
Albrecht Drer, Benvenuto Cellini, and Rubens, for we find among
their drawings many monograms and such devices. It adds very much
to the beauty of a piece of silver to bear such engraving, and it
is always well to add a motto, or a "posy," as the bid phrase has
it, thus investing the gift with a personal interest, in our
absence of armorial bearings. Since many pretty ornaments come in
silver, it is possible to vary the gifts by sometimes presenting
_flacons_ (a pendant _flacon_ for the _chatelaine_: some very
artistic things come in this pretty ornament now, with colored
plaques representing antique figures, etc.). Sometimes a costly
intaglio is sunk in silver and set as a pin. Clocks of silver,
bracelets, statuary in silver, necklaces, picture-frames, and
filigree pendants hanging to silver necklaces which resemble
pearls; beautiful jewel-cases and boxes for the toilet;
dressing-cases well furnished with silver; hand-mirrors set in
fretted silver; bracelets, pendant seals, and medallions in high
relief--all come now for gifts in the second precious metal. A
very pretty gift was designed by a young artist for his mother on
the celebration of her silver wedding. It was a monogram and
love-knot after the fashion of the seventeenth century, and made,
when joined, a superb belt-clasp, each little ornament of the
relief repeating the two dates. Mantle clasps of solid silver
ornamented with precious stones, and known in the Middle Ages as
_fermillets_, are pretty presents, and these ornaments can be also
enriched with gold and enamel without losing their silver
character. Chimerical animals and floral ornaments are often used
in enriching these _agrafes_.
Mirrors set in silver are very handsome for the toilet-table;
also, brushes and combs can be made of it. All silver is apt to
tarnish, but a dip in water and ammonia cleans it at once, and few
people now like the white foamy silver; that which has assumed a
gray tint is much more admired. Indeed, artistic jewellers have
introduced the hammered silver, which looks like an old tin
teapot, and to the admirers of the real silver tint is very ugly;
but it renders the wearing of a silver _chftelaine_ very much
easier, for the chains and ornaments which a lady now wears on her
belt are sure to grow daily into the fashion. Silver parasol
handles are also very fashionable. We have enlarged upon this
subject of gifts of silver in answer to several questions as to
what it is proper to give at a silver wedding. Of course the
wealthy can send pitchers, vases, vegetable dishes, soup tureens,
and waiters. All the beautiful things which are now made by our
silversmiths are tempting to the purse. There are also handsome
silver necklaces, holding old and rare coins, and curious watches
of silver, resembling fruits, nuts, and animals. The farther back
we go in the history of silver-ware, the better models we are sure
As for the entertainment, it includes the inevitable cake, of
course, and the bride puts the knife into it as she did
twenty-five years ago. The ring is eagerly sought for. Then a
large and plentiful repast is offered, exactly like that of any
reception-table. Champagne is in order, healths are drunk, and
speeches made at most of these silver weddings.
Particularly delightful are silver weddings which are celebrated
in the country, especially if the house is large enough to hold a
number of guests. Then many a custom can be observed of peculiar
significance and friendliness; everybody can help to prepare the
feast, decorate the house with flowers, and save the bride from
those tearful moments which come with any retrospect. All should
try to make the scene a merry one, for there is no other reason
for its celebration.
Tin weddings, which occur after ten years have passed over two
married heads, are signals for a general frolic. Not only are the
usual tin utensils which can be used for the kitchen and household
purposes offered, but fantastic designs and ornaments are gotten
up for the purpose of raising a laugh. One young bride received a
handsome check from her father-in-law, who labelled it "Tin," and
sent it to her in a tin pocket-book elaborately constructed for
the purpose. One very pretty tin fender was constructed for the
fireplace of another, and was not so ugly. A tin screen, tin
chandeliers, tin fans, and tin tables have been offered. If these
serve no other purpose, they do admirably for theatrical
properties later, if the family like private plays, etc., at home.
