CHAPTER XL.SILVER WEDDINGS AND OTHER WEDDING ANNIVERSARIES.


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A very sensible reform is now being attempted in the matter of silver weddings. It was once a demand on the purse of at least fifty dollars to receive an invitation to a silver wedding, because every one was expected to send a piece of silver. Some very rich houses in New York are stocked with silver with the elaborate inscription, “Silver Wedding.” To the cards of to-day is appended, “No presents received,” which is a relief to the impecunious.

These cards are on plain white or silver-gray paper, engraved in silver letters, with the name of the lady as she was known before marriage appended below that of her husband; the date of the marriage is also added below the names.

The entertainment for a silver wedding, to be perfect, should occur at exactly the hour at which the marriage took place; but as that has been found to be inconvenient, the marriage hour is ignored, and the party takes place in the evening generally, and with all the characteristics of a modern party. The “bridal pair” stand together, of course, to receive, and as many of the original party of the groomsmen and bridesmaids as can be got together should be induced to form

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a part of the group. There can be no objection to the sending of flowers, and particular friends who wish can, of course, send other gifts, but there should be no obligation. We may say here that the custom of giving bridal gifts has become an outrageous abuse of a good idea. From being a pretty custom which had its basis in the excellent system of our Dutch ancestors, who combined to help the young couple by presents of bed and table linen and necessary table furniture and silver, it has now sometimes degenerated into a form of ostentation, and is a great tax on the friends of the bride. People in certain relations to the family are even expected to send certain gifts. It has been known to be the case that the bride allowed some officious friend to suggest that she should have silver, or pearls, or diamonds; and a rich old bachelor uncle is sure to be told what is expected from him. But when a couple have reached their silver wedding, and are able and willing to celebrate it, it may be supposed that they are beyond the necessity of appealing to the generosity of their friends; therefore it is a good custom to have this phrase added to the silver-wedding invitation, “No presents received.”

The question has been asked if the ceremony should be performed over again. We should say decidedly not, for great danger has accrued to thoughtless persons in thus tampering with the wedding ceremony. Any one who has read Mrs. Oliphant’s beautiful story of “Madonna Mary” will be struck at once with this danger. It is not safe, even in the most playful manner, to imitate that legal form on which all society, property, legitimacy, and the safety of home hang.

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Now as to the dress of the bride of twenty-five years, we should say, “Any color but black.” There is an old superstition against connecting black with weddings. A silver gray, trimmed with steel and lace, has lately been used with much success as a second bridal dress. Still less should the dress be white; that has become so canonized as the wedding dress of a virgin bride that it is not even proper for a widow to wear it on her second marriage. The shades of rose-color, crimson, or those beautiful modern combinations of velvet and brocade which suit so many matronly women, are all appropriate silver-wedding dresses.

Ladies should not wear jewelry in the morning, particularly at their own houses; so if the wedding is celebrated in the morning, the hostess should take care not to be too splendid.

Evening weddings are, in these anniversaries, far more agreeable, and can be celebrated with more elaborate dressing. It is now so much the fashion to wear low-necked dresses (sleeveless dresses were worn by bridesmaids at an evening wedding recently) that the bride of twenty-five years can appear, if she chooses, in a low-cut short-sleeved dinner dress and diamonds in the evening. As for the groom, he should be in full evening dress, immaculate white tie, and pearl-colored kid gloves. He plays, as he does at the wedding, but a secondary part. Indeed, it has been jocosely said that he sometimes poses as a victim. In savage communities and among the birds it is the male who wears the fine clothes; in Christian society it is the male who dresses in black, putting the fine feathers on his wife. It is to her that all the honors are paid, he playing for
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the time but a secondary part. In savage communities she would dig the earth, wait upon her lord, and stand behind him while he eats; in the modern silver wedding he helps her to fried oysters and champagne, and stands while she sits.

Now as to who shall be invited. A correspondent writes asking if a silver wedding celebrated in a new home would not be a good opportunity for making the “first onset of hospitality,” inviting those neighbors who were not known before, or at least who were not visiting acquaintances. We should think it a very happy idea. It is a compliment to ask one’s friends and neighbors to any ceremony or anniversary in which our own deep feelings are concerned, such as a christening, a child’s wedding, and the celebration of a birthday. Why not still more when a married pair have weathered the storms of twenty-five years? People fully aware of their own respectability should never be afraid to bow first, speak first, or call first. Courtesy is the most cosmopolitan of good qualities, and politeness is one of the seven capital virtues. No people giving such an invitation need be hurt if it is received coldly. They only thus find out which of their new neighbors are the most worth cultivating. This sort of courtesy is as far as possible from the dreadful word “pushing.” As dress was made to dignify the human body, so a generous courtesy clothes the mind. Let no one be afraid of draping the spirit with this purple and gold.

