Bright and early in the morning he hurries to the house of the groom, generally before the latter is up. Very likely they breakfast together; in any event, he takes the groom in charge precisely as might a guardian. He takes note of his patients general condition; if he is normal and fit, so much the better. If he is up in the air or nervous the best man must bring him to earth and jolly him along as best he can.
His first actual duty is that of packer and expressman; he must see that everything necessary for the journey is packed, and that the groom does not absent-mindedly put the furnishings of his room in his valise and leave his belongings hanging in the closet. He must see that the clothes the groom is to wear away are put into a special bag to be taken to the house of the bride (where he, as well as she, must change from wedding into traveling clothes). The best man becomes expressman if the first stage of the wedding journey is to be to a hotel in town. He puts all the grooms luggage into his own car or a taxi, drives to the brides house, carries the bag with the grooms traveling suit in it to the room set aside for his useusually the dressing-room of the brides father or the bedroom of her brother. He then collects, according to prearrangement, the luggage of the bride and drives with the entire equipment of both bride and groom to the hotel where rooms have already been engaged, sees it all into the rooms, and makes sure that everything is as it should be. If he is very thoughtful, he may himself put flowers about the rooms. He also registers for the newly-weds, takes the room key, returns to the house of the groom, gives him the key and assures him that everything at the hotel is in readiness. This maneuver allows the young couple when they arrive to go quietly to their rooms without attracting the notice of any one, as would be the case if they arrived with baggage and were conspicuously shown the way by a bell-boy whose manner unmistakably proclaims Bride and Groom!
Or, if they are going at once by boat or train, the best man takes the baggage to the station, checks the large pieces, and fees a porter to see that the hand luggage is put in the proper stateroom or parlor car chairs. If they are going by automobile, he takes the luggage out to the garage and personally sees that it is bestowed in the car.
His next duty is that of valet. He must see that the groom is dressed and ready early, and plaster him up if he cuts himself shaving. If he is wise in his day he even provides a small bottle of adrenaline for just such an accident, so that plaster is unnecessary and that the groom may be whole. He may need to find his collar button or even to point out the missing clothes that are lying in full view. He must also be sure to ask for the wedding ring and the clergymans fee, and put them in his own waistcoat pocket. A very careful best man carries a duplicate ring, in case of one being lost during the ceremony.
With the brides and grooms luggage properly bestowed, the ring and fee in his pocket, the grooms traveling clothes at the brides house, the groom in complete wedding attire, and himself also ready, the best man has nothing further to do but be gentleman-in-waiting to the groom until it is time to escort him to the church, where he becomes chief of staff.
Even if the wedding is to be at four oclock, it will still be early in the morning when the business of the day begins. But let us suppose it is to be at noon; if the family is one that is used to assembling at an early breakfast table, it is probable that the bride herself will come down for this last meal alone with her family. They will, however, not be allowed to linger long at the table. The caterer will already be clamoring for possession of the dining-roomthe florist will by that time already have dumped heaps of wire and greens into the middle of the drawing-room, if not beside the table where the family are still communing with their eggs. The door-bell has long ago begun to ring. At first there are telegrams and special delivery letters, then as soon as the shops open, come the last-moment wedding presents, notes, messages and the insistent clamor of the telephone.
Next, excited voices in the hall announce members of the family who come from a distance. They all want to kiss the bride, they all want rooms to dress in, they all want to talk. Also comes the hairdresser to do the brides or her mothers or aunts or grandmothers hair, or all of them; the manicure, the masseuseany one else that may have been thought necessary to give final beautifying touches to any or all of the female members of the household. The dozen and one articles from the caterer are meantime being carried in at the basement door; made dishes, and dishes in the making, raw materials of which others are to be made; folding chairs, small tables, chinaware, glassware, napery, knives, forks and spoonsit is a struggle to get in or out of the kitchen or area door.
The brides mother consults the florist for the third and last time as to whether the bridal couple had not better receive in the library because of the bay window which lends itself easily to the decoration of a background, and because the room, is, if anything, larger than the drawing-room. And for the third time, the florist agrees about the advantage of the window but points out that the library has only one narrow door and that the drawing-room is much better, because it has two wide ones and guests going into the room will not be blocked in the doorway by others coming out.
The head usher comes to ask whether the Joneses to be seated in the fourth pew are the tall dark ones or the blond ones, and whether he had not better put some of the Titheringtons who belong in the eighth pew also in the seventh, as there are nine Titheringtons and the Eminents in the seventh pew are only four.
A bridesmaid-elect hurries up the steps, runs into the best man carrying out the luggage; much conversation and giggling and guessing as to where the luggage is going. Best man very important, also very noble and silent. Bridesmaid shrugs her shoulders, dashes up to the brides room and dashes down again.
More presents arrive. The furniture movers have come and are carting lumps of heaviness up the stairs to the attic and down the stairs to the cellar. It is all very like an ant-hill. Some are steadily going forward with the business in hand, but others who have become quite bewildered, seem to be scurrying aimlessly this way and that, picking something up only to put it down again.
Here, where the bride and groom are to receive, one can not tell yet what the decoration is to be. Perhaps it is a hedged-in garden scene, a palm grove, a flowering recess, a screen and canopy of wedding bellsbut a bower of foliage of some sort is gradually taking shape.
The dining-room, too, blossoms with plants and flowers. Perhaps its space and that of a tent adjoining is filled with little tables, or perhaps a single row of camp chairs stands flat against the walls, and in the center of the room, the dining table pulled out to its farthest extent, is being decked with trimmings and utensils which will be needed later when the spaces left at intervals for various dishes shall be occupied. Preparation of these dishes is meanwhile going on in the kitchen.
The caterers chefs in white cooks caps and aprons are in possession of the situation, and their assistants run here and there, bringing ingredients as they are told; or perhaps the caterer brings everything already prepared, in which case the waiters are busy unpacking the big tin boxes and placing the bain-marie (a sort of fireless cooker receptacle in a tank of hot water) from which the hot food is to be served. Huge tubs of cracked ice in which the ice cream containers are buried are already standing in the shade of the areaway or in the back yard.
Back again in the drawing-room, the florist and his assistants are still tying and tacking and arranging and adjusting branches and garlands and sheaves and bunches, and the floor is a litter of twigs and strings and broken branches. The photographer is asking that the central decoration be finished so he can group his pictures, the florist assures him that he is as busy as possible.
The house is as cold as open windows can make it, to keep the flowers fresh, and to avoid stuffiness. The door-bell continues its ringing, and the parlor maid finds herself a contestant in a marathon, until some one decides that card envelopes and telegrams had better be left in the front hall.
A first bridesmaid arrives. She at least is on time. All decoration activity stops while she is looked at and admired. Panic seizes some one! The time is too short, nothing will be ready! Some one else says the bridesmaid is far too early, there is no end of time.
Upstairs everyone is still dressing. The father of the bride (one would suppose him to be the bridegroom at least) is trying on most of his shirts, the floor strewn with discarded collars! The mother of the bride is hurrying into her wedding array so as to be ready for any emergency, as well as to superintend the finishing touches to her daughters dress and veil.
Everyone knows what a wedding dress is like. It may be of any white material, satin, brocade, velvet, chiffon or entirely of lace. It may be embroidered in pearls, crystals or silver; or it may be as plain as a slip-coveranything in fact that the bride fancies, and made in whatever fashion or period she may choose.
As for her veil in its combination of lace or tulle and orange blossoms, perhaps it is copied from a head-dress of Egypt or China, or from the severe drapery of Rebecca herself, or proclaim the knowing touch of the Rue de la Paix. It may have a cap, like that of a lady in a French print, or fall in clouds of tulle from under a little wreath, such as might be worn by a child Queen of the May.
Roman brides wore yellow veils, and veils were used in the ancient Hebrew marriage ceremony. The veil as we use it may be a substitute for the flowing tresses which in old times fell like a mantle modestly concealing the brides face and form; or it may be an amplification of the veil which medieval fashion added to every head-dress.
In olden days the garland rather than the veil seems to have been of greatest importance. The garland was the coronet of the good girl, and her right to wear it was her inalienable attribute of virtue.
At present the veil is usually mounted by a milliner on a made foundation, so that it need merely be put onbut every young girl has an idea of how she personally wants her wedding veil and may choose rather to put it together herself or have it done by some particular friend, whose taste and skill she especially admires.
If she chooses to wear a veil over her face up the aisle and during the ceremony, the front veil is always a short separate piece about a yard square, gathered on an invisible band, and pinned with a hair pin at either side, after the long veil is arranged. It is taken off by the maid of honor when she gives back the brides bouquet at the conclusion of the ceremony.
The face veil is a rather old-fashioned custom, and is appropriate only for a very young bride of a demure type; the tradition being that a maiden is too shy to face a congregation unveiled, and shows her face only when she is a married woman.
Some brides prefer to remove their left glove by merely pulling it inside out at the altar. Usually the under seam of the wedding finger of her glove is ripped for about two inches and she need only pull the tip off to have the ring put on. Or, if the wedding is a small one, she wears no gloves at all.
Brides have been known to choose colors other than white. Cloth of silver is quite conventional and so is very deep cream, but cloth of gold suggests the habiliment of a widow rather than that of a virgin maidof which the white and orange blossoms, or myrtle leaf, are the emblems.
If a bride chooses to be married in traveling dress, she has no bridesmaids, though she often has a maid of honor. A traveling dress is either a tailor made if she is going directly on a boat or train, or a morning or afternoon dresswhatever she would wear away after a big wedding.
But to return to our particular bride; everyone seemingly is in her room, her mother, her grandmother, three aunts, two cousins, three bridesmaids, four small children, two friends, her maid, the dressmaker and an assistant. Every little while, the parlor-maid brings a message or a package. Her father comes in and goes out at regular intervals, in sheer nervousness. The rest of the bridesmaids gradually appear and distract the attention of the audience so that the bride has moments of being allowed to dress undisturbed. At last even her veil is adjusted and all present gasp their approval: How sweet! Dearest, you are too lovely! and Darling, how wonderful you look!
Let me see, says the bride, old, I have old lace; new, I have lots of new! Borrowed, and blue? A chorus of voices: Wear my ring, Wear my pin, Wear mine! Its blue! and some ones pin which has a blue stone in it, is fastened on under the trimming of her dress and serves both needs. If the lucky sixpence (a dime will do) is produced, she must at least pay discomfort for her luck.
Again some one suggests the photographer is waiting and time is short. Having pictures taken before the ceremony is a dull custom, because it is tiring to sit for ones photograph at best, and to attempt anything so delaying as posing at the moment when the procession ought to be starting, is as trying to the nerves as it is exhausting, and more than one wedding procession has consisted of very dragged out young women in consequence.
At a country wedding it is very easy to take the pictures out on the lawn at the end of the reception and just before the bride goes to dress. Sometimes in a town house, they are taken in an up-stairs room at that same hour; but usually the bride is dressed and her bridesmaids arrive at her house fully half an hour before the time necessary to leave for the church, and pictures of the group are taken as well as several of the bride alonewith special lightsagainst the background where she will stand and receive.
Whether the pictures are taken before the wedding or after, the bridesmaids always meet at the house of the bride, where they also receive their bouquets. When it is time to go to the church, there are several carriages or motors drawn up at the house. The brides mother drives away in the first, usually alone, or she may, if she chooses, take one or two bridesmaids in her car, but she must reserve room for her husband who will return from church with her. The maid of honor, bridesmaids and flower girls go in the next vehicles, which may be their own or else are supplied by the brides family; and last of all, comes the brides carriage, which always has a wedding appearance. If it is a brougham, the horses headpieces are decorated with white flowers and the coachman wears a white boutonnière; if it is a motor, the chauffeur wears a small bunch of white flowers on his coat, and white gloves, and has all the tires painted white to give the car a wedding appearance. The bride drives to the church with her father only. Her carriage arrives last of the procession, and stands without moving, in front of the awning, until she and her husband (in place of her father) return from the ceremony and drive back to the house for the breakfast or reception.
If it should happen that the bride has neither father nor very near male relative, or guardian, she walks up the aisle alone. At the point in the ceremony when the clergyman asks who gives the bride, if the betrothal is read at the chancel steps, her mother goes forward and performs the office in exactly the same way that her father would have done.
Meanwhile, about an hour before the time for the ceremony, the ushers arrive at the church and the sexton turns his guardianship over to them. They leave their hats in the vestry, or coat room. Their boutonnières, sent by the groom, should be waiting in the vestibule. They should be in charge of a boy from the florists, who has nothing else on his mind but to see that they are there, that they are fresh and that the ushers get them. Each man puts one in his buttonhole, and also puts on his gloves. The head usher decides (or the groom has already told them) to which ushers are apportioned the center, and to which the side aisles. If it is a big church with side aisles and gallery, and there are only six ushers, four will be put in the center aisle, and two in the side. Guests who choose to sit up in the gallery find places for themselves.
Often, at a big wedding, the sexton or one of his assistants guards the entrance to the gallery and admission is reserved by cards for the employees of both families, but usually the gallery is open to those who care to go up. An usher whose place is in the side aisle may escort occasional personal friends of his own down the center aisle if he happens to be unoccupied at the moment of their entrance. Those of the ushers who are the most likely to recognize the various close friends and members of each family are invariably detailed to the center aisle. A brother of the bride, for instance, is always chosen for this aisle because he is best fitted to look out for his own relatives and to place them according to their near or distant kinship. A second usher should be either a brother of the groom or a near relative who would be able to recognize the family and close friends of the groom.
The first six to twenty pews on both sides of the center aisle are fenced off with white ribbons into a reserved enclosure. The parents of the bride always sit in the first pew on the left (facing the chancel); the parents of the groom always sit in the first pew on the right. The right hand side of the church is the grooms side always, the left is that of the bride.
It is the duty of the ushers to show all guests to their places. An usher offers his arm to each lady as she arrives, whether he knows her personally or not. If the vestibule is very crowded and several ladies are together, he sometimes gives his arm to the older and asks the others to follow. But this is not done unless the crowd is great and the time short.
If the usher thinks a guest belongs in front of the ribbons though she fails to present her card, he always asks at once Have you a pew number? If she has, he then shows her to her place. If she has none, he asks whether she prefers to sit on the brides side or the grooms and gives her the best seat vacant in the unreserved part of the church. He generally makes a few polite remarks as he takes her up the aisle. Such as:
I am so sorry you came late, all the good seats are taken further up. Or Isnt it lucky they have such a beautiful day? or Too bad it is raining. Or, perhaps the lady is first in making a similar remark or two to him.
Whatever conversation there is, is carried on in a low voice, not, however, whispered or solemn. The deportment of the ushers should be natural but at the same time dignified and quiet in consideration of the fact that they are in church. They must not trot up and down the aisles in a bustling manner; yet they must be fairly agile, as the vestibule is packed with guests who have all to be seated as expeditiously as possible.
The guests without reserved cards should arrive first in order to find good places; then come the reserved seat guests; and lastly, the immediate members of the families, who all have especial places in the front pews held for them.
It is not customary for one who is in deep mourning to go to a wedding, but there can be little criticism of an intimate friend who takes a place in the gallery of the church from which she can see the ceremony and yet be apart from the wedding guests. At a wedding that is necessarily small because of mourning, the women of the family usually lay aside black for that one occasion and wear white.
There are two ways in which people in front of the ribbons are seated. The less efficient way is by means of a typewritten list of those for whom seats are reserved and of the pews in which they are to be seated, given to each usher, who has read it over for each guest who arrives at the church. From every point of view, the typewritten list is bad; first, it wastes time, and as everyone arrives at the same moment, and every lady is supposed to be taken personally up the aisle on the arm of an usher, the time consumed while each usher looks up each name on several gradually rumpling or tearing sheets of paper is easily imagined. Besides which, one who is at all intimate with either family can not help feeling in some degree slighted when, on giving ones name, the usher looks for it in vain.
The second, and far better method, is to have a pew card sent, enclosed with the wedding invitation, or an inscribed visiting card sent by either family. A guest who has a card with Pew No. 12 on it, knows, and the usher knows, exactly where she is to go. Or if she has a card saying Reserved or Before the ribbons or any special mark that means in the reserved section but no especial pew, the usher puts her in the best position available behind the first two or three numbered rows that are saved for the immediate family, and in front of the ribbons marking the reserved enclosure.
It is sometimes well for the head usher to ask the brides mother if she is sure she has allowed enough pews in the reserved section to seat all those with cards. Arranging definite seat numbers has one disadvantage; one pew may have every seat occupied and another may be almost empty. In that case an usher can, just before the procession is to form, shift a certain few people out of the crowded pews into the others. But it would be a breach of etiquette for people to re-seat themselves, and no one should be seated after the entrance of the brides mother.
Meanwhile, about fifteen minutes before the wedding hour, the groom and his best manboth in morning coats, top-hats, boutonnières and white buckskin (but remember not shiny) gloves, walk or drive to the church and enter the side door which leads to the vestry. There they sit, or in the clergymans study, until the sexton or an usher comes to say that the bride has arrived.
At a perfectly managed wedding, the bride arrives exactly one minute (to give a last comer time to find place) after the hour. Two or three servants have been sent to wait in the vestibule to help the bride and bridesmaids off with their wraps and hold them until they are needed after the ceremony. The grooms mother and father also are waiting in the vestibule. As the carriage of the brides mother drives up, an usher goes as quickly as he can to tell the groom, and any brothers or sisters of the bride or groom, who are not to take part in the wedding procession and have arrived in their mothers carriage, are now taken by ushers to their places in the front pews. The moment the entire wedding party is at the church, the doors between the vestibule and the church are closed. No one is seated after this, except the parents of the young couple. The proper procedure should be carried out with military exactness, and is as follows:
The grooms mother goes down the aisle on the arm of the head usher and takes her place in the first pew on the right; the grooms father follows alone, and takes his place beside her; the same usher returns to the vestibule and immediately escorts the brides mother; he should then have time to return to the vestibule and take his place in the procession. The beginning of the wedding march should sound just as the usher returns to the head of the aisle. To repeat: No other person should be seated after the mother of the bride. Guests who arrive later must stand in the vestibule or go into the gallery.
The sound of the music is also the cue for the clergyman to enter the chancel, followed by the groom and his best man. The two latter wear gloves but have left their hats and sticks in the vestry-room.
The groom stands on the right hand side at the head of the aisle, but if the vestry opens into the chancel, he sometimes stands at the top of the first few steps. He removes his right glove and holds it in his left hand. The best man remains always directly back and to the right of the groom, and does not remove his glove.
Starting on the right measure and keeping perfect time, the ushers come, two by two, four paces apart; then the bridesmaids (if any) at the same distance exactly; then the maid of honor alone; then the flower girls (if any); then, at a double distance, the bride on her fathers right arm. She is dressed always in white, with a veil of lace or tulle. Usually she carries a bridal bouquet of white flowers, either short, or with streamers (narrow ribbons with little bunches of blossoms on the end of each) or trailing vines, or maybe she holds a long sheaf of stiff flowers such as lilies on her arm. Or perhaps she carries a prayer book instead of a bouquet.
As the bride approaches, the groom waits at the foot of the steps (unless he comes down the steps to meet her). The bride relinquishes her fathers arm, changes her bouquet from her right to her left, and gives her right hand to the groom. The groom, taking her hand in his right puts it through his left armjust her finger tips should rest near the bend of his elbowand turns to face the chancel as he does so. It does not matter whether she takes his arm or whether they stand hand in hand at the foot of the chancel in front of the clergyman.
Her father has remained where she left him, on her left and a step or two behind her. The clergyman stands a step or two above them, and reads the betrothal. When he says Who giveth this woman to be married? the father goes forward, still on her left, and half way between her and the clergyman, but not in front of either, the bride turns slightly toward her father, and gives him her right hand, the father puts her hand into that of the clergyman and says at the same moment: I do! He then takes his place next to his wife at the end of the first pew on the left.
A soloist or the choir then sings while the clergyman slowly ascends to the altar, before which the marriage is performed. The bride and groom follow slowly, the fingers of her right hand on his left arm.
The maid of honor, or else the first bridesmaid, moves out of line and follows on the left hand side until she stands immediately below the bride. The best man takes the same position exactly on the right behind the groom. At the termination of the anthem, the bride hands her bouquet to the maid of honor (or her prayer-book to the clergyman) and the bride and groom plight their troth.
When it is time for the ring, the best man produces it from his pocket. If in the handling from best man to groom, to clergyman, to groom again, and finally to the brides finger, it should slip and fall, the best man must pick it up if he can without searching; if not, he quietly produces the duplicate which all careful best men carry in the other waistcoat pocket, and the ceremony proceeds. The lost ringor the unused extra oneis returned to the jewelers next day. Which ring, under the circumstances, the bride keeps, is a question as hard to answer as that of the Lady or the Tiger. Would she prefer the substitute ring that was actually the one she was married with? Or the one her husband bought and had marked for her? Or would she prefer not to have a substitute ring and have the whole wedding party on their knees searching? She alone can decide. Fortunately, even if the clergyman is very old and his hand shaky, a substitute is seldom necessary.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the minister congratulates the new couple. The organ begins the recessional. The bride takes her bouquet from her maid of honor (who removes the veil if she wore one over her face). She then turns toward her husbandher bouquet in her right handand puts her left hand through his right arm, and they descend the steps.
The maid of honor, handing her own bouquet to a second bridesmaid, follows a short distance after the bride, at the same time stooping and straightening out the long train and veil. The bride and groom go on down the aisle. The best man disappears into the vestry room. At a perfectly conducted wedding he does not walk down the aisle with the maid of honor. The maid of honor recovers her bouquet and walks alone. If a bridesmaid performs the office of maid of honor, she takes her place among her companion bridesmaids who go next; and the ushers go last.
Sometimes the sexton takes charge of the grooms hat and stick and hands them to him at the church door as he goes out. But in either case the best man always hurries around to see the bride and groom into their carriage, which has been standing at the entrance to the awning since she and her father alighted from it.
All the other conveyances are drawn up in the reverse order from that in which they arrived. The brides carriage leaves first, next come those of the bridesmaids, next the brides mother and father, next the grooms mother and father, then the nearest members of both families, and finally all the other guests in the order of their being able to find their conveyances.
As soon as the recessional is over, the ushers hurry back and escort to the door all the ladies who were in the first pews, according to the order of precedence; the brides mother first, then the grooms mother, then the other occupants of the first pew on either side, then the second and third pews, until all members of the immediate families have left the church. Meanwhile it is a breach of etiquette for other guests to leave their places. At some weddings, just before the brides arrival, the ushers run ribbons down the whole length of the center aisle, fencing the congregation in. As soon as the occupants of the first pews have left, the ribbons are removed and all the other guests go out by themselves, the ushers having by that time hurried to the brides house to make themselves useful at the reception.
An awning makes a covered way from the edge of the curb to the front door. At the lower end the chauffeur (or one of the caterers men) stands to open the carriage doors and give return checks to the chauffeurs and their employers. Inside the house the florist has finished, an orchestra is playing in the hall or library, everything is in perfect order. The bride and groom have taken their places in front of the elaborate setting of flowering plants that has been arranged for them.
The bride stands on her husbands right and her bridesmaids are either grouped beyond her or else divided, half on her side and half on the side of the groom, forming a crescent with bride and groom in the center.
At a small wedding the duty of ushers is personally to take guests up to the bride and groom. But at a big reception where guests outnumber ushers fifty or a hundred to one, being personally conducted is an honor accorded only to the very old, the very celebrated or the ushers own best friends. All the other guests stand in a long congested line by themselves. The brides mother takes her place somewhere near the entrance of the room, and it is for her benefit that her own butler or one furnished by the caterer, asks each guest his name and then repeats it aloud. The guests shake hands with the hostess, and making some polite remark about the beautiful wedding or lovely bride, continue in line to the bridal pair.
What you should say in congratulating a bridal couple depends on how well you know one, or both of them. But remember it is a breach of good manners to congratulate a bride on having secured a husband.
If you are unknown to both of them, and in a long queue, it is not even necessary to give your name. You merely shake hands with the groom, say a formal word or two such as Congratulations!; shake hands with the bride, say I wish you every happiness! and pass on.
If you know them fairly well, you may say to him I hope your good luck will stay with you always! or I certainly do congratulate you! and to her I hope your whole life will be one long happiness, or, if you are much older than she, You look too lovely, dear Mary, and I hope you will always be as radiant as you look to-day! Or, if you are a woman and a relative or really close friend, you kiss the groom, saying, All the luck in the world to you, dear Jim, she certainly is lovely! Or, kissing the bride, Mary, darling, every good wish in the world to you!
A man might say to the groom Good luck to you, Jim, old man! Or, She is the most lovely thing I have ever seen! And to her, I hope you will have every happiness! Or I was just telling Jim how lucky I think he is! I hope you will both be very happy! Or, if a very close friend, also kissing the bride, All the happiness you can think of isnt as much as I wish you, Mary dear! But it cannot be too much emphasized that promiscuous kissing among the guests is an offense against good taste.
To a relative, or old friend of the bride, but possibly a stranger to the groom, the bride always introduces her husband saying, Jim, this is Aunt Kate! Or, Mrs. Neighbor, you know Jim, dont you? Or formally, Mrs. Faraway, may I present my husband?
The groom on the approach of an old friend of his, says, Mary, this is cousin Carrie. Or, Mrs. Denver, do you know Mary? Or, Hello, Steve, let me introduce you to my wife; Mary, this is Steve Michigan. Steve says How do you do, Mrs. Smartlington! And Mary says, Of course, I have often heard Jim speak of you!
The bride with a good memory thanks each arriving person for the gift sent her: Thank you so much for the lovely candlesticks, or I cant tell you how much I love the dishes! The person who is thanked says, I am so glad you like it (or them), or I am so glad! I hoped you might find it useful. Or I didnt have it marked, so that in case you have a duplicate, you can change it.
Conversation is never a fixed grouping of words that are learned or recited like a part in a play; the above examples are given more to indicate the sort of things people in good society usually say. There is, however, one rule: Do not launch into long conversation or details of yourself, how you feel or look or what happened to you, or what you wore when you were married! Your subject must not deviate from the young couple themselves, their wedding, their future.
Also be brief in order not to keep those behind waiting longer than necessary. If you have anything particular to tell them, you can return later when there is no longer a line. But even then, long conversation, especially concerning yourself, is out of place.
The grooms mother always receives either near the brides mother or else continuing the line beyond the bridesmaids, and it is proper for every guest to shake hands with her too, whether they know her or not, but it is not necessary to say anything. The brides father sometimes stands beside his wife but he usually circulates among his guests just as he would at a ball or any other party where he is host.
The grooms father is a guest and it is not necessary for strangers to speak to him, unless he stands beside his wife and, as it were, receives, but there is no impropriety in any one telling him how well they know and like his son or his new daughter-in-law.
Unless the house is remarkable in size, there is usually a canopied platform built next to the veranda or on the lawn or over the yard of a city house. The entire space is packed with little tables surrounding the big one reserved for the bridal party, and at a large breakfast a second table is reserved for the parents of the bride and groom and a few close, and especially invited, friends.
Place cards are not put on any of the small tables. All the guests, except the few placed at the two reserved tables, sit with whom they like; sometimes by pre-arrangement, but usually where they happen to find friendsand room!
The general sit-down breakfastexcept in great houses like a few of those in Newportis always furnished by a caterer, who brings all the food, tables, chairs, napery, china and glass, as well as the necessary waiters. The butler and footmen belonging in the house may assist or oversee, or detail themselves to other duties.
Small menu cards printed in silver are put on all the tables. Sometimes these cards have the crest of the brides father embossed at the top, but usually the entwined initials of the bride and groom are stamped in silver to match the wedding cake boxes.
Suprême of Chicken
Aspic of Foie Gras
Instead of bouillon, there may be caviar or melon, or grape fruit, or a purée, or clam broth. For lobster Newburg may be soft-shell crabs or oyster pâté, or other fish. Or the bouillon may be followed by a dish such as sweetbreads and mushrooms, or chicken pâtés, or broiled chicken (a half of a chicken for each guest) or squab, with salad such as whole tomatoes filled with celery. Or the chicken or squab may be the second course, and an aspic with the salad, the third. Individual ices are accompanied by little cakes of assorted variety. There used always to be champagne; a substitute is at best a poor thing, and what the prevailing one is to be, is as yet not determined. Orange juice and ginger ale, or white grape juice and ginger ale with sugar and mint leaves are two attempts at a satisfying cup that have been offered lately.
The feature of the wedding breakfast is always the brides table. Placed sometimes in the dining-room, sometimes on the veranda or in a room apart, this table is larger and more elaborately decorated than any of the others. There are white garlands or sprays or other arrangement of white flowers, and in the center as chief ornament is an elaborately iced wedding cake. On the top it has a bouquet of white or silver flowers, or confectioners quaint dolls representing the bride and groom. The top is usually made like a cover so that when the time comes for the bride to cut it, it is merely lifted off. The bride always cuts the cake, meaning that she inserts the knife and makes one cut through the cake, after which each person cuts herself or himself a slice. If there are two sets of favors hidden in the cake, there is a mark in the icing to distinguish the bridesmaids side from that of the ushers. Articles, each wrapped in silver foil, have been pushed through the bottom of the cake at intervals; the bridesmaids find a ten-cent piece for riches, a little gold ring for first to be married, a thimble or little parrot or cat for old maid, a wish-bone for the luckiest. On the ushers side, a button or dog is for the bachelor, and a miniature pair of dice as a symbol of lucky chance in life. The ring and ten-cent piece are the same.
The evolution of the wedding cake began in ancient Rome where brides carried wheat ears in their left hands. Later, Anglo-Saxon brides wore the wheat made into chaplets, and gradually the belief developed that a young girl who ate of the grains of wheat which became scattered on the ground, would dream of her future husband. The next step was the baking of a thin dry biscuit which was broken over the brides head and the crumbs divided amongst the guests. The next step was in making richer cake; then icing it, and the last instead of having it broken over her head, the bride broke it herself into small pieces for the guests. Later she cut it with a knife.
The table of the brides parents differs from other tables in nothing except in its larger size, and the place cards for those who have been invited to sit there. The grooms father always sits on the right of the brides mother, and the grooms mother has the place of honor on the hosts right. The other places at the table are occupied by distinguished guests who may or may not include the clergyman who performed the ceremony. If a bishop or dean performed the ceremony, he is always included at this table and is placed at the left of the hostess, and his wife, if present, sits at the brides fathers left. Otherwise only especially close friends of the brides parents are invited to this table.
In addition to the big cake on the brides table, there are at all weddings, near the front door so that the guests may each take one as they go home, little individual boxes of wedding cake, black fruit cake. Each box is made of white moiré or gros-grain paper, embossed in silver with the last initial of the groom intertwined with that of the bride and tied with white satin ribbon. At a sit-down breakfast the wedding cake boxes are sometimes put, one at each place, on the tables so that each guest may be sure of receiving one, and other thoughtless ones prevented from carrying more than their share away.
The standing breakfast differs from the sit-down breakfast in service only. Instead of numerous small tables at which the guests are served with a course luncheon, a single long one is set in the dining-room. (The regular table pulled out to its farthest extent.) It is covered with a plain white damask clothor it may be of embroidered linen and lace insertion. In the center is usually a bowl or vase or other centerpiece, of white flowers. On it are piles of plates, stacks of napkins and rows of spoons and forks at intervals, making four or possibly six piles altogether. Always there are dishes filled with little fancy cakes, chosen as much for looks as for taste. There is usually a big urn at one end filled with bouillon and one at the other filled with chocolate or tea. In four evenly spaced places are placed two cold dishes such as an aspic of chicken, or ham mousse, or a terrine de foie gras, or other aspic. The hot dishes may be a boned capon, vol-au-vent of sweetbread and mushrooms, creamed oysters, chicken à la King, or chicken croquettes; or there may be cold cuts, or celery salad, in tomato aspic. Whatever the choice may be, there are two or three cold dishes and at least two hot. Whatever there is, must be selected with a view to its being easily eaten with a fork while the plate is held in the other hand! There are also rolls and biscuits, pâté de foie gras or lettuce and tomato sandwiches, the former made usually of split dinner rolls with pâté between, or thin sandwiches rolled like a leaf in which a moth has built a cocoon. Ices are brought in a little later, when a number of persons have apparently finished their first course. Ice cream is quite as fashionable as individual ices. It is merely that caterers are less partial to it because it has to be cut.
After-dinner coffee is put on a side table, as the champagne used to be. From now on there will probably be a bowl or pitchers of something with a lump of ice in it that can be ladled into glasses and become whatever those gifted with imagination may fancy.
Unless the wedding is very small, there is always a brides table, decorated exactly as that described for a sit-down breakfast, and placed usually in the library, but there is no especial table for the brides mother and her guestsor for anyone else.
By the time the sit-down breakfast has reached its second course and the queue of arriving guests has dwindled and melted away, the bride and groom decide that it is time they too go to breakfast. Arm in arm they lead the way to their own table followed by the ushers and bridesmaids. The bride and groom always sit next to each other, she on his right; the maid of honor (or matron) is on his left, and the best man is on the right of the bride. Around the rest of the table come bridesmaids and ushers alternately. Sometimes one or two otherssisters of the bride or groom or intimate friends, who were not included in the wedding party, are asked to the table, and when there are no bridesmaids this is always the case.
The decoration of the table, the service, the food, is exactly the same whether the other guests are seated or standing. At dessert, the bride cuts the cake, and the bridesmaids and ushers find the luck pieces.
On leaving their table, the bridal party join the dancing which by now has begun in the drawing-room where the wedding group received. The bride and groom dance at first together, and then each with bridesmaids or ushers or other guests. Sometimes they linger so long that those who had intended staying for the going away grow weary and leavewhich is often exactly what the young couple want! Unless they have to catch a train, they always stay until the crowd thins before going to dress for their journey. At last the bride signals to her bridesmaids and leaves the room. They all gather at the foot of the stairs; about half way to the upper landing as she goes up, she throws her bouquet, and they all try to catch it. The one to whom it falls is supposed to be the next married. If she has no bridesmaids, she sometimes collects a group of other young girls and throws her bouquet to them.
The bride goes up to the room that has always been hers, followed by her mother, sisters and bridesmaids, who stay with her while she changes into her traveling clothes. A few minutes after the bride has gone upstairs, the groom goes to the room reserved for him, and changes into the ordinary sack suit which the best man has taken there for him before the ceremony. He does not wear his top hat nor his wedding boutonnière. The grooms clothes should be apparently new, but need not actually be so. The brides clothes, on the other hand, are always brand newevery article that she has on.
A bride necessarily chooses her going-away dress according to the journey she is to make. If she is starting off in an open motor, she wears a suitably small motor hat and a wrap of some sort over whatever dress (or suit) she chooses. If she is going on a train or boat, she wears a traveling dress, such as she would choose under ordinary circumstances. If she is going to a near-by hotel or a country house put at her disposal, she wears the sort of dress and hat suitable to town or country occasion. She should not dress as though about to join a circus parade or the ornaments on a Christmas tree, unless she wants to be stared at and commented upon in a way that no one of good breeding can endure.
The average bride and groom of good taste and feeling try to be as inconspicuous as possible. On one occasion, in order to hide the fact that they were bride and groom, a young couple went away in their oldest clothes and were very much pleased with their cleverness, until, pulling out his handkerchief, the groom scattered rice all over the floor of the parlor car. The brides lament after this wasWhy had she not worn her prettiest things?
The groom, having changed his clothes, waits upstairs, in the hall generally, until the bride emerges from her room in her traveling clothes. All the ushers shake hands with them both. His immediate family, as well as hers, have gradually collectedany that are missing must unfailingly be sent for. The brides mother gives her a last kiss, her bridesmaids hurry down-stairs to have plenty of rice ready and to tell everyone below as they descend They are coming! A passage from the stairway and out of the front door, all the way to the motor, is left free between two rows of eager guests, their hands full of rice. Upon the waiting motor the ushers have tied everything they can lay their hands on in the way of white ribbons and shoes and slippers.
At last the groom appears at the top of the stairs, a glimpse of the bride behind him. It surely is running the gauntlet! They seemingly count one, two, three, go! With shoulders hunched and collars held tight to their necks, they run through shrapnel of rice, down the stairs, out through the hall, down the outside steps, into the motor, slam the door, and are off!
Occasionally young couples think it clever to slip out of the area-way, or over the roofs, or out of the cellar and across the garden. All this is supposed to be in order to avoid being deluged with rice and having labels of newly wed or large white bows and odd shoes and slippers tied to their luggage.
Most brides, however, agree with their guests that it is decidedly spoil sport to deprive a lot of friends (who have only their good luck at heart) of the perfectly legitimate enjoyment of throwing emblems of good luck after them. If one white slipper among those thrown after the motor lands right side up, on top of it, and stays there, greatest good fortune is sure to follow through life.
There was a time when the going away carriage was always furnished by the groom, and this is still the case if it is a hired conveyance, but nowadays when nearly everyone has a motor, the newly married coupleif they have no motor of their ownare sure to have one lent them by the family of one of them. Very often they have two motors and are met by a second car at an appointed place, into which they change after shaking themselves free of rice. The white ribboned car returns to the house, as well as the decorated and labeled luggage, which was all emptytheir real luggage having been bestowed safely by the best man that morning in their hotel or boat or train. Or, it may be that they choose a novel journey, for there is, of course, no regulation vehicle. They can go off in a limousine, a pony cart, a yacht, a canoe, on horseback or by airplane. Fancy alone limits the mode of travel, suggests the destination, or directs the etiquette of a honeymoon.
At the end of the wedding there is one thing the bride must not forget. As soon as she is in her traveling dress, she must send a bridesmaid or someone out into the hall and ask her husbands parents to come and say good-by to her. If his parents have not themselves come upstairs to see their son, the bride must have them sent for at once!
It is very easy for a bride to forget this act of thoughtfulness and for a groom to overlook the fact that he can not stop to kiss his mother good-by on his way out of the house, and many a mother seeing her son and new daughter rush past without even a glance from either of them, has returned home with an ache in her heart.
It sounds improbable, doesnt it? One naturally exclaims, But how stupid of her, why didnt she go upstairs? Why didnt her son send for her? Usually she does, or he does. But often the grooms parents are strangers; and if by temperament they are shy or retiring people they hesitate to go upstairs in an unknown house until they are invited to. So they wait, feeling sure that in good time they will be sent for. Meanwhile the bride forgets and it does not occur to the groom that unless he makes an effort while upstairs there will be no opportunity in the dash down to the carriage to recognize themor anyone.
A completely beautiful wedding is not merely a combination of wonderful flowers, beautiful clothes, smoothness of detail, delicious food. These, though all necessary, are external attributes. The spirit, or soul of it, must have something besides; and that something is in the behavior and in the expression of the bride and groom.
The most beautiful wedding ever imagined could be turned from sacrament to circus by the indecorous behavior of the groom and the flippancy of the bride. She, above all, must not reach up and wig-wag signals while she is receiving, any more than she must wave to people as she goes up and down the aisle of the church. She must not cling to her husband, stand pigeon-toed, or lean against him or the wall, or any person, or thing. She must not run her arm through his and let her hand flop on the other side; she must not swing her arms as though they were dangling rope; she must not switch herself this way and that, nor must she hello or shout. No matter how young or natural and thoughtless she may be, she must, during the ceremony and the short time that she stands beside her husband at the reception, assume that she has dignity.
It is not by chance that the phrase happy pair is one of the most trite in our language, for happiness above all is the inner essential that must dominate a perfect wedding. An unhappy looking bride, an unwilling looking groom, turns the greatest wedding splendor into sham; without love it is a sacrament inadvisedly entered into, and the sight of a tragic-faced bride strikes chill to the heart.
The radiance of a truly happy bride is so beautifying that even a plain girl is made pretty, and a pretty one, divine. There is something glad yet sweet, shy yet triumphant, serious yetradiant! There is no other way to put it. And a happy groom looks first of all protectivehe, too, may have the quality of radiance, but it is differentmore directly glad. They both look as though there were sunlight behind their eyes, as though their mouths irresistibly turned to smiles. No other quality of a brides expression is so beautiful as radiance; that visible proof of perfect happiness which endears its possessor to all beholders and gives to the simplest little wedding complete beauty.
A house wedding involves slightly less expenditure but has the disadvantage of limiting the number of guests. The ceremony is exactly the same as that in a church, excepting that the procession advances through an aisle of white satin ribbons from the stairs down which the bridal party descends, to the improvised altar. A small space near the altar is fenced off with other ribbons, for the family. There is a low rail of some sort back of which the clergyman stands, and something for the bride and groom to kneel on during the prayers of the ceremony. The prayer bench is usually about six or eight inches high, and between three and four feet long; at the back of it an upright on either end supports a crosspieceor altar rail. It can be made in roughest fashion by any carpenter, or amateur, as it is entirely hidden under leaves and flowers. On the kneeling surface of the bench are placed cushions rather than flowers, because the latter stain. All caterers have the necessary standards to which ribbons are tied, like the wires to telegraph poles. The top of each standard is usually decorated with a spray of white flowers.
At a house wedding the brides mother stands at the door of the drawing-roomor wherever the ceremony is to beand receives people as they arrive. But the grooms mother merely takes her place near the altar with the rest of the immediate family. The ushers are purely ornamental, unless the house is so large that pews have been installed, and the guests are seated as in a church. Otherwise the guests stand wherever they can find places behind the aisle ribbons. Just before the brides entrance, her mother goes forward and stands in the reserved part of the room. The ushers go up to the top of the stairway. The wedding march begins and the ushers come down two and two, followed by the bridesmaids, exactly as in a church, the bride coming last on her fathers arm. The clergyman and the groom and best man have, if possible, reached the altar by another door. If the room has only one door, they go up the aisle a few moments before the bridal procession starts.
The chief difference between a church and house wedding is that the bride and groom do not take a single step together. The groom meets her at the point where the service is read. After the ceremony, there is no recessional. The clergyman withdraws, an usher removes the prayer bench, and the bride and groom merely turn where they stand, and receive the congratulations of their guests, unless, of course, the house is so big that they receive in another room.
In the country a house wedding includes one in a garden, with a wedding procession under the trees, and tables out on the lawna perfect plan for California or other rainless States, but difficult to arrange on the Atlantic seaboard where rain is too likely to spoil everything.
Those whose houses are very small and yet who wish to have a general reception, sometimes give the wedding breakfast in a hotel or assembly rooms. The preparations are identical with those in a private house, the decorations and menu may be lavish or simple. