The Art of Dressing a Bride, March 1894
“Of all people in the world the French are the ones who most positively combine sentiment and frocks. The rich lace, the costly jewel, the much-trimmed gown never belongs to the unmarried woman until she has passed youth. Even on the very day of her wedding, the French girl, while she is essentially a bride, always has in her costume the suggestion of youth and innocence. The material especially dedicated to the bride is white satin, heavy and lustrous; occasionally some caprice of fashion may show itself on one of these gowns, as has the band of sable around the edge this winter. But the artist in dress disapproves of any such departure from regulation rules, the first one of which is that the bride shall be all in white. White silk, white crepe, white cloth, and some of the very thin stuffs are occasionally chosen for the wedding gown, but personally I can fully sympathize with the girl who chooses fewer frocks in her trousseau, yet elects that on her wedding day she shall really look what she is, a bride. With her white gown come the white tulle veil and the orange blossoms.
There are some things that a bride must remember: her bodice must be high in the neck; her sleeves reach quite to her wrists, and her gown must fall in full, unbroken folds that show the richness of the material, and there must not be even a suggestion of such frivolities as frills or ribbons of any kind. The design for a white satin wedding dress which is shown in Illustration No. 1 is that approved by the greatest and most artistic of dressmakers. It has about it not only the air of girlishness that should be there, but, by the disposition of the rich material, makes prominent the elegance of toilette that will be permitted to the young matron.”
So this is what Rose was running from in Titanic…
The Edwardian Wedding By Evangeline Holland
The typical Edwardian woman wished to see her name printed in the newspapers but thrice in her lifetime: at birth, at marriage, and at death. Fortunately for the press-hungry, a woman’s wedding was cause for pages and pages of articles devoted to announcements, details of the ceremony, and advice for the blushing bride. No more so was this seen than with highly anticipated weddings of society women, whose trousseaux, bridesmaids, groom, and wedding gifts were newspaper fodder even for those invited!
To regulate the demand for lavish weddings and press access to the impending nuptials, the already dozens of etiquette books on the market were supplemented by books devoted explicitly to pulling off a beautiful wedding ceremony.
The wedding of Edwardian England heavily influenced the fashion for America, though there were considerable differences in the former. By the late Edwardian era, afternoon weddings have become very popular, with 2:30 pm as the most fashionable time, despite the legally recognized time for marriage ceremonies being between eight am and noon. To counteract this legality, a special license was obtained (during most of the 19th century, only a few were in position to obtain them) from the Archbishop of Canterbury, after application at the Faculty Office, and a very special reason had to be given to meet with his approval.
Interestingly, in Britain, all fees relating to marriage were paid by the groom, and most of the marriage details were left on his shoulders, including the purchase of the bride’s wedding ring and her bouquet, as well as the bouquets and trinkets for the bridesmaids!
In America, the arrangements and the details, if not the financial expense, of the wedding were largely assumed by the bride and her family, leaving the groom with little to do besides show up.
Because of the superstitions held by America’s early settlers, weddings were frequently held in June, September, October, and January, though April was a popular month for city brides.
Roman Catholics prohibited marrying on Lent, and though Protestant marriages could be solemnized at any time, the old adage “Marry in Lent, you’ll live to repent” held fast, and that holiday was generally avoided. A nursery rhyme also influenced the day of the week on which a wedding was held–Monday for Wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday, best day of all; Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses, Saturday, no luck at all–though Friday was avoided as bearing the mark of Cain and also the stigma of Jesus’s crucifixion. The fashionable hour was high noon, though in imitation of the English, afternoon weddings were popular, and three p.m. was popular for winter weddings, and four p.m. in the spring. At one point in time, evening weddings were much in vogue, but fashionable society gave them up quickly.
The appointment of the wedding gifts were taken very seriously in the United States. The Gilded Age was truly gilded for a bride, with presents becoming absurdly gorgeous and displacing the old Dutch custom of giving the young couple household items and a sum of money turning into a bold display of wealth and ostentatious generosity.
Wedding gifts were displayed at the home of the bride two or three days before the wedding, and the bride and her mother hosted a tea as a way to thank those who sent presents–and also allow everyone to see the lavishness of the gifts sent to the bride. They were customarily placed on tables covered with white damask cloths, which were set around in an empty room to facilitate a tour of the gifts.
This was in direct contrast to English custom, where wedding presents were sent to the bride’s residence immediately after the wedding and were supposed to be put in their rightful places and definitely not arranged for the purpose of display.
The French did one even better, as the nearest of kin collected a sum of money which was sent to the bride’s mother, who spent it on the trousseau, or jewels or silver, or however the bride so chose.
The most important parts of the wedding were the bride’s gown and trousseau. The traditional attire for a bride was a gown of soft, rich cream-white satin, trimmed simply or elaborately with lace, a wreath of orange-blossoms, and a veil of lace or tulle. The skirt had a train, and except at an evening wedding, waists cut open, or low at the neck, or with short or elbow sleeves–unless the arms were covered with long gloves–were not approved for brides.
A wedding gown was supposed to be sumptuous and of the most costly materials, for the bride was privileged to wear her wedding down for six months after her marriage at functions requiring full dress. The train averaged eighty inches in length, though very tall brides wore ninety-five inch trains.
The richest wedding gown was worn, naturally, by Consuelo Vanderbilt on her wedding to the 9th Duke of Marlborough. Of rich white satin, covered with flounces of point d’Angelterre, the court train was fastened to her shoulders and attached to the skirt below the hips, falling in a straight line to lie three and a half yards on the ground. It was edged in its entire length with a borner of rose-leaves tied by true-lovers’ knots (the irony!), wrought with pearls and tiny silver spangles. Accordingly, Consuelo’s trousseau was suitably lavish and just as detailed in the press, with Vogue publishing an illustrated article and the New York Times running nearly two pages to describing her lingerie. In her memoirs, Consuelo details the agony of “[reading in] stupefaction that my garters had gold clasps studded with diamonds, and I wondered how I should live down such vulgarities.”
For men wedding attire was much simpler: morning dress was de rigeuer, though an etiquette manual published in the late 1890s detailed the declining fashion for morning wear by American men, who increasingly appeared at weddings–bridegroom or not–in tuxedos.
The actual service was an equally lavish affair: the bride was driven to the church with her father, where relatives and guests awaited. Once the bride alighted from the carriage, the bridesmaids and ushers preceded her, two by two, as the father of the bride escorted her down the aisle. As the bridesmaids and ushers reached the lowest altar step, they moved alternately left and right, leaving space for the bridal pair. As the bride reached the lowest step, the groom took her by her right hand and conducted her to the altar where they both kneeled on an elaborate kneeling cushion. Formerly, brides removed the whole glove for the groom to place the ring on her finger, but by the turn of the century, gloves were made with a removable left ring-finger, to facilitate easy access. After the ceremony the bride and groom marched down the aisle to a choir and strewn rose petals, and were immediately driven home.
The English fashion for wedding-breakfasts–where prior to the wedding the bride, groom, and their families, sat down to a delicious champagne brunch to toast the impending wedding, did not take off in America, and instead, a reception held after the wedding was popular. Nonetheless, the bride and groom took leave of their families and guests, and were conducted (in England) in a four-in-hand to their destination, and in the United States, to the train station.