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 fiancé, 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.
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 bonnets.
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 wedding morning.
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 position.
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 black sheep.
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 home.
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 fiancée, 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 fiancé, 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 family.
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 wedding.
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.
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 priests.
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 (à 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 cars 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 note 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 convenience.
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 arc 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 for life.
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 sanctified.
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 stone.
The ushers and the groom wear very large boutonnières 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 High-land regiment.
A prevailing fashion for wedding presents is to give heavy pieces of furniture, such as sideboards, writing-tables, cabinets, and pianos.
A favorite dress for travelling is heliotrope cashmere, with bonnet to match. For a dark bride nothing is more becoming than dark blue made 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 much admired.
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 Jacqueminot 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 à 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 lawn party.
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 of waiters.
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 repoussé 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 myterious 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 married.
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, cloisonné, 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 black.
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 fiancé, 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 constantly tempted.
“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.
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 important.
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 liked 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 them.
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 fiancé; there must be a servant in attendance. No young lady must visit in the family of he fiancé, 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’ congratulations.
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 couple.
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 stilt 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 cortége 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 month.
If the bridal pair go to a watering-place during their early married days, they should be very careful of outward display of tenderness.
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’égoïsme à 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 taste.
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.
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 so long.
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 golden wedding.
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 Dürer, 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 châtelaine: 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 châtelaine 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 to obtain.
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 fête 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 fête 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 weddings.
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.
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 débutante is sometimes (although not always) enclosed.
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 débutante 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 débutantes. 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 feet.
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 pâtés, 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 purpose.
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 protegée 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 y par 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 increase.
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, if possible, a committee of ladies to receive. It is very much more conducive to the elegance of a bali if there be a recognized hostess, or committee of hostesses: the very aspect of the room is thus improved. And to a stranger from another City these ladies should be hospitable, taking care that she be introduced and treated with suitable attention.
An awning and carpet should be placed at the front entrance of a house in which a ball is to be given, to protect the guests against the weather and the gaze of the crowd of by-standers who always gather in a great city to see the well-dressed ladies alight. Unfortunately, in a heavy rain these awnings are most objectionable; they are not water-proof, and as soon as they are thoroughly wet they afford no protection whatever.
The cotillion styled the German was first danced by the German court just after the battle of Waterloo, probably at the ball at Aix-la-Chapelle given to the allied sovereigns. Favors are given merely to promote enjoyment and to give variety. It is not necessary that people be matrimonially engaged to dance it. One engages his partner for it as for any other dance. It had been fashionable in Europe many years before it came to this country, but has been danced here for over forty years, first coming out at Washington.
The return to quadrilles at some of the latest balls at Delmonico’s in the winter of 1884 was an important epoch in the history of dancing, reiterating the well-known proverb of the dressmakers that everything comes round in fifty years. Fashion seems to be perennial in this way, for it is almost fifty years–certainly forty–since the quadrille was at the height of fashion. In Germany, where they dance for dancing’s sake, the quadrille was long ago voted rococo and stiff. In England and at court balls it served always as a way, a dignified manner, for sovereigns and people of inconveniently high rank to begin a ball, to open a festivity, and it had a sporadic existence in the country and at Washington even during the years when the Lancers, a much livelier dance, had chased it away from the New York balls for a long period of time.
The quadrille is a stately and a conversational dance. The figures are accurate, and every one should know them well enough to respond to the voice of the leader. But inasmuch as the figures are always calling one away from his partner, the first law is to have a large supply of small-talk, so that, on rejoining, a remark and a smile may make up for lost time. A calm, graceful carriage, the power to make an elegant courtesy, are
necessary to a lady. No one in these days takes steps; a sort of galop is, however, allowed in the rapid figures of the quadrille. A defiant manner, sometimes assumed by a bashful man, is out of place, although there are certain figures which make a man feel rather defiant. One of these is where he is obliged, as cavalier seul, to advance to three ladies, who frequently laugh at him. Then a man should equally avoid a boisterous demeanor in a quadrille; not swinging the lady round too gayly. It is never a romping dance, like the Virginia reel, for instance.
All people are apt to walk through a quadrille slowly, to music, until they come to the “ladies’ chain” or the “promenade.” It is, however, permissible to add a little swinging-step and a graceful dancing-movement to this stately promenade. A quadrille cannot go on evenly if any confusion arises from the ignorance, obstinacy, or inattention of one of the dancers. It is proper, therefore, if ignorant of the figures, to consult a dancing-master and to learn them. It is a most valuable dance, as all ages, sizes, and conditions of men and women can join in it. The young, old, stout, thin, lazy, active, maimed, or single, without loss of caste, can dance a quadrille. No one looks ridiculous dancing a quadrille. It is decidedly easier than the German, makes a break in a tête-à-tête conversation, and enables a gentleman to be polite to a lady who may not be a good dancer for waltz or polka. The morality of round dances seems now to be little questioned. At any rate, young girls in the presence of their mothers are not supposed to come to harm from their enjoyment. Dancing is one of the oldest, the
most historical, forms of amusement. Even Socrates learned to dance. There is no longer an excommunication on the waltz, that dance which Byron abused.
