G. R. M. Devereux.

The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage online

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chief events in her childhood and youth. There is much merriment, and,
I believe, the breaking of crockery has a part in the proceedings. The
bridesmaids are accompanied by an equal number of young men, called
_Brautf├╝hrer_. The bridal wreath is always of myrtle, not orange
blossom, and the bride and bridegroom exchange rings. Customs vary
according to social station and locality.

{108} At a South German peasant's wedding there is wild rejoicing and
much ceremony. The guests are invited by a messenger, who draws devices
on the doorsteps of those he has to summon to the feast. There is music
and dancing, processions are formed to and from the church, the bride
is hailed with flowers, and all sorts of emblematical offerings are
taken to church. The bridegroom stuffs his pockets with samples of
what he hopes will constitute his worldly wealth. If he never looks
back between the house and the altar, the bride knows that he will
never want a second wife. For those who have the leisure and
opportunity to study these peasant marriages a curious compound of
sentiment, superstition, and practical common sense will present
itself.


In Norway

the bride who has preserved her maiden state untarnished - it is not
necessarily expected of her - is crowned with a high, glittering crown
inlaid with gems, which is the property of the church, and can be
hired for five dollars. Special music is also performed in her honour
by the rustic musicians. Wedding festivities are marked by unbounded
hospitality. There is food and drink for all. When the procession is
formed the bride walks last, clad in a gorgeous costume which also
may be hired. There are both bridesmaids and bride-leaders, the latter
being married women who lend their moral support to the bride. The
couple kneel in the church under a sort of canopy made out of shawls
and scarves held up by the bridesmaids. After the ceremony an amount
of eating, drinking, and dancing go on that we can hardly imagine. The
bridegroom has a last sort of romp with his bachelor friends, and has
to be wrested from them by the married men. The bride dances off her
crown, is then blindfolded and surrounded by a ring of her
bridesmaids, and places her crown upon the head of one of them who is
claimed as the next bride. Before the cake is cut each friend lays a
coin upon it, and toasts are drunk with enthusiasm. In some provinces
the bride has to run away and hide the day after the wedding. A grand
search is then made, and she is carried home with much ado. This
practice still prevails among some of the native African tribes and
the aborigines of Australia.


{109}

In Brittany

the bridegroom pretends to "capture" his bride. He makes a mock
assault upon her house, which is carefully closed with locks and bolts
against him. The besieging party take bagpipes to while away the time.
Much parleying goes on, and every female member of the bride's family
is offered to the bridegroom by one of her male relations, who is the
chosen tormentor. When she finally does appear the pair exchange
sprigs of myrtle or orange blossom, and there is a dance. Before the
party starts for the church they all kneel in prayer, and the bride
takes a touching farewell of her parents. Feasting and revelry finish
up the day.


In Italy

the bride becomes entirely one of her husband's family, and his mother
is all-powerful. Before the marriage the couple, accompanied by three
witnesses, must go before the appointed authorities, and a document is
drawn up stating that they wish to marry. The witnesses sign this
paper to show that there is no impediment to the marriage. The
document is then posted up outside a stated public building for the
inspection of the passers-by. If no one makes any objection before the
end of a fortnight, the couple may then make a legal civil contract,
and nothing more is required. This arrangement was made to check the
power of the priests, who manipulated marriages much to their own
fancy under the Papal government. A youth must be eighteen and a girl
sixteen before they can marry. There are many superstitions about the
lucky and unlucky days for marriages. Sunday is the favoured day.
There are hardly ever any bridesmaids at an Italian wedding, as girls
are not supposed to be present on such occasions, so the married women
accompany the bride.


