G. R. M. Devereux.

The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage online

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that her brightest dreams may be realised, even where you have little
hope of it. Let there be no bitterness in the congratulations. Respect
the happiness of the lovers even if you cannot understand it.


The Ring.

In choosing the ring the lover should first think of its durability
and then of its sweet symbolism. It should be the best he can afford,
and the small detail of fit is not to be ignored. The choice of stones
and style will depend upon taste and the money available, but,
personally, I like an engagement ring to be of special design, unlike
any that other women are likely to wear. One good stone is far better
than a number of smaller ones.

Making Acquaintance with Future Relations.

This is one of the bride-elect's sorest trials, for even when people
like a girl very well as a friend, they do not always welcome her as a
member of their family. She must face the fact that they have not
chosen her, and the more simply and naturally she bears herself under
the inevitable criticism the better. It is fatal to _try_ and make a
good impression. Tact and intuition will do a great deal for her, but
much lies in the power of his relations to make or mar the happiness
of her entry into their midst. I know of a girl, who lived a long way
from her _fiancé_, who was made quite miserable during her occasional
visits to his home by the discourtesy of his sisters. He was in town
all day, and of course knew nothing of the discomfort she endured in
his absence. He knows now, and it has not increased his brotherly

What She Should Avoid.

It is bad manners in a girl to try and show off her power over her
lover in his own home, or anywhere else, for the matter of that. It is
foolish to pretend that she does not care for him, or to talk of her
wedding-day as if it were her execution. I have known girls who did
this. She should not devote herself exclusively to him, and thereby
fail in courtesy to his family or their friends. She should not boast
of her own people, or infer that her home is superior to theirs. She
should guard especially against anything that looks like wishing to
oust her lover's mother from her place in his affections. Women are
nearly always a little jealous of the girls their sons marry, and care
must be taken to disarm this.



When the introductions take place mainly by letter, many
stumbling-blocks are removed from the path of the bride-elect. It only
behoves her to reply with ready, grateful recognition to the words of
welcome, which should be gracious and warm-hearted on the part of his
friends. The following may serve as an example: -

From his Mother

"My dear Sybil, - Frank has told me of his engagement to you, and I am
writing to tell you how glad I am and how fully I enter into his
happiness. I feel sure, my dear child, that he will make you a good
and loving husband, for he has been such a dear son to me.

"I have always prayed that he might find a wife who would appreciate
his love and share his highest interests. I am now satisfied that he
has done this, dear. I want you to come and stay with me as soon as
you can, so that we may learn to understand each other. It ought not
to be difficult, now that we have so much in common. - With kind love,
believe me, affectionately yours, Alice Stanley."

The above letter would imply that the mother knew a good deal about
the girl her son was going to marry, and of course she would try to
write in a cordial strain, even though she was taking her future
daughter-in-law upon the son's recommendation.

The girl's answer might be on these lines: -

"My dear Mrs. Stanley, - You cannot think how glad I was to receive
your most kind letter. It is such a relief to feel that you do not
disapprove of Frank's choice. I only hope that you may still approve
when you know me better. I am delighted to accept your kind
invitation, and can come on the 14th if that will suit you. I can
hardly yet realise my great happiness, and feel that I can never do
enough for Frank. - With many thanks for your kindness, believe me,
with love, yours affectionately, Sybil Carlton."



_His Visits to her Home - The Engaged Couple in Public - In
Society - Visiting at the same House - Going about together - The
Question of Expenses._

His Visits to her Home.

If distance parts the loving couple he will only be able to spend his
leave, or annual holidays, with her, and will make a point of
consulting her movements before he lays any plans for his leisure
time. If he could meet her abroad, or at the seaside, he would not go
off yachting without her, nor postpone his holiday till the shooting
had begun rather than spend the month of June with her in the suburbs.
If he lives in the same neighbourhood as his beloved he will have many
opportunities of being with her. He ought never to neglect his work
for his courtship, and a girl should be very careful not to propose
such a thing. It is a poor lookout for their future if they put
pleasure first. He will probably be expected or permitted to spend two
or three evenings a week at her home, dine there on Sundays, and, if
he is busy all the week, devote Saturday afternoons to her entirely. A
man of leisure can make his own arrangements; the business or
professional man must do his love-making when he can.

The Engaged Couple in Public.

"Some men like to advertise their kissing rights," said an engaged man
to me the other day; "but for my part I don't think there should be
anything in the bearing of an engaged couple in public to indicate
that they are more than friends." Here, I think, we have the etiquette
of the matter in a nutshell. Wherever the lovers are they will be
supremely conscious of each other's presence, but it need not be writ
{57} large over their actions. It is sometimes debated whether lovers
should kiss in public. As the sweetest kisses must ever be those
exchanged "under four eyes," as the Germans put it, there seems little
advantage in a mere conventional "peck" in the public gaze. A close
clasp of the hand, a silent greeting of the eyes, will be truer to the
love that is held too sacred for exhibition.

The man's attentions should never merge into questionable hilarity. He
ought to respect as well as love the woman he hopes to marry. She
should equally avoid gushing and tyrannising over him. To see a girl
ordering her _fiancé_ about, making him fetch and carry like a black
boy, and taking his submission as her due, is enough to justify the
hope that the worm will turn to some purpose when she least expects
it. There should be nothing abject in love on either side. It hurts to
see the dog-like look of entreaty in human eyes. Things should be more
on a level; the hearts of man and woman should give and take gladly of
their best, with love that is pure, brave, and unashamed.

In Society.

Mutual friends will be sure to invite the engaged couple to various
social functions. Where it is possible and convenient they will arrive
and leave together. He will naturally be eager to escort her about as
much as he can; they must, however, be prepared to sacrifice
themselves on such occasions. He will see that she has all she wants
at a garden party or At Home, but he will not glare at another man for
handing her an ice or a cup of tea; nor will he neglect his duties to
sit in his sweetheart's pocket, or stand behind her chair to warn off
intruders. On the other hand he will not attract attention by devoting
himself to any one particular lady, or play into the hands of the
wanton flirt.

A well-bred woman or girl will not give herself away by allowing
awkward pauses to break the conversation because her thoughts and eyes
are hungrily trying to follow her lover, who is manfully assisting the
hostess. She will not make herself conspicuous in her behaviour with
any other admirer, but be perfectly at ease with any man to whom she
may have occasion to speak.

If any of the lady's friends wish to make her _fiancé's_ acquaintance
they will send him an invitation to a dance or party through her, not
an informal message, but a card such as they send to their other
guests, which she will pass on to him.


Visiting at the same House.

The engaged couple are not considered good company by outsiders, so
when they are included in a house-party they should exercise a little
healthful self-control. The cosy corners, shady walks, and secluded
nooks are not their monopoly. The two who are beginning to make love
ought to have a chance. Others may have business to discuss,
arrangements to make, or letters to write for which they desire
privacy, and the pervading presence of the betrothed pair is apt to
become irritating. When etiquette requires that they should be parted,
it is their duty to fall in courteously with any arrangement their
hostess may make.

Going about Together.

The amount of _tête-à-tête_ intercourse will differ in almost every
case. It seems most natural that lovers should go about together as
much as possible, seeing that they are learning to pass their lives
together. The girl who has taken little expeditions with her _fiancé_
will be spared much of the embarrassment that might mar the opening of
the honeymoon if she felt shy and strange, cut off from all her old
moorings. They will spend long days on the river, take rambles into
the country, see the sights of the town, and do a hundred other things
that will be doubly delightful just because they are alone together.

The Question of Expenses.