And in all fresh neighborhoods the new-comers should try to cultivate society. There is something in its attrition which stimulates the mind. Society

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brightens up the wits, and causes the dullest mind to bring its treasures to the surface.

The wedding anniversaries seem to begin with the fifth one–the wooden wedding. Here unique and appropriate presents seem to be very cheap. Cedar tubs and bowls and pails, wooden baskets filled with flowers, Shaker rocking-chairs and seats for the veranda, carved tables, cabinets of oak, wall brackets, paintings on wood, water-colors framed in wood-carvings in bog oak, and even a load of kindling wood, have been acceptably offered. The bride can dress as gayly as she pleases at this early anniversary. Then comes the tin wedding, which now is very much welcomed for the pretty tin candlesticks that it brings, fresh from London furnishers.

We hear of gorgeous silver weddings in California, that land of gold and silver, where the display of toilettes each represented a large fortune. But, after all, the sentiment is the thing,

“As when, amid the rites divine,
I took thy troth, and plighted mine
To thee, sweet wife, my second ring
A token and a pledge I bring.
This ring shall wed, till death us part,
Thy riper virtues to my heart–
Those virtues which, before untried,
The wife has added to the bride.”

The golden wedding is a rare festivity–the great marriage bell made of wheat fully ripe; sheaves of corn; roses of the pure gold-color (the Marshal Niel is the golden-wedding flower par excellence). We can well imagine the parlors beautifully decorated with

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autumn leaves and evergreens, the children grouped about the aged pair, perhaps even a great-grandchild as a child bridesmaid, a bridal bouquet in the aged white hand. We can fancy nothing more poetical and pathetic than this festivity.

Whether or not a ring should be given by the husband to the wife on this occasion we must leave to the individual taste of the parties. No doubt it is a pleasant occasion for the gift,

“If she, by merit since disclosed,
Proved twice the woman I supposed,”

there is no doubt that she deserves another ring. We have read somewhere of a crown-diamond wedding; it is the sixty-fifth anniversary. Iron weddings are, we believe, the fifteenth anniversary. With silver, golden, and diamond weddings we are tolerably familiar, but, so far as we know, a crown-diamond wedding such as was celebrated a short time ago at Maebuell, in the island of Alsen, is a ceremony altogether without precedent in matrimonial annals. Having completed their sixty-fifth year of conjugal bliss, Claus Jacobsen and his venerable spouse were solemnly blessed by the parson of their parish, and went, for the fifth time in their long wedded life, through the form of mutual troth-plighting before the altar at which they had for the first time been united before the battle of Waterloo was fought. The united age of this crown-diamantine couple amount to one hundred and seventy-eight years!

We doubt if this constant pair needed any ring to remind them of their wedded duty. It is strange that

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the origin of the wedding ring is lost in obscurity. The “fyancel,” or wedding ring, is doubtless of Roman origin, and was originally given at the betrothal as a pledge of the engagement. Juvenal says that at the commencement of the Christian era a man placed a ring on the finger Of the lady whom he betrothed. In olden times the delivery of a signet-ring was a sign of confidence. The ring is a symbol of eternity and constancy. That it was placed on the woman’s left hand denotes her subjection, and on the ring finger because it pressed a vein which communicates directly with the heart. So universal is the custom of wearing the wedding ring among Jews and Christians that no married woman is ever seen without her plain gold circlet, and she regards the loss of it as a sinister omen; and many women never remove it. This is, however, foolish, and it should be taken off and put on several times at first, so that any subsequent removal or loss need not jar painfully on the feelings.

The bride-cake cut by the bride, with the wedding ring for some fortunate future spouse, seems to be still potent. The twenty-five-year-old bride should cut a few pieces, then leave others to pass it; it is a day on which she should be waited upon.

Some persons, in celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding day, also repeat their wedding journey, and we know a very pleasant little route in England called the “silver-wedding journey,” but this is, of course, a matter so entirely personal that it cannot be universally recommended.

The most graceful silver-wedding custom is for the Bride and bridegroom to receive the greetings of their

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friends at first formally, then to leave the marriage bell or canopy of flowers and to go about among the company, becoming again host and hostess. They should spare their children, friends, and themselves tears and sad recollections. Some opulent brides and bridegrooms make it a silver wedding indeed by sending substantial presents to those who started in life with them but have been less fortunate than themselves.

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