G. R. M. Devereux.

The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage online

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courtship is often protracted, but the girl is given freedom of
choice. The law can come to the assistance of lovers whose union is
prevented by their parents, in the same way as in France.

The amount of liberty given to the engaged couple differs in various
districts, but throughout Spain the love making may be said to end
with marriage. In Murcia they may not meet or speak unless her mother
is present, and the lover may neither touch the hand nor kiss the lips
of his sweetheart till she is his wife.



Unmarried girls in this country enjoy an unrivalled reputation for
gaiety and merriment. Bread is considered a love charm, and the two
who eat from the same loaf will fall in love with each other. The
suitor often sends an ambassador to a girl he has never seen, and if
his proposal is accepted he calls the next Sunday. The lady is not
supposed to take any notice of him, but continues her knitting in a
stolid fashion. In some parts there is a religious betrothal ceremony,
when plain gold rings are exchanged; but the more usual way of
celebrating an engagement is by a social festivity. The lover must
give a "Yes-Gift" to his future bride, which consists of a gold or
silver cup - the size is not stipulated - filled with coins wrapped up
in quite new white tissue-paper. He also gives her a prayer-book,
while she offers in return some garment she has made for him herself.
If it is a shirt he wears it on his wedding-day, and then lays it
aside to wear in his grave. These quaint customs are mostly found in
the country districts. Town-dwellers merely send out cards with the
names of the pair printed on each one, and further announcements
appear in the papers.

In Switzerland

there is not much romance in either wooing or wedding. The Swiss may
not marry till the youth is eighteen and the girl sixteen, and up to
the age of twenty the consent of parents or guardians is necessary.
When the time draws near for the wedding, the pair must go together to
a civil officer, and must each present him with a certificate of
birth, and tell him their ages, names, professions, and where they and
where their parents live. He then writes a deed containing their
promise of marriage, which must be made public for at least a
fortnight in the places where they were born, where they are living at
the time, and where they wish to be married. If nobody makes an
objection the ceremony can take place. May-Day is sacred to lovers in
Lucerne. He plants a small decorated pine-tree before her house at
dawn, and if he is accepted a right royal feast is prepared for him.
The little tree is {69} treasured till the first baby appears. A Swiss
peasant girl is often compelled to take the lover who lives nearest to
her home, as the introduction of an outsider is resented by the men of
the place.

The Hungarian

likes to linger over his wooing, and he is a past master in the art.
The lovers have absolute freedom of intercourse, and secure privacy in
the family circle by making a tent of his large, graceful cloak, under
which they sit and make love undisturbed. All the actual formalities
go through a third person, and much ceremony is observed in the
negotiations. The first stage of courtship is marked by the "Loving
Cup" feast, and the binding betrothal is known as the "Kissing

In Norway

courtship is of necessity a very long process among the peasant folk,
for money is not easily earned, and no man may marry till he is a
householder, while houses may only be built in certain places and
under fixed regulations. Seven years is quite an average time for an
engagement, during which they do their love-making in a simple,
unaffected manner. No man ever jilts a woman, and broken engagements
are almost unknown.

In _Greece_ parents pay a man to marry their daughter, and no man may
marry till all his own sisters are provided with _trousseaux_ and

The girl who _accepts_ an offer of marriage in _Greenland_ is for ever
disgraced. Her father may give her away or her husband may drag her by
her hair to his own tent, and it is all right. She must be married by
capture, against her own will, and the love comes afterwards, if at

A Thuringian girl gives her suitor sausage to eat as a sign that he is
rejected. A Spanish maid presents her lover with a pumpkin as her way
of saying "No." In the Russian district of the Ukraine the lady does
the courting, and {70} besieges the man in his own house. Courtesy will
not let him turn her out, so if he does not want her he has to seek other
quarters for himself. On the Isthmus of Darien either man or woman can
take the initiative, so every one gets a good chance all round.

It is not possible, here, to touch upon the elaborate betrothal and
marriage customs of the East.



_Marriage - Fixing the Day - Preparations - Selecting the Bridesmaids and
their Dresses - The Wedding Gown - The Trousseau - Invitations._


The aim of all true Courtship is marriage, which should take place as
soon as an engagement has lasted long enough to serve its purpose, and
when other circumstances are propitious. When the man's financial
position is sufficiently secured, and the woman is willing to renounce
her freedom for bonds that should be blessed, he asks her to "name the
happy day."

Fixing the Day.

In foreign countries there are many superstitions as to the fitness or
unfitness of days, times, and seasons; but in England May appears to
be the only month supposed to be unlucky for weddings. The reason for
this does not seem clear. The couplet

"If married in Lent
You are sure to repent,"

is an echo from the days when Church discipline was stricter than it
is now, and the time set apart for spiritual sorrow was not considered
suitable for the crowning of earthly happiness. Even in the present
day very few marriages are celebrated during the season of Lent.

There are many people and things to take into account when fixing the
important date. If the bridegroom elect is not his own master a time
must be chosen when he is sure to be at liberty. It was said of the
late Sir Walter Besant {72} that he was so overwhelmed with business
that he hardly had time to be married. The bride's father has also to
be considered, and if any particular church dignitary is required to
perform the ceremony his engagements will have to be taken into

When possible it is well to let a good interval elapse between the
final decision and the day itself. A month or six weeks is none too
much; more than this is often allowed.

The Bride's Burden.

There is a great deal of mental wear and tear for the bride-elect to
go through in the few weeks immediately before her marriage, and it is
a pity that it should be so. The fuss and display at an
up-to-date wedding make it a thing to quail before. Dress has become
so extravagant and absorbing that in the matter of her clothes alone
the girl has her time pretty well taken up. Instead of being able to
prepare calmly and restfully for the most vital step in life, she is
kept in a ceaseless whirl of mental and physical excitement till she
is well-nigh worn out. In any case care should be taken to avoid a
rush at the last. Let her have at least a few days of peace and
quietness in which to prepare for the great event. How can she realise
the solemnity of the vows she is going to make, or the gravity of the
responsibility she is taking upon her shoulders, if she never has a
moment to think and is being hurried from milliner to dressmaker, from
jeweller to shoemaker, from furrier to glovemaker, day in day out?

The Choice of the Bridesmaids.

In some families this is a difficult matter, and may be the cause of
much friction. The bride's sisters, if she has any, take precedence.
There may be a dear friend who has been promised this office since she
and the bride were at school together, but then _his_ sisters expect
to be asked, and they may be neither attractive nor very young. When
the desired number is but small, the problem is sometimes solved by
having two or three children and forswearing all adults. This is
certainly a prettier and less expensive arrangement, for children look
more picturesque as bridesmaids than the {73} average half-dozen
grown-up girls who cannot be chosen for their appearance. Elderly
bridesmaids in youthful frocks and girlish hats are ridiculous to the
unthinking, but pathetic to those who look below the surface.

Wedding Frocks.

"Married in white you have chosen all right," says the old rhyme, and
the "ivory duchesse satin" seems to have come to stay. There should,
however, be some regard for the future social position of the bride in
choosing the wedding gown. The girl who is marrying a man with a small
income, and who is prepared to begin housekeeping on a simple scale,
is not likely to want a magnificent satin dinner-gown with a court
train. A much less expensive frock would answer her requirements far
better, for, with the ever-changing fashions, the costly material
would have to be cut up and altered many a time before it was worn
out. It is a pity to weigh down a young girlish bride with heavy
brocades and silks that stand alone. Her freshness and beauty will
stand a simpler setting, and look all the sweeter in it. There are so
many soft, diaphanous fabrics made now, which fall into graceful
draperies, that I would like the young bride clad in some of them.

The Bridesmaids' Dresses.