In Russia

no man under thirty nor woman under twenty-five may marry without the
consent of parents, but in the event of unreasonable opposition an
appeal may be made to the law. Both bride and bridegroom must give
costly presents {110} to the Church. The man comes to claim his bride
from her parents, and she kneels before them to ask pardon for all she
may have done to vex or grieve them. They raise her with a kiss of
forgiveness, and give her bread and salt in token that they will never
let her want. When she leaves her old home the door is left open as a
sign that she may always return to it. Rich brides wear nothing but
white and orange blossom; but pale blue and a coronet of silver ribbon
are more in accordance with the national custom. The religious
ceremony has all the ritual and grandeur of the Greek Church. The
bride has to prostrate herself before her husband in token of entire
submission. The best man attends the bride, not the bridegroom, and is
chosen by her. Seven o'clock in the evening is the time for Russian
weddings to begin. Mostly newly-married couples live with the
husband's family, who greet them on their return from church with
bread and salt. A dance follows, during which the bride has to change
her dress as many times as she has different costumes in her
trousseau. The supper is served at daybreak, after which the guests
depart. In Russia the wife's name is always a little different from
that of her husband, owing to the fact that the family name when borne
by a male is a substantive and can be used alone, while in a lady's
case it is only an adjective which requires completion to give it full
meaning.


In Sweden

a rainy day is considered lucky for a marriage, as it foretells
wealth. There is barbaric feasting at the wedding, and departing
guests are given a bottle of brandy and a huge ring of wheaten bread
with which to treat those they meet on their way home. The bride is
dressed by her particular friend, or by the pastor's wife, and wears a
black, beribboned gown, ornamented with mock gems, tinsel, and
artificial flowers. She has a myrtle wreath or a crown like her
Norwegian sister. Her shoes have some symbolical reference to possible
motherhood. In the left one her father places a silver coin, while her
mother puts gold in the right shoe. These represent the necessaries
and luxuries with which they hope she will be provided. On her return
from church her mother places a sweetmeat in her mouth to make her
gentle of speech.


{111}

In Spain

the bride always retains her maiden name attached to that of her
husband, and both must be used together. Flowers form a great feature
of Spanish marriages, and in each district blossoms have special
significance. In Valentia the ceremony takes place at night, and there
is a mock "marriage by capture." All the guests must leave by 1 A.M.
In Catalonia only the nearest relations of the pair are allowed to
attend the service, but many guests are asked to the house, and each
must bring a gift. It is an insult to refuse an invitation of this
kind. The guests are divided according to sex, and when the bridegroom
is tired of the men he goes and throws sweets at the ladies, exclusive
of his wife. Then dancing follows. The bride's father gives his
daughter her house, furniture, and trousseau, while the guests are
supposed to supply her dowry. In Andalusia no ring is used, but every
married woman wears flowers in her hair over the right ear as a mark
of her matronly dignity.


In Hungary.

A society has been formed in South Hungary to enable the bride to have
her name joined with that of her husband, and it may be noted, in
passing, that in Germany and Austria the wife takes the title as well
as the name of the man she marries. She is Mrs. Dr. Braun or Mrs.
Sanitary Inspector Meyer, Mrs Colonel Schmidt, and so on. The day
before a marriage in Hungary there is a grand display of the bride's
presents and trousseau, and the more garments, household linen, and
beds she has, the prouder she feels. Two matrons and six maids clad in
white, each of the latter carrying a crown, escort the bride to
church. After the service she goes to her husband's home, where the
feast lasts for days with occasional intervals. Each guest may have a
dance with and a kiss from the bride, for which payment is made in
small coins.


In Switzerland,

as in France, the civil marriage must precede the religious ceremony.
A widow or a woman separated from her {112} husband may not marry again
till at least ten months have elapsed since the death or deed of
separation. At a peasant's wedding there is often a mistress of the
ceremonies, who distributes red and blue handkerchiefs among the
guests, in return for which she receives money for the bride. The sum
thus collected is not given to her till she has been married for
forty-eight hours. They marry young, and life is too hard to leave
them much leisure for love-making. The Swiss are not an emotional
people on the whole, and the head, generally dominates the heart with
them. Customs vary according to the locality and the canton in which
the marriage takes place.


In Denmark

the same plain gold ring does duty both for betrothal and marriage,
the bridegroom changing it from the third finger of the left hand to
the third finger of the right at the marriage ceremony.