In England the valse à deux temps is still the most fashionable, as it always will be the most beautiful, of dances. Some of the critics of all countries have said that only Germans, Russians, and Americans can dance it. The Germans dance it very quickly, with a great deal of motion, but render it elegant by slacking the pace every now and then. The Russians waltz so quietly, on the contrary, that they can go round the room holding a brimming glass of champagne without spilling a drop. This evenness in waltzing is very graceful, and can only be reached by long practice, a good ear for music, and a natural gracefulness. Young Americans, who, as a rule, are the best dancers in the world, achieve this step to admiration. It is the gentleman’s duty in any round dance to guide his fair companion gracefully; he must not risk a collision or the chance of a fall. A lady should never waltz if she feels dizzy. It is a sign of disease of the heart, and has brought on death. Neither should she step flat-footed, and make her partner carry her round; but must do her part of the work, and dance lightly and well, or not at all. Then, again, neither should her partner waltz on the tip of his toes, nor lift his partner too much off the floor; all should be smooth, graceful, delicate.
The American dance of the season is, however, the polka–not the old-fashioned “heel and toe,” but the step, quick and gay, of the Sclavonic nationalities. It may be danced slowly or quickly. It is always, however,
a spirited step, and the music is undoubtedly pretty. The dancing-masters describe the step of a polka as being a “hop, three glides, and a rest,” and the music is two-four time. In order to apply the step to the music one must make it in four-eight time, counting four to each measure of the music, each measure taking about a second of time by the watch. The polka redowa and the polka mazourka are modifications of this step to different times.
The galop is another fashionable dance this winter. It is very easy, and is danced to very quick music; it is inspiriting at the end of a ball.
The minuet de la cour was first danced in the ancient province of Poitou, France. In Paris, in 1653, Louis XIV., who was passionately fond of it, danced it to perfection. In 1710, Marcel, the renowned dancing-master, introduced it into England. Then it went out for many years, until Queen Victoria revived it at a bal costumé at Buckingham Palace in 1845. In New York it was revived and ardently practised for Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt’s splendid fancy ball in 1883, and it was much admired. There seems no reason why the grace, the dignity, the continuous movement; the courtesy, the pas grâce, the skilfully-managed train, the play with the fan, should not commend this elegant dance to even our republican dancers; but it has not been danced this winter. It is possibly too much trouble. A dancing-master worked all winter to teach it to the performers of the last season.
To make a courtesy (or, as we are fond of saying, a curtsy) properly is a very difficult art, yet all who dance the quadrille must learn it. To courtesy to her
partner the lady steps off with the right foot, carrying nearly all her weight upon it, at the same time raising the heel of the left foot, thus placing herself in the second position, facing her partner, counting one. She then glides the left foot backward and across till the toe of the left foot is directly behind the right heel, the feet about one half of the length of the foot apart. This glide commences on the ball of the left foot, and terminates with both feet flat upon the floor, and the transfer of the weight to the backward foot. The bending of the knees and the casting clown of the eyes begin with the commencement of the glide with the left foot, and the genuflection is steadily continued until the left foot reaches the position required, counting two; then, without changing the weight from the backward foot, she gradually rises, at the same time raising the forward heel and lifting the eyes, until she recovers her full height, counting three; and finally transfers the weight to the forward foot, counting four. Such is the elaborate and the graceful courtesy. It should be studied with a master.
The “German” (the “Cotillon,” as the French call it) is, however, and probably long will be, the most fashionable dance in society. It ends every ball in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, and Newport; it is a part of the business of life, and demands consummate skill in its leadership. Any number may join in it; it often reaches twice around a large ballroom. All the couples in it are regarded as introduced to each other. No lady can refuse to dance with any gentleman who is brought to her in the German.
So long as she remains in the charmed circle she must dance with any one in it. Therefore the German must only be introduced at select assemblies, not at a public ball. The leader opens the German by motioning to certain couples to make a tour de valse round the room.
Many of our correspondents write to ask us what are the latest and the favorite figures in the German. This is a difficult question to answer, as the leader always has his own favorite figures. The German generally begins with l’avant trois double, which may be generally described thus: the leader, having performed the tour de valse with his partner, leaves her, and brings forward two other ladies; his lady brings forward two other gentlemen; the two trios place themselves opposite each other, then forward and back, and each gentleman with the lady in front of him performs a tour de valse. Should the company be large, two or more couples may start together, each couple choosing other ladies and gentlemen in the same manner as the first couple. Then comes La Chaise after the tour de valse. The leader places his partner in a chair in the centre of the room; he then brings forward two gentlemen and presents them to the lady, who chooses one of them, after which he seats the gentleman who is rejected, and brings to him two ladies; he also selects a partner, and the leader dances with the refused lady to her place. This figure may be danced by any number of couples.
Les Drapeaux is a favorite figure. Five or six duplicate sets of small flags of national or fancy devices must be in readiness. The leader takes a flag of each
pattern, and his partner takes the duplicate. They perform a tour de valse. The conductor then presents his flags to five or six ladies, and his partner presents the corresponding flags to as many gentlemen. The gentlemen then seek the ladies having the duplicates, and with them perform a tour de valse, waving the flags as they dance. Repeated by all the couples.
Les Bouquets brings in the favors. A number of small bouquets and boutonnières are placed upon a table or in a basket. The first couple perform a tour de valse; they then separate. The gentleman takes a bouquet, and the lady a boutonnière. They now select new partners, to whom they present the bouquet and boutonnière, the lady attaching the boutonnière to the gentleman’s coat. They perform a tour de valse with their new partners. Repeated by all the couples. Other favors are frequently substituted for bouquets and boutonnières, such as rosettes, miniature flags, artificial butterflies, badges, sashes, bonbons, little bells (the latter being attached to small pieces of ribbon and pinned to the coat or dress), scarf-pins, bangles, fans, caps, imitation antique coins, breastpins, lace pins, lockets; and even gifts of great value, such as shawls, scarfs, vases, picture-frames, writing-desks, and chairs (represented, of course, by tickets) have been this winter introduced in the german. But the cheap, light, fantastic things are the best, and contribute more to the amusement of the company.
Some of the figures of the German border on the romp. One of these is called La Corde. A rope is stretched by the leading couple across the room, and the gentlemen jump over it to reach their partners.
Much amusement is occasioned by the tripping of gentlemen who are thrown by the intentional raising of the rope. After all have reached their partners they perform a tour de valse, and regain their seats. This is a figure not to be commended. Still less is the figure called Les Masques. The gentlemen put on masques resembling “Bully Bottom” and other grotesque faces and heads of animals. They raise these heads above a screen, the ladies choosing partners without knowing them; the gentlemen remain en masque until the termination of the tour de valse. This figure was danced at Delmonico’s and at the Brunswick last winter, and the mammas complained that the fun grew rather too fast and furious. Les Rubans is a very pretty figure. Six ribbons, each about a yard in length, and of various colors, are attached to one end of a stick about twenty-four inches in length, also a duplicate set of ribbons, attached to another stick, must be in readiness. The first couple perform a tour de valse, then separate; the gentleman takes one set of ribbons, and stops successively in front of the ladies whom he desires to select to take part in the figure; each of these ladies rises and takes hold of the loose end of the ribbon; the first lady takes the other set of ribbons, bringing forward the six gentlemen in the same manner. The first couple conduct the ladies and gentlemen towards each other, and each gentleman dances with the lady holding the ribbon duplicate of his own; the first gentleman dances with his partner.
We might go on indefinitely with these figures, but have no more space.
The position of a dancer should be learned with the aid of a teacher. The upper part of the body should be quiet; the head held in a natural position, neither turned to one side nor the other; the eyes neither cast down nor up. The gentleman should put his arm firmly around a lady’s waist, not holding her too close, but firmly holding her right hand with his left one; the lady turns the palm of her right hand downward; her right arm should be nearly straight, but not stiff. The gentleman’s left arm should be slightly bent, his elbow inclined slightly backward. It is very inelegant, however–indeed, vulgar–to place the joined hands against the gentleman’s side or hip; they should be kept clear of the body. The step should be in unison; if the gentleman bends his right elbow too much, he draws the lady’s left shoulder against his right, thereby drawing the lady too close. The gentleman’s right shoulder and the lady’s left should be as far apart as the other shoulders. If a gentleman does not hold his partner properly, thereby causing her either to struggle to be free or else to dance wildly for want of proper support, if he permits himself and partner to collide with other couples, he cannot be considered a good dancer.
The person who can write a graceful note is always spoken of with phrases of commendation. The epistolary art is said to be especially feminine, and the novelists and essayists are full of compliments to the sex, which is alternately praised and objurgated, as man feels well or ill. Bulwer says: “A woman is the genius of epistolary communication. Even men write better to a woman than to one of their own sex. No doubt they conjure up, while writing, the loving, listening face, the tender, pardoning heart, the ready tear of sympathy, and passionate confidences of heart and brain flow rapidly from the pen.” But there is no such thing now as an “epistolary style.” Our immediate ancestors wrote better and longer letters than we do. They covered three pages of large letter-paper with crow-quill handwriting, folded the paper neatly, tucked one edge beneath the other (for there were no envelopes), and then sealed it with a wafer or with sealing-wax. To send one of these epistles was expensive–twenty-five cents from [New York to Boston. However, the electric telegraph and cheap postage and postal-cards may have been said, in a way, to have ruined correspondence in the old sense; lovers and fond mothers doubtless still write long letters, but
the business of the letter-writer proper is at an end. The writing of notes has, however, correspondingly increased; and the last ten years have seen a profuse introduction of emblazoned crest and cipher, pictorial design, and elaborate monogram in the corners of ordinary note-paper. The old illuminated missal of the monks, the fancy of the Japanese, the ever-ready taste of the French, all have been exhausted to satisfy that always hungry caprice which calls for something new.
The frequency with which notes upon business and pleasure must fly across a city and a continent has done away, also, with the sealing-wax, whose definite, red, clear, oval was a fixture with our grandfathers, and which is still the only elegant, formal, and ceremonious way acknowledged in England, of sealing a letter.
There were, however, serious objections to the use of wax in this country, which were discovered during the early voyages to California. The intense heat of the Isthmus of Panama melted the wax, and letters were irretrievably glued together, to the loss of the address and the confusion of the postmaster. So the glued envelope–common, cheap, and necessary–became the almost prevailing fashion for all notes as well as letters.
The taste for colored note-paper with flowers in the corner was common among the belles of thirty years ago–the “rose- colored and scented billet-doux” is often referred to in the novels of that period. But colored note-paper fell into disuse long ago, and for the last few years we have not seen the heavy tints. A few pale greens, grays, bines, and lilacs
have, indeed, found a place in fashionable stationery, and a deep coffee-colored, heavy paper had a little run about three years ago; but at the present moment no color that is appreciable is considered stylish, unless it be écru, which is only a creamy white.
A long truce is at last bidden to the fanciful, emblazoned, and colored monogram; the crest and cipher are laid on the shelf, and ladies have simply the address of their city residence, or the name of their country place, printed in one corner (generally in color), or, latest device of fashion, a fac-simile of their initials, carefully engraved, and dashed across the corner of the note-paper. The day of the week, also copied from their own handwriting, is often impressed upon the square cards now so much in use for short notes, or on the note-paper.
There is one fashion which has never changed, and will never change, which is always in good taste, and which, perhaps, would be to-day the most perfect of all styles, and that is, good, plain, thick, English notepaper, folded square, put in a square envelope, and sealed with red sealing-wax which hears the imprint of the writer’s coat of arms. No one can make any mistake who uses such stationery as this in any part of the world. On such paper and in such form are ambassadors’ notes written; on such paper and in such style would the Princess Louise write her notes.
However, there is no law against the monogram. Many ladies still prefer it, and always use the paper which has become familiar to their friends. It is, however, a past rather than a present fashion.
The plan of having all the note-paper marked with
the address is an admirable one, for it effectually reminds the person who receives the note where the answer should be sent–information of which some ladies forget the importance, and which should always be written, if not printed, at the head of a letter. It also gives a stylish finish to the appearance of the note-paper, is simple, unpretending, and useful.
The ink should invariably be black. From the very superior, lasting qualities of a certain purple fluid, which never became thick in the inkstand, certain ladies, a few years ago, used the purple and lilac inks very much. But they are not elegant; they are not in fashion; the best note-writers do not use them. The plain black ink, which gives the written characters great distinctness, is the only fashionable medium.
Every lady should study to acquire an elegant, free, and educated hand; there is nothing so useful, so sure to commend the writer everywhere, as such a chirography; while a cramped, poor, slovenly, uneducated, unformed handwriting is sure to produce the impression upon the reader that those qualities are more or less indicative of the writer’s character. The angular English hand is at present the fashion, although less legible and not more beautiful than the round hand. We cannot enter into that great question as to whether or not handwriting is indicative of character; but we hold that a person’s notes are generally characteristic, and that a neat, flowing, graceful hand, and a clean sheet, free from blots, are always agreeable to the eye. The writer of notes, also, must carefully discriminate between the familiar note and the note of ceremony, and should learn how to write both.
Custom demands that we begin all notes in the first person, with the formula of “My dear Mrs. Smith,” and that we close with the expressions, “Yours cordially,” “Yours with much regard,” etc. The laws of etiquette do not permit us to use numerals, as 3, 4, 5, but demand that we write out three, four, five. No abbreviations are allowed in a note to a friend, as, “Sd be glad to see you;” one must write out, “I should be glad to see you.” The older letter-writers were punctilious about writing the first word of the page below the last line of the page preceding it.The date should follow the signing of the name.