Wooden weddings occur after five years of marriage, and afford the
bride much refurnishing of the kitchen, and nowadays some
beautiful presents of wood-carving. The wooden wedding, which was
begun in jest with a step-ladder and a rolling-pin several years
ago, now threatens to become a very splendid anniversary indeed,
since the art of carving in wood is so popular, and so much
practised by men and women. Every one is ready for a carved box,
picture-frame, screen, sideboard, chair, bureau, dressing-table,
crib, or bedstead. Let no one be afraid to offer a bit of wood
artistically carved. Everything is in order but wooden nutmegs;
they are ruled out.
At one of the golden weddings of the Rothschilds we read of such
presents as a solid gold dinner service; a chased cup of Benvenuto
Cellini in solid gold, enriched with precious stones; a box, with
cover of gold, in the early Renaissance, with head of Marie de
Medicis in oxidized gold; of rings from Cyprus, containing
sapphires from the tombs of the Crusaders; of solid crystals cut
in drinking cups, with handles of gold; of jade goblets set in
gold saucers; of singing-birds in gold; and of toilet appliances,
all in solid gold, not to speak of chains, rings, etc. This is
luxury, and as such to be commended to those who can afford it.
But it must entail great inconvenience. Gold is so valuable that a
small piece of it goes a great way, and even a Rothschild would
not like to leave out a gold dressing-case, lest it might tempt
the most honest of waiting-women.
No doubt some of our millionaire Americans can afford such golden
wedding-presents, but of course they are rare, and even if common,
would be less in keeping than some less magnificent gifts. Our
republican simplicity would be outraged and shocked at seeing so
much coin of the realm kept out of circulation.
There are, however, should we wish to make a present to a bride of
fifty years' standing, many charming bits of gold jewellery very
becoming, very artistic, and not too expensive for a moderate
purse. There are the delicate productions of Castellani, the gold
and enamel of Venice, the gold-work of several different colors
which has become so artistic; there are the modern antiques,
copied from the Phoenician jewellery found at Cyprus--these made
into pins for the cap, pendants for the neck, rings and bracelets,
boxes for the holding of small sweetmeats, so fashionable many
years ago, are pretty presents for an elderly lady. For a
gentleman it is more difficult to find souvenirs. We must
acknowledge that it is always difficult to select a present for a
gentleman. Unless he has as many feet as Briareus had hands, or
unless he is a centipede, he cannot wear all the slippers given to
him; and the shirt-studs and sleeve-buttons are equally
burdensome. Rings are now fortunately in fashion, and can be as
expensive as one pleases. But one almost regrets the disuse of
snuff, as that gave occasion for many beautiful boxes. It would be
difficult to find, however, such gold snuffboxes as were once
handed round among monarchs and among wealthy snuffers. The giving
of wedding-presents has had to endure many changes since its first
beginning, which was a wise and generous desire to help the young
pair to begin house-keeping. It has become now an occasion of
ostentation. So with the gifts at the gold and silver weddings.
They have almost ceased to be friendly offerings, and are oftener
a proof of the giver's wealth than of his love.
No wonder that some delicate-minded people, wishing to celebrate
their silver wedding, cause a line to be printed on their
invitations, "No presents received."
Foreigners have a beautiful custom, which we have not, of
remembering every f^te day, every birthday, every saint's day, in
a friend's calendar. A bouquet, a present of fruit, a kind note, a
little celebration which costs nothing, occurs in every family on
papa's birthday or mamma's f^te day. But as we have nothing of
that sort, and as most people prefer that, as in the case of the
hero of the _Pirates_, a birthday shall only come once in four
years, it is well for us to celebrate the tin, silver, and golden
The twentieth anniversary of one's wedding is never celebrated. It
is considered very unlucky to do so. The Scotch think one or the
other will die within the year if the twentieth anniversary is
even alluded to.
THE ETIQUETTE OF BALLS.
A hostess must not use the word "ball" on her invitation-cards.
She may say,
_Mrs. John Brown requests the pleasure of the company of
Mr. and Mrs. Amos Smith
on Thursday evening, November twenty-second,
at nine o'clock.
_Mrs. John Brown
Thursday evening, November twenty-second,
at nine o'clock.
