G. R. M. Devereux.

The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage online

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moment a man or woman sees that the sweetness is beginning to cloy,
and the inaction to bore, it is time to return to everyday life.


Inevitable Test of Temperament.

The honeymoon is bound to disclose many hitherto unsuspected phases of
character. These revelations will be in proportion to the amount of
previous mutual understanding. The lover who has been free-handed
may turn into the husband who haggles over his hotel bills. The girl
who has always looked like a dainty picture (because there was some
one to take care of her things) may be careless and unkempt when there
is no one but her husband to see her. The man who had preferred a
sandwich in the woods with his beloved, may be the one to swear at the
waiter if the made dishes are not exactly to his taste. The sweetheart
who has been all smiles, may prove but a sorry companion when exposed
to discomfort, and show herself quite unable to rise cheerfully to an
emergency.

On the other hand, surprises of a pleasant nature may be in store for
bride and bridegroom. Unthought of qualities may be called into play,
deeper feelings may be aroused, and the full sweetness of a character
only be fully revealed in the sacred privacy of the honeymoon.


Possible Disappointments.

A modern writer says: "How many ideals are shattered by the intimacy
of marriage, simply because the antenuptial love has been based upon
fiction and misunderstanding. If only a man and a woman made their
several motives for marrying quite clear to one another, and were not
quite so anxious to preserve a veneer of romance up to the very altar,
matrimony would not be the terrible iconoclast it too often is." This
is plain speaking, and one wonders how many marriages would ever take
place if this precept were carried out. It is true that much has to be
revealed after marriage. The {96} lover has only seen his sweetheart
when she has placed herself on view, so to speak. They were both kept
in check by the uncertainty of their position. The husband sees his
wife under all circumstances, in mentally trying moments, in
physically unbecoming situations. In fact, she has to appear before him
with her hair out of curl, actually and metaphorically, to use a homely
illustration.


Disillusion, Passing or Permanent.

The mental relations between husband and wife must necessarily differ
from those between lovers, and the more honest and sincere they have
been during their courtship, the less painful will be the awakening
after marriage. Where there is both love and trust, coupled with
common sense, a little humour, and a broad view of life, the
disillusion should only be a passing cloud that makes the sunshine all
the brighter for its temporary shade. Where there has been conscious,
or even involuntary, deception, an unreal position or exaggerated
idealisation on either side, the pain of disillusion will be poignant,
and its effect permanent. Things can be sorrowfully and bravely
patched up for mere outward use, but there will be a smart under the
smile, and a blank in the life that should have been so full.

Whatever mental crisis may follow marriage, the two who suffer, for
one seldom suffers alone, will do well to keep their own counsel. If
the silence is too great a strain, it is wiser, though perhaps not so
natural, to seek help from some trusted friend unconnected by kinship
with either family. Relations cannot take an unprejudiced view of the
case; they are bound to be biassed in favour of their own, and even if
family jars are not openly discussed the leaven works, and its effect
is soon perceptible.




{97}

CHAPTER XVII


_The Return Home - A Plunge into the Practical - Housekeeping - Wedding
Calls - The Newly-married Couple at Home and in Society._


The Return Home.

It is the unanimous and unqualified opinion of those who know, that
the first year of married life practically answers the question "Is
Marriage a Failure?" The bride who can emerge triumphantly from this
searching ordeal will hold her own for the rest of her career as a
wife. The newly-married girl or woman has everything to try her
mettle. The end of the honeymoon sees the beginning of her real work.
She has won her husband; she has charmed and satisfied him in the
hours of love in idleness; she has now to keep him true to his
allegiance through the dull prosaic days of ordinary, humdrum life.
For the husband the change is not nearly so great. He has his usual
daily avocations to follow; his business or professional duties have
undergone no alteration.

We will hope the wedded pair have a nice cosy home awaiting their
return. If the honeymoon has been short, the bulk of the preparations
will have been made before the wedding, and a mother or sister will
have put the finishing touches during the bride's absence, but no one
should be awaiting them in their new home except the servants they
have engaged. It may be that there is a visit to be paid to relations
before settling into the new home, and this will be a little trying.
Those who love them and who watch them start on their wedding journey
will eagerly scan their features for some sign to indicate how things
have gone with them in this important interval. A happy heart need
shun {98} no such scrutiny, but where the slightest wound is hidden
under smiles the loving solicitude will give pain.


A Plunge into the Practical.

Whatever the nature of the new home may be, whether mansion or
cottage, town flat or suburban villa, even if it be but the temporary
resting-place of furnished rooms, the wife will do well to begin by
studying her husband's comfort, and finding out any special likes and
dislikes that may not as yet have come under her notice. He, for his
part, must not expect too much, and should try not to make her
painfully conscious of her shortcomings. He might also reflect with
advantage, when things are not to his taste, that he has himself to
thank for a good deal. He chose his wife for her youth, her beauty,
her charm, or her money it may be, and he then asked for no other
qualification. He took up all her thoughts and her spare time during
their engagement, and all he asked was that she should look nice and
let him make love to her. She was purely ornamental in those days, and
he was content to have her so. Once marriage is over he expects her to
develop exactly those domestic gifts that shall best minister to his
comfort and well-being. This cannot be done in a day.


Housekeeping.

Apart from the strangeness of her position, her probable isolation
from all familiar faces, her mingled sense of freedom and
responsibility, the young wife has much to contend with. Housekeeping
comes more easily to some women than to others, and the one who has a
domestic gift scores a big point in starting married life. The girl
who has had no previous training or practical experience will spend
many a bitter moment face to face with her own utter incompetence. The
servant question alone is enough for most people. The young maid knows
her new mistress is but a novice; the experienced cook regards her
either from a motherly point of view or in the light of lawful prey.
She has, however, to maintain her dignity in the face of all this. She
knows her ignorance will be detected and possibly laughed at, behind
her back, but she {99} must not compromise the position in which her
husband has placed her by undue familiarity, or undignified relations
with those over whom she is to preside. By this it is not meant that a
mistress should be afraid of being civil and even friendly with her
maids; but she must discern nicely between that which breeds contempt
and that which adds affection to respect.


Money Matters.

Many girls have had no money to manage beyond the spending of a dress
allowance, with an indulgent parent always ready to make up the
deficit. It would be well for every mother to give the housekeeping
accounts into the hands of her engaged daughter for at least a month
before she marries. She will not master the subject, but she will
acquire some idea of the just prices of household commodities, and the
quantities that should be ordered. The bride who suggested the leg of
beef "for a change" is happily fictional, but it is to be feared that
many do not much exceed her in knowledge. Some men give their wives a
regular weekly allowance for domestic expenses, and this seems a fair
way to do things. Others believe in paying everything by cheque, and
thus keep all the money in their own hands. Provided the husband is
pleasant when the cheques are drawn out the wife is saved a great deal
of trouble; but the man who swears over the monthly bill, and wants an
account of every pound of meat consumed in that time, creates a
perpetual burden for his luckless partner. The early mismanagement of
household expenses is fraught with sorrow to the well-meaning wife and
heart-searchings to the husband, who begins to ask anxiously: "Could I
really afford to marry?" Whatever the precise nature of the
arrangement may be, there should be a clear understanding as to how
the expenses are to be divided. Supposing the wife has her own income,
or an allowance from her husband, she ought to know exactly what that
sum is expected to cover. She is also entitled to a definite knowledge
as to the extent of his income. Many a tragedy might have been averted
if the wife had been taken earlier into the husband's confidence.


{100}

Wedding Calls.

There is much diversity of opinion as to how the bride is to make her
home-coming known to her friends. The fashion of sending wedding-cards
is pronounced out of date, and they are only now tolerated when
enclosed with wedding-cake to old friends. It is no longer necessary
for the bride to sit at home in expectant and solitary grandeur,
waiting for the callers to make their appearance. She is free to go
out and about as she pleases, unless, of course, she has fixed any
date upon which to receive friends. She must be careful to return all
the calls made upon her in due time, and should note the At Home days
and addresses of her new acquaintances. The simplest way is to let the
date of return filter out through friends, and if any one is really
anxious to call she will find out when to do so. In the suburbs and in
country towns the bride may quite well give an At Home to the friends
who gave her presents, and to those who were at her wedding, without
waiting for them to call upon her. The invitations would be sent out
in the wife's name only, but her husband would put in an appearance if
possible. The bride would receive her friends in one of her dainty new
frocks, and though there would be no formal display of presents, those
who had given her pretty things would be pleased to see them put to
their appointed uses. It is not a bride's place to start an
acquaintance with older married people, nor is she expected to
entertain upon a large scale during the early part of her married
life. In certain cases, notably those of professional men, the social
success of the young wife may materially affect the financial position
of her husband. I knew of a doctor's bride who gave great offence to
his patients by omitting to return her wedding calls until after her
first child was born.


The Newly-married Couple at Home.

Loneliness is one of the bride's trials. She is alone the greater part
of the day. Her things are all new, and do not require much attention
in the way of mending or altering. Her household is but small, and
once she has had her morning interview with the cook there is not much
for her to do. The novelty of her position makes her restless, and
averse to {101} going on with the pursuits that have been interrupted by
her marriage. The old familiar home life is exchanged for solitary sway,
and she does not always know how to fill up the long hours. She gets
nervous, over-wrought, and is sometimes driven out of her new home in
search of excitement.

The woman who marries on a small income and has plenty of work to do
is not so liable to this unfortunate development.

The husband should be prepared for the effect of this uprooting on his
young wife. He must not grudge her the little diversions that will
help to pass the time while he is away. A woman with tact will choose
the right moment for unburdening her mind of domestic woes. It is
generally considered a wise plan to give a man a good dinner before
you tell him anything unpleasant. The less she tells him of her petty
worries the better a wife will get on, and the more her husband will
admire her. Real troubles and grave anxieties should always be shared,
and both authority and responsibility should be divided in a household
if things are to run smoothly. It will be well for the young wife if
she can feel the matrimonial ground firmly beneath her feet before she
is called upon to bear the additional anxieties and physical trials of
approaching motherhood.


In Society.

The bride is the honoured guest at any party given on her account. She
would naturally appear in white, and if it were a grand affair she
might don a modified edition of the wedding gown. I know a youthful
bride who, having been married in a travelling dress, ordered a white
satin frock at her husband's expense in which to make her social
_début_. The average newly-married couple are not the most
entertaining companions. Their own little world is too absorbing for
them to take much interest in the trifles outside it, but it is
beautiful to see their happiness. Sometimes they are tiresome. The
bride is the chief offender. She quotes her Adolphus as the
world-oracle, and dilates on her own recent domestic discoveries as if
they were what civilised humanity had been waiting for through dark ages
of perplexity. Her superior attitude towards unmarried friends not
unfrequently leads to friction.

We must have patience with her, for she is learning a great deal, and
has not yet had time to sort it out into proper proportions.




{102}

CHAPTER XVIII


_Mixed Marriages - Differences of Colour - Nationality and
Religion - Scotch Marriages - Marriage of Minors and Wards in Chancery._


Mixed Marriages.

Love overleaps all barriers, and it is of but little use to try and
bind it. Marriage, however, is another thing, and can be prevented
even where love exists. How far it is right or advisable to do so must
be a matter of individual judgment decided by the facts of each
separate case. To take an instance. There is a very strong feeling,
especially among medical men, against the marriage of cousins. Now
love deep and true may exist between two cousins; but, seeing the
physical deterioration that comes from the intermarrying of members of
one family, it may be a plain duty to unborn generations for these two
to abstain from marriage with each other. Where there is any
hereditary disease of mind or body it is little short of criminal to
contract such a union. In the matter of _Mixed Marriages_ - namely,
those between men and women differing from each other in colour,
nationality, or religion, it is generally thought that they are
fraught with grave risks.