It is sometimes taken for granted that the _fiancé_ must pay all
expenses when he takes his sweetheart about. This, I think, should
depend upon circumstances. The rich lover does well to lavish his
money upon his future wife, and will {59} take a pride in so doing. The
man of moderate means who has to work for his income will do well to
put by all he can for future emergencies, and if the girl to whom he is
engaged has her own money or an ample allowance, it is much better
that they should come to an understanding to share the cost of their
pleasures, in view of possible necessities.

This need not prevent the poorer man from spending a certain amount
upon his love. Every now and then there will be special days when he
will play the host, and they will be red-letter days to both. If she
is going anywhere by his special invitation he would naturally defray
her expenses; but on their weekly jaunts why should he be put to the
double outlay when he wants to save all he can to start their home?
Why should he reduce his balance at the bank by first-class fares,
theatre tickets, and taxis two or three times a week, when he may have
to borrow money to buy their furniture? No girl ought to expect or
encourage this sort of thing. She is not afraid of being under an
obligation to him, for love knows no such thing, but she has the
wisdom to look ahead.



_Love-Letters - Long or Short Engagements - Broken
Engagements - Clandestine Engagements - When Justifiable - The Mother in
the Secret - Friends who act as Go-Between._


There are, I believe, engaged couples who, after parting from each
other at 7 P.M., write a long letter before going to bed that night,
containing all that they had not time to say. If they have the time
and energy to spare it concerns no one but themselves; but it seems a
pity to make a rule of this sort, as it may become a tax, and the
breaking of it on either side may cause pain if not friction.

There will be times without number when delightful little
love-letters will have to be written. They will come as a joyful
surprise and be twice as sweet as those that are expected.

When daily or even frequent meetings are impossible, then the
love-letter has a most important part to play in the course of true
love. Letters are a very valuable addition to personal intercourse. It
is not safe to judge a person entirely from them, but taking them side
by side with personal knowledge they throw a good deal of light on a
character. The glamour of the beloved presence is not there to blind,
the charm of manner or voice is not powerful to fascinate, so the
words stand on their own merits. Sometimes they do not quite fit in
with what we know of the writer. They show us another side of one we
love. It may be endearing, it may be the reverse. In any case the
letters that pass between an engaged couple should be kept absolutely
private. We know the story of the man who wrote the same love-letters
to two girls, who {61} discovered his treachery by comparing their
respective treasures. Such a case is, I hope, purely fictional, but
there ought to be some exceptionally good reason for divulging the
sweet nothings that go to make up the typical love-letter. For the one
to whom they are addressed they will be sublime, to the outsider they
will probably be only ridiculous.

The Length of Engagements.

Considering what a vital change marriage is bound to bring into the
lives of those who make the contract, it would seem the height of
rashness to hurry into it with a person of whom one knows but little.
It may be contended that the mutual attitude of lovers during their
engagement is not calculated to enlarge their real knowledge of each
other. Certainly not, if the marriage is to take place while they are
at fever-heat, living in a whirl of emotional rapture. But let an
engagement be long enough for their love to settle down into a more
normal state, where their reasoning faculties will be able to
work - then they will gain a clearer estimate of their mutual fitness,
and may learn a good deal about each other.

It has been said that no man should make an offer of marriage till he
is in a position to support a wife. This is a little hard. If a man is
worth having, he is worth waiting for. He has no right to speak till
he has some definite prospect in view, or unless he is fully
determined to do his best to further his own interests. No girl or
woman should be expected to waste her youth and wear out her heart as
the promised wife of a man who is not trying to make their marriage
possible. Above all, no man should be mean enough to take money from
the one to whom he is engaged merely to indulge his own idleness.

A year or eighteen months may be taken as a fair time for the
engagement of those who have known but little of each other
beforehand. In the case of long intimacy six months will probably
suffice. A girl exposes herself to much unpleasant criticism by urging
on a hasty marriage. Even if she feels impatient, she should let that
sort of thing come from the man. If he lets the time drag on with
seeming {62} indifference or satisfaction, she should ask one of her
parents to speak to him on the subject, and if she guesses that he has
no real desire to marry her, she had far better give him up altogether
than urge him to take the step unwillingly.