Cotillion at ten. R. S. V. P._
But she should not indicate further the purpose of her party. In
New York, where young ladies are introduced to society by means of
a ball at Delmonico's, the invitation is frequently worded,
_Mr. and Mrs. Amos Smith request the pleasure
of your company
Thursday evening, November twenty-second,
at nine o'clock.
The card of the young d,butante is sometimes (although not always)
If these invitations are sent to new acquaintances, or to
strangers in town, the card of the gentleman is enclosed to
gentlemen, that of both the gentleman and his wife to ladies and
gentlemen, if it is a first invitation.
A ballroom should be very well lighted, exceedingly well
ventilated, and very gayly dressed. It is the height of the gayety
of the day; and although dinner calls for handsome dress, a ball
demands it. Young persons of slender figure prefer light,
diaphanous dresses; the chaperons can wear heavy velvet and
brocade. Jewels are in order. A profusion of flowers in the hands
of the women should add their brightness and perfume to the rooms.
The great number of bouquets sent to a d,butante is often
embarrassing. The present fashion is to have them hung, by
different ribbons, on the arm, so that they look as if almost a
trimming to the dress.
Gentlemen who have not selected partners before the ball come to
their hostess and ask to be presented to ladies who will dance
with them. As a hostess cannot leave her place while receiving,
and people come at all hours to a ball, she generally asks two or
three well-known society friends to receive with her, who will
take this part of her duty off her hands, for no hostess likes to
see "wall-flowers" at her ball: she wishes all her young people to
enjoy themselves. Well-bred young men always say to the hostess
that they beg of her to introduce them to ladies who may be
without partners, as they would gladly make themselves useful to
her. After dancing with a lady, and walking about the room with
her for a few times, a gentleman is at perfect liberty to take the
young lady back to her chaperon and plead another engagement.
A great drawback to balls in America is the lack of convenience
for those who wish to remain seated. In Europe, where the elderly
are first considered, seats are placed around the room, somewhat
high, for the chaperons, and at their feet sit the debutantes.
These red-covered sofas, in two tiers, as it were, are brought in
by the upholsterer (as we hire chairs for the crowded _musicales_
or readings so common in large cities), and are very convenient.
It is strange that all large halls are not furnished with them, as
they make every one comfortable at very little expense, and add to
the appearance of the room. A row of well-dressed ladies, in
velvet, brocade, and diamonds, some with white hair, certainly
forms a very distinguished background for those who sit at their
Supper is generally served all the evening from a table on which
flowers, fruits, candelabra, silver, and glass are displayed, and
which is loaded with hot oysters, boned turkey, salmon, game
_pft,s_, salads, ices, jellies, and fruits, from the commencement
of the evening. A hot supper, with plentiful cups of bouillon, is
served again for those who dance the german.
But if the hostess so prefer, the supper is not served until she
gives the word, when her husband leads the way with the most
distinguished lady present, the rest of the company following. The
hostess rarely goes in to supper until every one has been served.
She takes the opportunity of walking about her ballroom to see if
every one is happy and attended to. If she does go to supper, it
is in order to accompany some distinguished guest--like the
President, for instance. This is, however, a point which may be
left to the tact of the hostess.
A young lady is not apt to forget her ballroom engagements, but
she should be sure not to do so. She must be careful not to offend
one gentleman by refusing to dance with him, and then accepting
the offer of another. Such things, done by frivolous girls, injure
a young man's feelings unnecessarily, and prove that the young
lady has not had the training of a gentlewoman. A young man should
not forget if he has asked a young lady for the german. He must
send her a bouquet, and be on hand to dance with her. If kept away
by sickness, or a death in his family, he must send her a note
before the appointed hour.
It is not necessary to take leave of your hostess at a ball. All
that she requires of you is to bow to her on entering, and to make
yourself as agreeable and happy as you can while in her house.
Young men are not always as polite as they should be at balls.
They ought, if well-bred, to look about, and see if any lady has
been left unattended at supper, to ask if they can go for
refreshments, if they can lead a lady to a seat, go for a
carriage, etc. It is not an impertinence for a young man thus to
speak to a lady older than himself, even if he has not been
introduced; the roof is a sufficient introduction for any such
The first persons asked to dance by the young gentlemen invited to
a house should be the daughters of the house. To them and to their
immediate relatives and friends must the first attentions be paid.