The Question of Colour.

This does not affect us here in England as much as it does in India
and those parts of the empire where there is a coloured native
population. To those who have lived among {103} it the question is one
of burning importance. We cannot go into it here, but, seeing that
these marriages do take place even in England, a word of warning may not
be amiss. Women who are fascinated by coloured men would do well to note
that there is not a white man, good, bad, or indifferent, who does not
abhor the idea of a white woman's marrying a coloured man. This is not
the outcome of jealousy, nor yet of ignorance, for the more the
European has travelled the more rooted is his aversion to such unions.
He knows, as man with man, what the real mental attitude of those
dusky gentlemen is towards women. He knows what lies behind the
courtly manner, the nameless grace, and sensuous charm of these
impassioned lovers. No woman can know this till after marriage, and
then the knowledge does not do her much good. Let any woman who
contemplates a marriage with a coloured man, no matter how high his
caste may be, take counsel with some man who has lived among the dark
races and who cannot possibly be suspected of jealousy, and she will
learn that which may save her from an infinity of suffering.


Different Nationalities.

Among Europeans intermarriage is fairly frequent, and may turn out
well. No doubt it is a success in many cases, but where it is, I think
it will be found that either the man has become cosmopolitan in his
ideas or the woman has lived long enough abroad to fit in with
continental modes of life. The English girl who has been educated in a
French convent will not have the same difficulty in pleasing a French
husband or adapting herself to his ways as the home-reared girl who
meets "Monsieur Blanc" on her first visit to the Continent.

Without a fairly wide knowledge of the home life to which marriage
with a foreigner will lead, an English, Scotch, or Irish girl is
running a great risk by taking such a final step as matrimony, for in
no other country in Europe have women quite the same position as in
the British Isles. The more restricted the mental horizon of the one
may be, the less likelihood is there of perfect sympathy between
husband and wife.


{104}

The Necessary Formalities.

Where such a marriage has been decided upon, there are many
preliminary regulations to be observed. As my legal friend remarks: "A
strict observance of the marriage laws of foreign countries, where one
of the parties to a marriage is English and it takes place in England,
is most necessary, or a person may find herself or himself married in
England but legally repudiated abroad. In France the consent of
parents is required up to the age of twenty-five, and if refused, what
are called three respectful summonses are to be made. If consent be still
withheld, the party can marry legally." There was a case recently in the
English papers of a marriage between two French people being annulled
because the ceremony had been performed in England without the proper
formalities having been observed in France.

"In Germany the fact of the betrothal and intention to marry must be
advertised in newspapers circulating in the district or districts in
which the parties reside, and if one of them resides in England then
in an English newspaper. In Germany notice has also to be given to the
town-clerk or some like official."

Any marriage that is legal in the country where it is contracted is
valid in Switzerland. An Englishwoman marrying an Italian may be
married in England according to the rites of her own church, but a
copy of the marriage certificate must be sent to the nearest Italian
consul, who forwards it to the authorities of the man's native town or
place of residence. There should be no delay in doing this, as no
marriage is legal in Italy if not registered within three months of
its celebration.

There have been so many sad results from irregular mixed marriages
that at the February meeting of the Lower House of Convocation at York
a resolution was moved: "In view of the grave scandals arising in
respect to marriages between English and foreign subjects asking the
Upper House to consider the desirability of issuing an order to the
beneficed clergy and the diocesan registrars requiring that when a
foreigner gives notice of his intention to be married to an English
subject the marriage should not be solemnised till a consular
certificate was produced that the laws of the foreign country had been
complied with."


{105}

British Subjects Living Abroad.

No British subject, especially a woman, should agree to any form of
marriage without having first applied to the British consul of the
district, or to the embassy if there is one, for full particulars and
instructions for the contracting of a legal marriage in a foreign
country under the _Foreign Marriage Act of_ 1892. An Englishwoman
takes the nationality of the man she marries.

A marriage that would be illegal in England is unaffected by any
ceremony performed in the presence of authorised persons abroad should
the parties return to this country. For instance, a man who wishes to
marry his deceased wife's sister can go to a country where such a
marriage is legal and be married; but if the couple return to England
they are not man and wife in the eyes of the law.


Different Religious Persuasions.

Where there is a difference of religious faith and practice between
the man and woman, there will not only be the marriage ceremony to
arrange but there should be a clear, written agreement as to which
faith any children that may be born are to be reared in. The Roman
Church does not recognise marriage except when solemnised by her own
priests, but if one of the parties is not a Romanist the ceremony may
be afterwards gone through in an English church or Nonconformist
chapel. A Jew in England can be married by a registrar, but probably
the majority of Jews in England are married in a synagogue, in which
case a registrar is in attendance.

Any one who marries a Romanist should bear in mind that the dearest
aim of every faithful member of their Church is to bring others into
the fold. Many Nonconformists are willing and even anxious to be
married in the parish church of their district. It may be generally
said, save in the above-named case, that the woman gets her own way
about the religious ceremony. Where strong prejudice exists on either
side the matter may be settled by a civil contract; but apart from the
real question of religion, marriage before a registrar has not the
{106} social prestige which still clings to the time-honoured custom
of exchanging marital vows in the House of God.


Scotch Marriages.

The old law as to Scotch irregular marriages has been modified of late
years, and Gretna marriages are no longer recognised.

Twenty-one days' residence since 1896 is required, but otherwise
acknowledgment before witnesses is a legal marriage. In the year 1878
an Act entitled _An Act to encourage Regular Marriage in Scotland_ was
passed, and under it ministers may celebrate marriages on a
certificate from a registrar, which is equivalent to the publication
of banns. This certificate is issued by registrars on receiving notice
of the intended marriage. The registrar posts the notice in the
prescribed mode, and, if no objection is received, grants his
certificate. The notice must be given to the registrar of the district
or districts in which the parties have resided for fifteen days at
least.


Marriage of Minors and Wards in Chancery.

If a minor who is a ward in Chancery marries without the consent of
the Lord Chancellor (who takes care that proper settlements are made
of the ward's property), he or she commits a contempt of court, and is
liable to punishment accordingly. A minor who will inherit property
can be made a ward by settling £100 upon him or her and making a
proper application to the court. There is no law against two minors
marrying, but the consent of parents is required.




{107}

CHAPTER XIX


_Foreign Etiquette of Marriage - Quaint Customs and Strange
Superstitions._


Continental Weddings.

Many of the national, picturesque customs have disappeared from the
weddings of the townspeople and the more educated classes on the
Continent; but many distinctive points of etiquette still remain, and
we shall find that in matters of detail there is much that differs
from our English ways.

In _Germany_ it is impossible for young people to marry without the
consent of their parents or legal guardians, and unless certain
prescribed forms are gone through, the marriage will be null and void.
So many certificates of birth, parentage, etc., have to be produced
that, it is said, the working classes can neither afford the time nor
the money necessary for a legal marriage; so many of them do without
it. The husband is the lord and master; his wife's property passes
into his keeping and is at his absolute disposal. He may compel her to
work, and even if the pair be divorced he still retains her money. As
German girls are brought up to expect this, it does not strike them as
any hardship, and most of them are quite happy to be under the sway of
their liege lords.

The chief festivity of a German wedding is the _Polterabend_, a
somewhat hilarious party given the night before. The young friends of
the bride enact charades, or give living pictures illustrative of the


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Online LibraryG. R. M. DevereuxThe Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage → online text (page 7 of 9)