Broken Engagements.

It sometimes happens that during this period of courtship either the
man or the woman realises that a mistake has been made; if so, let it
be rectified before a still more serious one be committed. It is a
delicate matter for a man to take the initiative. No woman should
drive him to do so. Let her make him a present of his freedom before
he has to ask for it. It is due to a man's self-respect to break
with a woman who openly and wantonly disregards his wishes on any
important point. In the same way if a man will not give up bad
habits, such as gambling, intemperance, or whatever it may be, for
the sake of the girl he is engaged to, she may be pretty sure that
he will not do it when she is his wife. Let him choose between her
and his vices.

Once the engagement is at an end the ring and other presents should be
sent back, unless by special mutual arrangement to the contrary.
Letters are either burnt or returned to the writer. There is a good
deal of sentiment about these written proofs of a love that has proved
a failure, on one side at least. The two who have been so nearly one
now become mere acquaintances again in the eyes of the world, and will
probably not be anxious to meet for some time to come.

Clandestine Engagement.

The obstacle to true love in former days was parental authority, which
often savoured of tyranny. In these days of liberty the young people
have it more their own way. When parents object to a lover on the mere
ground of his poverty, or some personal prejudice, a girl may be
excused for making her own choice when she is of age. If she binds
herself secretly to a man whose moral unfitness is objected to, she is
courting certain misery and possible disgrace.


A Justifiable Case.

It would seem, then, that where parental consent is refused on the
ground of advisability, not of vital principle, the girl is justified
in holding herself bound till such time as she is free to give her
hand in marriage. She will use this bond as a defence against other
suitors who may be urged upon her. She will not flaunt her decision in
the parental face, nor cause ructions by tactlessly obtruding the bone
of contention; but she will be firm and loyal, true to herself and to
him she loves.

Where the Mother Shares the Secret.

Where the father is somewhat of a Spartan there is not unfrequently a
gentle, sympathetic mother, who will dare much to make her child
happy. The daughter is well advised to make such a mother her
confidante. A woman who schemes to entangle a young man of wealth or
high rank into a secret engagement with her daughter, who she knows is
no suitable wife for him, is neither honest to him nor kind to her
child. Such unequal marriages seldom answer in real life. There must
be sympathy, and a certain community of interests to make marriage a

Friends who act as Go-Between.

There is a spice of romance in helping distressed and persecuted
lovers; but young people should be very careful not to mix themselves
up in such matters. Their own experience is too limited to qualify
them for the task. Older friends must take the consequences of such
interference. Sometimes their help is most ill-advised; still, for a
time at least, the lovers will be intensely grateful to them. There is
one thing that seems quite unjustifiable, and that is for a secretly
engaged pair to make a friend's house their rendezvous without telling
the friend exactly how matters stand. It is an abuse of hospitality,
for it is pretty sure to bring unpleasantness to the friend, who will
inevitably be blamed by the parents when the secret leaks out, or an
elopement takes {64} place. Trains, telephones, and telegraphs have robbed
the latter episode of all its old-world reckless charm, and it really
seems hardly worth the doing.

In some cases a married friend may intervene to prevent any scandal
from touching the wilful bride. If the young folks will not listen to
reason, it is as well for their folly to be carried out as respectably
as possible; but all such sympathy should be tempered by judgment, for
the making or marring of two lives is in the balance, and the
happiness of many hearts may be at stake.



_Foreign Etiquette of Engagements - Betrothal a much more Serious Matter
than in England._

In no other country is an engagement so informal as in England. We
find all sorts of ceremonies connected with the plighting of a troth
which seems but little less important than the tying of the marriage
knot itself. There is less spontaneity and exercise of private
judgment on the part of the young people; in fact, there are several
countries in which they are allowed no voice in the matter.

In Italy

girls are kept quite in the background, and have a very dull time.
This makes them ready to accept any suitor their parents may choose. A
meeting is arranged between the young people, and after that he pays
stiff visits to her home, generally in the evening, but they are never
left alone together, and he is not allowed to pay her any marked
attention even before others. They may exchange photographs, and she
may work him a little present; but it is all lifeless, passionless,
and business-like. Among the peasantry there is more of the
picturesque, and many quaint customs still survive. Marriage-brokers
do a good trade, and get a percentage on each pair that they see
through the ordeal of a wedding. In Frascati, parents with
marriageable sons and daughters assemble on Sunday afternoons in the
chief piazza. The men sit on one side and the women on the other. In
the intervening space the candidates for matrimony walk about - the
girls near their mothers, the youths under their fathers' eyes. By
some mysterious process of selection they sort themselves into
couples, or, rather, the parents make mutual advances on behalf of
their children and they are betrothed.


In France

similar restrictions are placed upon lovers, and no one under the age
of twenty-five can contract a legal marriage without the consent of
his or her parents. If three appeals have been made in vain for
parental sanction, there may be an appeal to the law. The proposed
marriage must also be publicly announced beforehand, or it is invalid.
In _Brittany_ there is a strange mixture of the romantic and the
practical. The village tailor is the usual negotiator who interviews
both the lovers and their parents. When he has smoothed the way, the
intending bridegroom pays his first visit, which is accompanied by
many pretty customs. He is allowed to take his sweetheart aside, and
no one dares to interrupt this, their first, _tête-à-tête_. Meanwhile
the elders discuss business, and when the lovers come back to the
family circle a feast is enjoyed, at which the parents bless the food,
and the lovers are only allowed one knife and plate between them. The
signing of the wedding contract later on is another festivity, and the
presents are mostly of a useful nature.

German Betrothals

are more or less formal, though the young couple are allowed to choose
for themselves. The suitor has not much chance of seeing the lady
alone before he has made up his mind; he must be circumspect, or his
intentions will be promptly inquired into. He puts on his Sunday
clothes with lavender kids when he comes to ask the important
question, and as soon as a satisfactory answer has been obtained the
happy pair are congratulated by the family, and the table is decorated
for the festive meal. They go out arm-in-arm to call upon their
friends in a day or two, and a formal announcement is not only sent
round to all their acquaintance, but is also inserted in the daily
papers. Great attention must be paid to the exact title possessed by
every one connected with the happy pair, as titles count for much in
Germany. The engaged girl is called a bride, and her lover a
bridegroom, before marriage. She shows her prowess in the culinary
line by preparing the meals to which he is invited. They are not
supposed to travel alone; even if they are going to stay with his
relations, some lady must {67} accompany them. In many cases the
parents have qualms about allowing too much _tête-à-tête_ intercourse
to the engaged couple, but greater liberty is gradually being given.

In Russia

it is considered a disgrace for a woman to be unmarried, and if no
suitor offers himself, she leaves her home and settles in a strange
place as a widow. She may prefer to travel for a time, and return home
with a pitiful tale of the husband she lost at sea, or who died at the
beginning of the honeymoon. The priests often act as intermediaries,
but sometimes a woman versed in dark lore makes the arrangements. At
the betrothal feast the girl gives her lover a long lock of her hair,
and he gives her a silver ring set with turquoise, bread and salt, and
an almond cake. This interchange of gifts is equal to a marriage bond.
All the presents have a symbolical meaning; the rings are bought from
and blessed by the clergy, and are treasured as heirlooms in the

In Spain

girls are most jealously guarded, and marriages are arranged by the
parents. Still the romantic element is not wanting. The young man sees
the lady who steals his heart, and begins to woo her from a distance
with eyes and voice till he can gain an introduction to her family.
The main joy in a Spanish courtship is the clandestine prelude to the
actual engagement. He may follow the lady about and serenade her,
according to regulations, but he may not speak till he is introduced.
She appears to ignore his attentions, but she misses nothing. The

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Online LibraryG. R. M. DevereuxThe Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage → online text (page 4 of 9)