I used to play “wedding day” when I was a little girl. This was especially true the year I turned six and Santa laid out a genuine, second-hand wedding gown beneath the Christmas tree. Smartest thing he ever did. That gown and the fantasies it induced kept me occupied for hours and days and months on end. So, it should be of no surprise that I’ve decided to end my February blogs--whose themes have been courting rituals, Valentine’s Day and love in general--by taking a look at what a Victorian-era wedding looked like. *sigh*
It’s only been within the last couple of decades that the wedding industry has taken things to a level never seen before, but make no mistake, weddings were a big deal back in Victorian times, too. I have a set of stereoscopic cards from back then that show each phase of the wedding from “The Proposal” to “Married and Settled.”
Unlike today, the wedding planning for Victorian couples began only after a formal engagement. (I’ve noticed that lots of girls these days begin planning their weddings before they even meet a man!) Matches were usually made between a man and a woman in the same social circle, and they weren’t allowed to be alone together until after they were married. (Boys will be boys, though, and they did manage to sneak in a kiss or two when no one was looking--see the stereoscopic card with a sleeping chaperone.)
After the proposal was accepted, the dashing gentleman suitor presented his future bride with an engagement ring to symbolize his commitment to her--a tradition that we still keep and cherish today!
Victorian-era wedding ceremonies began in the early mornings, usually before breakfast, and were held at the church or at the bride’s home in front of a small number of family and friends. Can you imagine having an early morning ceremony today? Those brides would be up at the crack of dawn to get ready in time!
Speaking of getting ready, did you know that brides used to simply wear their usual Sunday best for their weddings? The trend of wearing beautiful white dresses was started by Queen Victoria after her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Since the ceremony was conducted in the morning, the reception that followed was usually an informal breakfast for the guests and bridal party. In days following the wedding, family and friends came to visit the newly married couple before they left on their honeymoon.
Victorian weddings were quite a bit more reserved than the ones we attend today (no chocolate fountains, fireworks or DJs), but they were still considered an extremely meaningful affair for both the couples and their families.
What’s your favorite part of weddings--either today or back then?