It is not wise for young ladies to join in every dance, nor should
a young chaperon dance, leaving her proteg,e sitting. The very bad
American custom of sending several young girls to a ball with a
very young chaperon--perhaps one of their number who has just been
married--has led to great vulgarity in our American city life, not
to say to that general misapprehension of foreigners which offends
without correcting our national vanity. A mother should endeavor
to attend balls with her daughters, and to stay as long as they
do. But many mothers say, "We are not invited: there is not room
for us." Then her daughters should not accept. It is a very poor
American custom not to invite the mothers. Let a lady give two or
three balls, if her list is so large that she can only invite the
daughters. If it be absolutely necessary to limit the invitations,
the father should go with the daughters, for who else is to escort
them to their carriage, take care of them if they faint, or look
to their special or accidental wants? The fact that a few
established old veterans of society insist upon "lagging
superfluous on the stage" should not deter ladies who entertain
from being true to the ideas of the best society, which certainly
are in favor of chaperonage.
A lady should not overcrowd her rooms. To put five hundred people
into a hot room, with no chairs to rest in, and little air to
breathe, is to apply a very cruel test to friendship. It is this
impossibility of putting one's "five hundred dear friends" into a
narrow house which has led to the giving of balls at public
rooms--an innovation which shocked a French woman of rank who
married an American. "You have no safeguard for society in
America," she observed, "but your homes. No aristocracy, no king,
no courts, no traditions, but the sacred one of home. Now, do you
not run great risks when you abandon your homes, and bring out
your girls at a hotel?" There is something in her wise remarks;
and with the carelessness of chaperonage in cities which are now
largely populated by irresponsible foreigners the dangers
The first duty of a gentleman on entering a ballroom is to make
his bow to the lady of the house and to her daughters; he should
then strive to find his host--a very difficult business sometimes.
Young men are to be very much censured, however, who do not find
out their host, and insist on being presented to him.
Paterfamilias in America is sometimes thought to hold a very
insignificant place in his own house, and be good for nothing but
to draw checks. This is indicative of a very low social condition,
and no man invited to a gentleman's house should leave it until he
has made his bow to the head thereof.
It is proper for intimate friends to ask for invitations for other
friends to a ball, particularly for young gentlemen who are
"dancing men." More prudence should be exercised in asking in
behalf of ladies, but the hostess has always the privilege of
saying that her list is full, if she does not wish to invite her
friends' friends. No offence should be taken if this refusal be
given politely. In a majority of luxurious houses a tea-room is
open from the beginning to the end of a ball, frequently on the
second story, where bouillon, tea, coffee, and macaroons are in
order, or a plate of sandwiches, or any such light refreshment,
for those who do not wish a heavy supper. A large bowl of iced
lemonade is also in this room--a most grateful refreshment after
leaving a hot ballroom.
The practice of putting crash over carpets has proved so unhealthy
to the dancers, on account of the fine fuzz which rises from it in
dancing, that it is now almost wholly abandoned; and parquet
floors are becoming so common, and the dancing on them is so much
more agreeable in every way, that ladies have their heavy parlor
carpets taken up before a ball rather than lay a crash.
A smoking-room, up or down stairs, is set apart for the gentlemen,
where, in some houses, cigars and brandy and effervescent waters
are furnished. If this provision be not made, it is the height of
indelicacy for gentlemen to smoke in the dressing-rooms.
The bad conduct of young men at large balls, where they abuse
their privileges by smoking, getting drunk at supper, eating
unreasonably, blockading the tables, and behaving in an unseemly
manner, even coming to blows in the supper-rooms, has been dwelt
upon in the annals of the past, which annals ever remain a
disgrace to the young fashionables of any city. Happily, such
breaches of decorum are now so rare that there is no need to touch
upon them here.
Many of our correspondents ask the embarrassing question, "Who is
it proper to invite to a first ball?" This is a question which
cannot be answered in a general way. The tact and delicacy of the
host must decide it.
At public balls there should be managers, ushers, stewards, and,
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