A great and very common mistake existing among careless letter-writers is the confusion of the first and third persons; as a child would write, “Miss Lucy Clark will be happy to come to dinner, but I am going somewhere else.” This is, of course, wildly ignorant and improper.
A note in answer to an invitation should be written in the third person, if the invitation be in the third person. No abbreviations, no visible hurry, but an elaborate and finished ceremony should mark such epistles. For instance, an acceptance of a dinner invitation must be written in this form:
Mr. and Mrs. Cadogan
have great pleasure in accepting the polite
Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland
for dinner on the seventeenth inst., at seven o’clock.
18 Lombard Square.
One lady in New York was known to answer a dinner invitation simply with the words, “Come with pleasure.” It is unnecessary to add that she was never invited again.
It is impossible to give persons minute directions as to the style of a note, for that must be the outgrowth of years of careful education, training, and good mental powers. “To write a pretty note” is also somewhat of a gift. Some young men and young girls find it very easy, others can scarcely acquire the power. It is, however, absolutely necessary to strive for it.
In the first place, arrange your ideas, know what you want to say, and approach the business of writing a note with a certain thoughtfulness. If it is necessary to write it hastily, summon all your powers of mind, and try to make it brief, intelligible, and comprehensive.
Above all things, spell correctly. A word badly spelled stands out like a blot on a familiar or a ceremonious note.
Do not send a blurred, blotted, slovenly note to any one; it will remain to call up a certain prejudice against you in the mind of the recipient. The fashion is not now, as it once was, imperative that a margin be left around the edge of the paper. People now write all over the paper, and thus abolish a certain elegance which the old letters undoubtedly possessed. But postage is a consideration, and all we can ask of the youthful letter-writers is that they will not cross their letters. Plaid letters are the horror of all people who have not the eyes of a hawk.
No letter or note should be written on ruled paper. To do so is both inelegant and unfashionable, and savors of the school-room. Every young person should learn to write without lines.
The square cards are much used, and are quite large enough for the transmission of all that a lady ordinarily wishes to say in giving or accepting an invitation. The day of the week and the address are often printed on the card.
Square envelopes have also driven the long ones from the table of the elegant note-writer, and the custom of closing all ceremonious notes with sealing-wax is still adhered to by the most fastidious. It would be absurd, however, to say that it is nearly as common as the more convenient habit of moistening the gummed envelope, but it is far more elegant, and every young person should learn how to seal a note properly. To get a good impression from an engraved stone seal, anoint it lightly with linseed-oil, to keep the wax from adhering; then dust it with rouge powder to take off the gloss, and press it quickly, but firmly, on the melted wax.
Dates and numerical designations, such as the number of a house, may be written in Arabic figures, but quantities should be expressed in words. Few abbreviations are respectful. A married lady should always be addressed with the prefix of her husband’s Christian name.
In this country, where we have no titles, it is the custom to abbreviate everything except the title of “Reverend,” which we always give to the clergy. But it would be better if we made a practice of giving
to each person his special title, and to all returned ambassadors, members of Congress, and members of the Legislature the title of “Honorable.” The Roman Catholic clergy and the bishops of the Episcopal and Methodist churches should be addressed by their proper titles, and a note should be, like a salutation, infused with respect. It honors the writer and the person to whom it is written, while a careless letter may injure both.
We are often asked as to the appropriate dress to be worn at afternoon tea, at balls, at dinners, christenings, etc.
Neatness and simple elegance should always characterize a lady, and after that she may be as expensive as she pleases, if only at the right time. And we may say here that simplicity and plainness characterize many a rich woman in a high place; and one can always tell a real lady from an imitation one by her style of dress. Vulgarity is readily seen even under a costly garment. There should be harmony and fitness, and suitability as to age and times and seasons. Every one can avoid vulgarity and slovenliness; and in these days, when the fashions travel by telegraph, one can be à la mode.
French women have a genius for dress. An old or a middle-aged woman understands how to make the best of herself in the assorting and harmonizing of colors; she never commits the mistake of making herself too youthful. In our country we often see an old woman bedizened like a Figurante, imagining that she shall gain the graces of youth by borrowing its garments. All this aping of youthful dress “multiplies
the wrinkles of old age, and makes its decay more conspicuous.”
For balls in this country, elderly women are not expected to go in low neck unless they wish to, so that the chaperon can wear a dress such as she would wear at a dinner–either a velvet or brocade, cut in Pompadour shape, with a profusion of beautiful lace. All her ornaments should match in character, and she should be as unlike her charge as possible. The young girls look best in light gossamer material, in tulle, crêpe, or tarlatan, in paie light colors or in white, while an elderly, stout woman never looks so badly as in low-necked light-colored silks or satins, Young women look well in natural flowers; elderly women, in feathers and jewelled head-dresses.
If elderly women with full figure wear low-necked dresses, a lace shawl or scarf, or something of that sort, should be thrown over the neck; and the same advice might be given to thin and scrawny figures. A lady writes to us as to what dress should be worn at her child’s christening. We should advise a high-necked dark silk; it may be of as handsome material as she chooses, but it should be plain and neat in general effect. No woman should overdress in her own house; it is the worst taste. All dress should correspond to the spirit of the entertainment given. Light- colored silks, sweeping trains, bonnets very gay and garnished with feathers, lace parasols, and light gloves, are fit for carriages at the races, but they are out of place for walking in the streets. They may do for a wedding reception, but they are not fit for a picnic or an excursion. Lawn parties, flower shows, and promenade concerts,
should all be dressed for in a gay, bright fashion; and the costumes for these and for yachting purposes may be as effective and coquettish as possible; but for church, for readings, for a morning concert, for a walk, or a morning call on foot, a tailor-made costume, with plain, dark hat, is the most to be admired. Never wear a “dressy” bonnet in the street.
The costumes for picnics, excursions, journeys; and the sea-side should be of a strong fabric, simple cut, and plain color. Things which will wash are better for our climate. Serge, tweed, and piqué are the best.
A morning dress for a late breakfast may be as luxurious as one pleases. The modern fashion of imitation lace put on in great quantities over a foulard or a gingham, a muslin or a Cotton, made up prettily, is suitable for women of all ages; but an old “company dress” furbished up to do duty at a watering-place is terrible, and not to be endured.
It has been the fashion this season to wear full-dress at weddings. The bride and her maids have appeared with low neck and short sleeves in the cold morning air at several fashionable churches. The groom at the same time wearing morning costume. It is an era of low necks. The pendulum of fashion is swinging that way. We have spoken of this before, so only record the fact that the low neck will prevail in many summer evening dresses as well as for morning weddings.
The very tight fashion of draping skirts should make all women very careful as to the way they sit down. Some Frenchman said he could tell a gentleman by his walk; another has lately said that he can tell a lady by the way she sits down. A woman is allowed
much less freedom of posture than a man. He may change his position as he likes, and loll or lounge, cross his legs, or even nurse his foot if he pleases; but a woman must have grace and dignity; in every gesture she must be “ladylike.” Any one who has seen a great actress like Modjeska sit down will know what an acquired grace it is.
A woman should remember that she “belongs to a sex which cannot afford to be grotesque.” There should never be rowdiness or carelessness.
The mania for extravagant dress on the stage, the pièces des robes, is said to be one of the greatest enemies of the legitimate drama. The leading lady must have a conspicuous display of elaborate gowns, the latest inventions of the modistes. In Paris these stage costumes set the fashions, and bonnets and caps and gowns become individualized by their names. They look very well on the wearers, but they look very badly on some elderly, plain, middle-aged, stout woman who has adopted them.
Plain satins and velvet, rich and dark brocades, made by an artist, make any one look well. The elderly woman should be able to move without effort or strain of any kind; a black silk well made is indispensable; and even “a celebrity of a by-gone day” may be made to look handsome by a judicious but not too brilliant toilette.
The dress called “complimentary mourning,” which is rather a contradiction in terms, is now made very elegant and dressy. Black and white in all the changes, and black bugles and bead trimming, all the shades of lilac and of purple, are considered by the French as
proper colors and trimmings in going out of black; while for full mourning the English still preserve the cap, weepers, and veil, the plain muslin collar and cuffs, the crape dress, large black silk cloak, crape bonnet and veil.
Heavy, ostentatious, and expensive habiliments are often worn in mourning, but they are not in the best taste. The plain-surfaced black silks are commendable.
For afternoon tea in this country the hostess generally wears a handsome high-necked gown, often a combination of stamped or brocaded velvet, satin, and silk. She rarely wears what in England is called a “tea-gown,” which is a semi-loose garment. For visiting at afternoon teas no change is made from the ordinary walking dress, unless the three or four ladies who help receive come in handsome reception dresses. A skirt of light brocade with a dark velvet over-dress is very much worn at these receptions, and if made by a French artist is a beautiful dress. These dark velvets are usually made high, with a very rich lace ruff.
The high Medicean collar and pretty Medicean cap of velvet are in great favor with the middle-aged ladies of the present day, and are a very becoming style of dress for the opera. The present fashion of full dress at the opera, while it may not improve the music, certainly makes the house look very pretty and stately.
Too many dresses are a mistake, even for an opulent woman. They get out of fashion, and excepting for a girt going out to many balls they are entirely unnecessary. A girl who is dancing needs to be perpetually renewed,
for she should be always fresh, and the “wear and tear” of the cotillion is enormous. There is nothing so poor as a dirty, faded, and patched-up ball-dress; the dancer had better stay at home than wear such.
The fashion of sleeves should be considered. A stout woman looks very badly in a loose sleeve of hanging lace which only reaches the elbow. It makes the arm look twice as large. She should wear, for a thin sleeve, black lace to the wrist, with bands of velvet running down, to diminish the size of the arm. All those lace sleeves to the elbow, with drops of gold, or steel trimming, or jets, are very unbecoming; no one but the slight should wear them.
Tight lacing is also very unbecoming to those who usually adopt it–women of thirty-eight or forty who are growing a little stout. In thus trussing themselves up they simply get an unbecoming redness of the face, and are not the handsome, comfortable-looking creatures which Heaven intended they should be. Two or three beautiful women well known in society killed themselves last year by tight lacing. The effect of an inch less waist was not apparent enough to make this a wise sacrifice of health and ease of breathing.
At a lady’s lunch party, which is always an occasion for handsome dress, and where bonnets are always worn, the faces of those who are too tightly dressed always show the strain by a most unbecoming flush; and as American rooms are always too warm, the suffering must be enormous.
It is a very foolish plan, also, to starve one’s self, or “bant,” for a graceful thinness; women only grow
wrinkled, show crow’s-feet under the eyes, and look less young than those who let themselves alone.
A gorgeously dressed woman in the proper place is
No one who has seen the coaching parade in New York can have failed to observe the extraordinary change which has come over the fashion in dress for this conspicuous occasion. Formerly ladies wore black silks, or some dark or low-toned color in woollen or cotton or silk; and a woman who should have worn a white dress on top of a coach would, ten years ago, have been thought to make herself undesirably conspicuous.
Now the brightest colored and richest silks, orange, blue, pink, and lilac dresses, trimmed with lace flounces, dinner dresses, in fact–all the charming confections of Worth or Piugat–are freely displayed on the coach-tops, with the utmost graciousness, for every passer-by to comment on. The lady on the top of a coach without a mantle appears very much as she would at a full-dress ball or dinner. She then complains that sometimes ill-natured remarks float up from the gazers, and that the ladies are insulted. The fashion began at Longchamps and at Ascot, where, especially at the former place, a lady was privileged to sit in her victoria, with her lilac silk full ruffled to the waist, in the most perfect and aristocratic seclusion. Then the fast set of the Prince
of Wales took it up, and plunged into rivalry in dressing for the public procession through the London streets, where a lady became as prominent an object of observation as the Lord Mayor’s coach. It has been taken up and developed in America until it has reached a climax of splendor and, if we may say so, inappropriateness, that is characteristic of the following of foreign fashions in this country. How can a white satin, trimmed with lace, or an orange silk, be the dress in which a lady should meet the sun, the rain, or the dust of a coaching expedition ? Is it the dress in which she feels that she ought to meet the gaze of a mixed assemblage in a crowded hotel or in a much frequented thoroughfare? What change of dress can there be left for the drawing-room ?
We are glad to see that the Princess of Wales, whose taste seems to be as nearly perfect as may be, has determined to set her pretty face against this exaggerated use of color. She appeared recently in London, on top of a coach, in a suit of navy-blue flannel. Again, she and the Empress of Austria are described as wearing dark, neat suits of drap d’été, and also broadcloth dresses. One can see the delicate figures and refined features of these two royal beauties in this neat and inconspicuous dress, and, when they are contrasted with the flaunting pink and white and lace and orange dresses of those who are not royal, how vulgar the extravagance in color becomes !
Our grandmothers travelled in broadcloth riding-habits, and we often pity them for the heat and the distress which they must have endured in the heavy, high-fitting, long-sleeved garments; yet we cannot
but think they would have looked better on top of a coach than their granddaughters–who should remember, when they complain of the rude remarks, that we have no aristocracy here whose feelings the mob is obliged to respect, and that the plainer their dress the less apt they will be to hear unpleasant epithets applied to them. In the present somewhat aggressive Amazonian fashion, when a woman drives a man in her pony phaeton (he sitting several inches below her), there is no doubt much audacity unintentionally suggested by a gay dress. A vulgar man, seeing a lady in white velvet, Spanish lace, a large hat–in what he considers a “loud” dress–does not have the idea of modesty or of refinement conveyed to his mind by the sight; he is very apt to laugh, and to say something not wholly respectful. Then the lady says, “With how little respect women are treated in large cities, or at Newport, or at Saratoga !” Were she more plainly dressed, in a dark foulard or an inconspicuous flannel or cloth dress, with her hat simply arranged, she would be quite as pretty and better fitted for the matter she has in hand, and very much less exposed to invidious comment. Women dress plainly enough when tempting the “salt-sea wave,” and also when on horseback. Nothing could be simpler than the riding-habit, and yet is there any dress so becoming ? But on the coach they should not be too fine.
Of course, women can dress as they please, but if they please to dress conspicuously they must be ready to take the consequences. A few years ago no lady would venture into the street unless a mantle or a scarf covered her shoulders. It was a lady-like precaution.
Then came the inglorious days of the “tied-backs,” a style of dress most unbecoming to the figure, and now happily no more. This preposterous fashion had, no doubt, its influence on the manners of the age.
Better far, if women would parade their charms, the courtly dresses of those beauties of Bird-cage Walk, by St. James’s Park, where “Lady Betty Modish” was born–full, long, bouffant brocades, hair piled high, long and graceful scarfs, and gloves reaching to the elbow. Even the rouge and powder were a mask to hide the cheek which did or did not blush when bold eyes were fastened upon it. Let us not be understood, however, as extolling these. The nineteenth-century beauty mounts a coach with none of these aids to shyness. No suggestion of hiding any of her Charms occurs to her. She goes out on the box seat without cloak or shawl, or anything but a hat on the back of her head and a gay parasol between her and a possible thunder-storm. These ladies are not members of an acclimatization society. They cannot bring about a new climate. Do they not suffer from cold ? Do not the breezes go through them? Answer, all ye pneumonias and diphtherias and rheumatisms !
There is no delicacy in the humor with which the funny papers and the caricaturists treat these very exaggerated costumes. No delicacy is required. A change to a quieter style of dress would soon abate this treatment of which so many ladies complain. Let them dress like the Princess of Wales and the Empress of Austria, when in the conspicuous high-relief of the
coach, and the result will be that ladies, married or single, will not be subjected to the insults of which so many of them complain, and of which the papers are full after every coaching parade.
Lady riders are seldom obliged to complain of the incivility of a passer-by. Theirs are modest figures, and, as a general thing nowadays, they ride well. A lady can alight from her horse and walk about in a crowded place without hearing an offensive word: she is properly dressed for her exercise.
Nor, again, is a young lady in a lawn-tennis suit assailed by the impertinent criticisms of a mixed crowd of by-standers. Thousands play at Newport, Saratoga, and other places of resort, with thousands looking on, and no one utters a word of rebuke. The short flannel skirt and close Jersey are needed for the active runner, and her somewhat eccentric appearance is condoned. It is not considered an exhibition or a show, but a good, healthy game of physical exercise. People feel an interest and a pleasure in it. It is like the old-fashioned merry-making of the May-pole, the friendly jousts of neighbors on the common play-ground of the neighborhood, with the dances under the walnut-trees of sunny Provence. The game is an invigorating one, and even those who do not know it are pleased with its animation. We have hitherto neglected that gymnastic culture which made the Greeks the graceful people they were, and which contributed to the cultivation of the mind.
Nobody finds anything to laugh at in either of these costumes; but when people see a ball-dress mounted high on a coach they are very apt to laugh at it;
and women seldom come home from a coaching parade without a tingling cheek and a feeling of shame because of some comment upon their dress and appearance. A young lady drove up, last summer, to the Ocean House at Newport in a pony phaeton, and was offended because a gentleman on the piazza said, “That girl has a very small waist, and she means us to see it.” Who was to blame? The young lady was dressed in a very conspicuous manner: she had neither mantle nor jacket about her, and she probably did mean that her waist should be seen.
There is a growing objection all over the world to the hour-glass shape once so fashionable, and we ought to welcome it as the best evidence of a tendency towards a more sensible form of dress, as well as one more conducive to health and the wholesome discharge of a woman’s natural and most important functions. But if a woman laces herself into a sixteen-inch belt, and then clothes herself in brocade, satin, and bright colors, and makes herself conspicuous, she should not object to the fact that men, seeing her throw aside her mantle, comment upon her charms in no measured terms. She has no one to blame but herself.
We might add that by this over-dressing women deprive themselves of the advantage of contrast in style. Lace, in particular, is for the house and for the full-dress dinner or ball. So of the light, gay silks, which have no fitness of fold or of texture for the climbing of a coach. If bright colors are desired, let ladies choose the merinos and nuns’ veilings for coaching dresses; or, better still, let them dress in
dark colors, in plain and inconspicuous dresses, which do not seem to defy both dust and sun and rain as well. On top of a coach they are far more exposed to the elements than when on the deck of a yacht.
Nor, because the fast set of the Prince of Wales do so in London, is there any reason why American women should appear on top of a coach dressed in red velvet and white satin. Let them remember the fact that the Queen had placed Windsor Castle at the disposal of the Prince for his use during Ascot week, but that when she learned that two somewhat conspicuous American beauties were expected, she rescinded the loan and told the Prince to entertain his guests elsewhere.