The choice of a costume for the bridesmaids is not an easy matter. You
can find one that will suit two sisters to perfection, but there are
the others, with possibly such colouring as to forbid the very thing
that another will look her best in. White is taken as being generally
safe and becoming, but when worn unrelieved in the daytime it is very
trying to some. There are also the height and build of the various
girls to be considered, so altogether the matter demands much care and


The question of cost should not be ignored unless the bride is in a
position to give all the dresses, then she may be as lavish as she
thinks fit.

It is hardly fair to expect her friends to go to the most {74}
expensive house and to buy the most costly hats and frocks, which will
perhaps be of little use to them afterwards, merely for her personal
gratification. This is especially the case where two sisters are asked
to be bridesmaids. A girl may long to attend her friend to the altar,
and yet be obliged to decline because her parents cannot afford the
outlay necessitated by the extravagance of the costume. If one has her
frock made by an artiste, the others must follow suit or the picture
is spoilt.

The bride who is married in her travelling dress does not have
bridesmaids but attendants, whose dresses should harmonise but not
eclipse her own. Due regard should be paid to the time of year in the
choice of materials. White gauzy frocks look chill and comfortless in
mid-winter, even if the wearers do not shiver perceptibly and are not
afflicted with red noses; but soft, thick fabrics like white cloth or
velvet trimmed with touches of fur, suggest the warmth that lies
beneath the snow. The flowers of the season may well provide schemes
of colour, for Nature is the prince of artists. Primrose and daffodil
tints for the spring, the warm tones of the chrysanthemum for the
autumn, while summer sunshine makes everything look well.

The Trousseau.

A young friend of mine who was going to be married last year said to
me: "Oh! my things are so lovely! I never knew how delightful it was
to be able to have all the beautiful things you want." This sentiment
will be echoed by most of the fairly-well dowered brides of to-day.
There is generally a fixed sum set apart for the trousseau, and the
amount must necessarily control the extent of the purchases. The
_lingerie_ and underwear can be obtained from about ten guineas, with
prices varying according to the number and quality of the garments, up
to forty or fifty guineas. Dresses, boots and shoes, and all out-door
wear, including hats, must be added on to this outlay.

Few people buy many dresses at once now, on account of the changeful
whims of fashion; but the great point is to have the few gowns of good
material and excellent cut.

There are a hundred items, only known to a woman {75} or her maid, with
which the bride should be well stocked. It is a disgrace to don a
costly opera-cloak when you have not a decent dressing-gown, or to
load yourself with finery when your stockings are in holes. Feminine
attire is so dainty and fascinating in the present day that there is a
danger of setting more value on the trimmings and make than on the
quality of the material. Let the bride-elect try to picture her pretty
things when they emerge from the ruthless hands of a laundress, and
she will realise the value of quality. Where anything like regular or
hard wear is required, it is always good economy to buy the best. All
garments that need to be marked must have the initials of the bride's
married name upon them. All women are supposed to love shopping.
Surely no expeditions can be so delightful as going to buy the
trousseau with a well-stocked purse!


These are sent out by the bride's mother, or whoever acts in that
capacity. Any good stationer will have plenty of printed cards, such
as are generally used, from which a choice may be made. Simplicity of
design is always a mark of refinement. The wording would be as

Mr. and Mrs. Carstairs

request the pleasure of

Captain and Mrs. Boyd's company


_the Marriage of their Daughter_



Mr. Sydney Boroughs,


S. John's, Beckenham,

_on Wednesday, April 17th, at 2 p.m.,_

and afterwards at the Grange.


Any friend who has sent a present before the invitations are out must
be invited. The general feeling seems to be that {76} an invitation to
a wedding involves a present, and that is rather a tax. It also takes
away from that purely voluntary spirit which is the beauty of a gift.
In some cases friends are only asked to the church, the reception at
home being confined to members of the two families.

A bridesmaid who lives at a distance must be asked to stay at the
bride's home for a few days before the wedding.