In France

women of the upper and middle classes often wear no wedding-ring. They
seem to regard it as a badge of servitude, and leave it to their
humbler sisters. In a Roman Catholic French church the bride is
attended by one bridesmaid and a groomsman, who after the service make
a collection from the guests and hand it over to the priest. The two
perform this act very gracefully. The gentleman turns one hand palm
upwards and the lady lets her fingertips rest upon his with her palm
downwards, while, as they pass down the aisle together, each holds an
alms-bag to the company with the other hand.

At one point in the service both bride and bridegroom are, given
lighted candles to hold. Rather risky for the wedding dress! thinks
the careful woman. The bride wears a costume similar to that worn in
England, but the bridesmaid is in more ordinary afternoon dress, and
the same may be said of the guests, who do not assume a distinctively
bridal appearance. Sometimes the civil marriage takes place
immediately before the religious one, or it may be performed on the
preceding day. The Protestant service is of course very simple. Most
married men in France wear a wedding-ring.




{113}

CHAPTER XX


_Runaway Matches - Remarriage of Widows and Widowers - The
Children - The Home - Dress - Comparisons._


Runaway Matches.

The old glamour and romance that idealised the runaway match in the
days of post-chaises and wayside hostelries have been destroyed by the
express train and the telegraph wire. In spite of the change that has
come over our social life, the clandestine marriage does still take
place; in fact it has been rather boomed in high circles of late; but
it might rather be called a "walkaway" than a runaway match. It can
all be done in such a quiet, business-like manner that no notice need
be drawn to what is going on. The man who urges a young girl into a
secret marriage lays himself open to some ugly charges, for parental
tyranny is out of date, and that alone provided sufficient excuse for
such a grave step.

The man who is mean enough to bind a girl to himself by marriage
before he has a home to give her, and then sends her back to her
parents as if nothing had happened, is not calculated to make a good
husband, unless his offence has the excuse of extreme youth. Let him
work his hardest and trust the girl to wait for him. If she will not
do that, it is certainly not worth while to commit a dishonourable
action for her sake.

The couple who marry and keep the fact a secret because they are
afraid of losing some one's money if they tell the truth, would have
done better to wait, or to tell each other that love was not good
enough without the wherewithal to gild it. In England no one can be
forced into a marriage, and all are free to choose whom they like {114}
as soon as they are of age; so why stain the start of their wedded life
by deception and falsehood? The seeds of distrust and contempt may
thus be sown in hearts where there should be mutual love and trust,
and then bitter fruits will spring up when once the novelty is over.
Given patience, honesty, and fidelity, there need be no secret
marriages in this empire.

A private marriage celebrated in the presence of only a few chosen
friends is what many may prefer and desire; but considering the
inevitable slur contained in the words: "_Why_ did they do it?" the
woman, at least, would do well to refrain from the sweets of stolen
waters.


Second Marriages.

Dr. Johnson pronounced a second marriage to be "The triumph of Hope
over Experience." Others who are less epigrammatic affirm that to take
a second partner is the highest compliment that can be paid to the
departed first. In some cases the real romance of marriage only awakes
with the second wooing. It by no means follows that it must be a dull,
prosaic, practical transaction.


The Children.

The great question in the remarriage of parents with children under
age is the welfare of those children, and the choice of husband or
wife, especially the latter, should be largely influenced by this
consideration. The step-father is not held in such disfavour as the
step-mother, probably because his relations with the young people are
not so intimate.


The Widow.

A genial student of womankind says: "A little widow is a dangerous
thing! She knows not only her own sex but the other too, and knowledge
is power. She is experienced, accessible, and free, and withal fatally
fascinating. There is a great charm in loving a woman who is versed in
the lore of love, and is practised in all the sleight-of-heart tricks
of it." Her courtship is more untrammelled than that of a {115} single
woman. Her position is all in her favour. If she is very young, she
will probably have a companion, or live with some relative. If she has
small children they can afford a very convenient element of propriety
when a lover comes to woo.

She does not always have a second engagement ring; she may prefer some
other trinket. It is also a matter of taste whether she retain her
first wedding-ring in its place or not. If she decides to banish it
she should do so before going to be married.


Dress.

Grey is no longer the compulsory shade for a widow's wedding frock.
Any light, delicate colour may be worn; but a woman has only one
_white_ wedding and one bridal veil in her life. The widow is not
supposed to make a display over her wedding. An air of somewhat
chastened joy is considered more suitable. Instead of bridesmaids she
has one lady attendant who should be in her place in church before the
bride arrives, and be ready to move to her side when required, to take
the gloves and bouquet (which should not be composed of purely white
flowers, nor is orange blossom permissible). There may be a second
edition of the wedding cake and the presents, but favours and floral
tributes are things of the past.


The Home.

If the widow has a nice home of her own she and her husband may decide
to live in it; but he will need to exercise tact in taking up his
position as master of a household that has hitherto gone on quite well
without him. An entire change of servants would probably be advisable
if not inevitable. The wife would be careful to give him his full
dignity, and not to let it appear that he was to be regarded in the
light of a pensioner on her bounty.


The Widower.

A man whose wife dies leaving him with young children, or even one
baby, is in a most pathetic position, and the best thing he can do is
to find some nice woman to console him and mother the little ones. It
is a pity that the two {116} qualifications cannot always go together.
It is rather risky for a sister or a niece to regard the home offered her
by a widowed brother or uncle as a permanency. Men who are apparently
satisfied with existing arrangements have a way of springing surprises
upon their devoted womenfolk, and when the new wife appears, the
sister or niece who has tided him over the worst part of his life must
find a home elsewhere. Of course the man is quite within his rights,
but I would warn those who may be living in a fool's paradise.

The widower with a house or estate would, naturally, consult the
future mistress of it about any alterations he proposed making before
his marriage. On her visits of inspection she would either be
chaperoned by her mother or some married relation; but, if more
convenient, he would ask a lady friend to come and meet her. If he had
a grown-up daughter she would continue to preside over his household
till after his marriage. It is not fair for a man to take a second
wife without giving any previous intimation to his adult sons and
daughters who may still be making their home with him. The
installation of a girl step-mother over youths of her own age places
them all in rather a difficult position, and has the possible making
of a tragedy in it. The widower who marries a spinster may go through
all the glories of a smart wedding for a second or third time if he
likes, seeing that it is the condition of the bride that decides such
matters.


Comparison with the Predecessor.

Those who play the role of No. 2 must make up their minds to be
compared, in thought if not in word, involuntarily if not
intentionally, with No. 1, and the process need not necessarily be
painful. Unless there has been some distressing or tragic element in
the first marriage, why should the memory of the dead be banished,
except by jealousy or inconstancy? It is not generous of No. 2 to try
and sweep away all traces of the predecessor. The man or woman who
will lightly abandon all the memories of the partner of youth, is not
so calculated to make an ideal companion for middle age as the one who
cherishes a tender regard for the dead side by side with an honest
love for the living.




{117}

CHAPTER XXI


_Marrying for Love; for Money; for a Home; for a
Housekeeper - Concluding Remarks._


Marrying for Love.

In spite of all that the cynics and pessimists may say, Love should be
the Lord of Marriage.

"How sweet the mutual yoke of Man and Wife
When holy fires maintain Love's heavenly life!"

True happiness cannot exist without it, however great the wealth or
exalted the position of the married pair may be, while the worst evils
of life are lightened and made bearable by its presence. Marrying for
love need not mean improvidence. Only an unreasoning passion based on
selfishness will plunge the beloved into privation and want. The
highest, truest love has its substratum of common sense,
self-restraint, and thought for others.

It is very hard to draw the line, for vices and virtues tread somewhat
closely on each other's heels. The division between prudence and
cowardice is often ill-defined. The love that rushes into poverty that
it is not strong enough to endure, has in it an element of the
selfishness that makes another sit still in comfort while the path is
being made smooth for her soft tread.

There are those who laugh at love, and say that mutual respect and
sufficient means are the only two reliable things with which to enter
upon matrimony. Both these excellent possessions may, however, be
quite compatible with love, in fact the former is bound to be included
in the softer passion or it will not wear very well. No one will deny
that a marriage founded on mere mutual respect may one day be {118}
crowned by true and lasting love; nor yet that pre-matrimonial love may
die a speedy or even violent death soon after the lovers are united;
but these possibilities do not alter the fact that taking things all
round, Love is the best and most precious asset with which to begin
married life.


Marrying for Money.

There are many marriages that are casually put under this heading
which do not deserve to be. A man's position may be such that it will
mean ruin to him if he adds to his expenses by taking a wife without a
penny. He honourably refrains from making any advances to girls who
are so situated; but that does not prevent his becoming really
attached to one whose income will make married life possible for him.
The possession of money does not make a woman unlovable for herself,
though it may give her an unenviable experience at the hands of the
fortune hunter.

The cold, calculating nature that deliberately plans a mercenary
marriage is probably satisfied for the time being by the acquisition
of the coveted wealth. Little pity will be given when the long-starved
human element of the man or woman begins to cry out for something more
than money can buy.

There are excuses for some mercenary alliances. The sorely-tried
daughter of impecunious parents, whose youth has been clouded by grey,
grinding poverty, and who sees the prospects of her brothers and
sisters blighted by lack of means to start them in life, is to be
pardoned, if not commended, when she marries for money, but she should
not deceive the man who gives it to her if she does not love him.

The man with talents and high ambitions may easily be tempted to take
the wife whose money will open a field for the realisation of his
hopes. He would be more of a man if he fought his way through alone.
The curse of it all is that no one marrying for money dares say so. It
would be brutal, no doubt; and unless there were some fair equivalent
to offer in exchange, probably few such marriages would take place.
When the cloak of simulated love is thrown over the real motive, often
only to be cast aside as soon as the prize is secured, it is hard not
to feel contempt and indignation.

{119} Marriage _with_ money is a necessity; marriage _for_ money is a
mere business affair, a travesty of the sacred institution.

"He that marries for money sells his liberty." It is humiliating
enough for a woman, but immeasurably mean in a man.


Marrying for a Home.

The woman with strong domestic instincts, who dreads to face life
alone, or has grown weary in the attempt to wage the fight
single-handed, often yields to the temptation of marrying one who can
give her a home, with only a secondary regard for the man himself. If
she duly counts the cost and does not ask too much, the plan may
succeed very well; but the entirely domestic woman does not hold the
highest place in a man's mind. He may fully value the creature
comforts she ensures for him, but she so soon becomes a drudge, and so
soon loses touch with the higher side of his nature that he will
probably seek sympathy elsewhere, and salve his conscience with the
thought that he has given her what she really wanted most.

She must never forget that she has to reckon with the man who has
provided her with a home; and she will probably have to repay him in
whatever coin he may choose.


Marrying for a Housekeeper.

The man who must keep a home together and maintain appearances grows
tired of wrestling with domestic problems, and either dreads the
sudden departure of his cook-housekeeper or trembles under her
tyrannical sway. He finally takes a lady who cannot give him a month's
notice, nor leave his roof by stealth without unpleasant consequences
to herself. When he thus primarily marries for a housekeeper who will
promote his own comfort, he should be satisfied if she shows the
needful domestic efficiency. He sometimes finds that the one who was
intended to be little more than a dependant turns out to be his
mistress. There are plenty of level-headed women who have done with
romance, and who are perfectly willing to take up the position of wife
to a man who honestly states that he requires a companion to {120} help
his digestion by conversing at meals, to manage his house, entertain
his guests, and darn his socks. When such a couple meet together let
them show mutual respect for each other's motives, and invest the
arrangement with comfort and dignity in the absence of tenderer
emotions.


Concluding Remarks.

However short a marriage may fall of the high ideal standpoint, there


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Online LibraryG. R. M. DevereuxThe Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage → online text (page 8 of 9)