The death of a near relation would necessitate the postponement of the
wedding, and this would cancel all invitations. In cases of loss more
remote from the young couple, the wedding takes place soon after the
first date, "but quietly, owing to family bereavement." A notice to
this effect is often put in the papers when a marriage has been
publicly announced, but in a more private affair, notes would be sent
to those who had been invited.



_Wedding Presents - Choosing and Furnishing the House - What the
Bridegroom Supplies - The Bride's Share in the Matter._

Wedding Presents.

With the increasing luxury and love of display that marks modern life
the wedding-present tax, as I have heard it called, becomes a burden
proportionately heavy to the social ambition of the giver. It seems a
pity that there should be so much vulgarising advertisement about what
are supposed to be private weddings. There is also too much routine in
the choice of the gifts themselves. The perennial mustard-pots and
salt-cellars are monotonous, and while comparative strangers may be
driven to make a conventional offering, private friends might leave
the groove and strike out a new line.

Cheques are only given by old friends or relations of the recipient.
They are always acceptable. The future position of the couple should
be taken into account. Good silver is always a joy, except perhaps
when you have to keep it clean. The young wife with only one servant
will have to rub up her own silver backed brushes and sweetmeat dishes
if she wants them to look nice. Of course it may be said that extra
silver can be put by till circumstances improve, or that it might be
useful in a financial emergency. This last idea is rather a gruesome
one to take to a wedding, and it is in the early days of her
housekeeping that the young wife likes to have her pretty things about
her. Why an artistic chair or table should not be as suitable as an
_entrée dish_ I do not quite see, and if a place is to look homelike
pictures are quite as necessary as silver pepper-pots.


A Temptation.

Both bride and bridegroom receive presents, some for individual,
others for mutual use. The bride must promptly and personally
acknowledge all those that are sent to her, and the bridegroom does
the same on his own account. Presents from mutual friends would be
mutually acknowledged, especially if the gift were sent to both of
them. When one does not feel very kindly disposed to the man or woman
whom our dear friend is going to marry there is a great temptation - I
don't know that it need be resisted - to send a gift that will be the
property and pleasure of that friend, and not to give the mutual
mustard-pot into which both will dip the spoon.

How to Send Them.

All wedding presents should be nicely and daintily packed up.
Sometimes they are better sent from the shop direct, but in that case
the card or cards of the donors should accompany them. Many people tie
their cards on with narrow white ribbon, and anything that adds to the
daintiness of a present is to be commended. It is a very sensible plan
for relations to let the young people choose their own sideboard or
dinner service, instead of buying it for them. There is only one
drawback to this arrangement. The thing that costs the most is so
often the thing we want most, even before we know the price, and it
would not be nice to feel we had trespassed on the generosity of the
giver by inducing him to spend more than he intended. It is becoming
the fashion for members of a family to club together and give a
handsome piece of jewellery, instead of each one presenting a smaller
trinket. This might well be done with more practical presents.

The Art of Giving.

Much of the pleasure afforded by a gift is contained in the way it is
given. There is an exquisite art in giving. Many people choose a
present just because they happen to like the thing themselves, whereas
a gift should be selected entirely with a view to the pleasure or use
it will afford to its future owner. A grand piano is no good to a girl
who will not have {79} a room large enough to hold it and herself.
Costly china is only an encumbrance to a woman who is going to follow
the fortunes of her soldier husband, and who will not have a settled
home for years. There must be kindly sympathy in the choice of gifts as
well as tact and courtesy in the offering of them.

The Selection of the House.

Whenever it is possible the young or newly married couple should start
their life together in a home of their own. I would warn all brides to
superintend the choice of that home. A man, certainly one of the
nicest kind, has not what may be called a domestic eye. If he is
artistic he will choose a dwelling for its picturesqueness, regardless
of drains and dank ditches near the house. An inert man will value his
home for its proximity to the station. Another considers the garden
the most important feature. The stay-at-home will be influenced by the
place which affords the most scope for the pursuit of his hobbies. Men
cannot gauge the amount of work that may be made or saved by the build
of a house and the arrangement of its rooms. The all-important
question of cupboards and store-rooms, the aspect of the larder and
condition of the kitchen range are things that do not appeal to the
masculine mind, especially when that mind is in love. If the bride is
young and inexperienced she will do well to visit the projected abode
with some practised housewife. The expeditions taken by the engaged
couple in search of their new home ought surely to be among their
sweetest experiences, even taking into account the misleading tactics
of the house agent.


In olden days, when the daughters of Eve span, the bride provided all
the household linen, most of which had taken shape under her own fair
fingers. Now the intending bridegroom furnishes the house throughout.
If the bride's father were wealthy and generous enough to make them a
present of the lining for the nest, I do not suppose the bridegroom or
the bride would have any objection. One argument for not furnishing
till after the wedding is that many of the presents in money and kind
might be valuable adjuncts; {80} but then those presents would come
from near relations who could tell the young people what to expect. A
chest of plate or a box of linen, a piano or some such handsome item
often comes from some one in the bride's family, but failing such gifts,
the bridegroom must supply the new home with all needful articles.

The Bride's Share in the Matter.

As she is to be the mistress of the establishment, the bride should
have a voice in all that concerns it. Many departments of house
furnishing do not require the assistance of the male mind at all. They
will both like to choose the actual household gods, to discuss schemes
of colour and decoration together; but no woman need take a man to buy
saucepans, or request his opinion on such soft matters as pillows and
blankets. It will please his mother if the bride consults her about
domestic details, and in any case she will profit by the advice of one
who has been there.

Things to be Considered.

However small it is, the newly married pair should have their home to
themselves, and it is as well not to settle immediately under the
parental eye on either side. Like Kipling's ship, they have to "find
themselves," and they will do it far better alone together. At the
same time it is not good for a bride to be set down in an utterly
strange neighbourhood, where she will not know a soul till the people
are thoroughly satisfied as to her respectability. This, as we shall
see later, may constitute a grave danger.

The husband should think of his wife's daily round as well as of his
own train service to town or the house's proximity to the golf links.
They should go to some place within easy reach of friends, or where
they have good introductions to possible people. When preparing to
start life together they should not be too ambitious. Because she has
been brought up in a big house, he is doing her no kindness by
saddling himself with a higher rent than he can really afford to pay.
She is quite willing to take him in exchange for the extra
accommodation that she is giving up. That is, if she is the right sort
of woman.



_The Nature of the Ceremony - Religious or Civil - Banns or
Licence - Legal Formalities - Settlements._

The Nature of the Ceremony.

In most foreign countries a civil contract has to precede any
religious ceremony that may be desired. In England the marriage is
either religious or civil, though in order to make the union valid
certain legal formalities must be observed with every religious form
of marriage.

The Religious Ceremony

will not lightly be set aside by those who regard marriage in its
highest aspect; but the nature of the service will differ according to
the views of the contracting parties. A valid marriage can only take
place in a church or chapel duly licensed by the bishop for the
solemnisation of such a ceremony.


This word, which we now connect exclusively with the one idea, applied
in former days to any public proclamation. Where marriage by banns is
desired due notice must be given, so that they can be published on
three Sundays, before the ceremony, in the parish or parishes where
the intending bride and bridegroom live at the time. If the wedding is
to take place elsewhere the clergyman who has published the banns
signs a certificate to that effect, which must be given to the one in
whose church the service is performed. If wrong names are wilfully
given in, with intent to deceive, the {82} publication of banns is
invalid, and the marriage will be null and void. If only one party be
guilty of fraud in this respect the proceedings are legal. Unless the
couple are married within three months of the publication of their banns
they must be republished or a licence procured. One object of these
restrictions is to check runaway matches, and to ascertain whether the
parties are of legal age, or are marrying with proper consent from
parents or guardians. A marriage may be performed in a church without

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Online LibraryG. R. M. DevereuxThe Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage → online text (page 5 of 9)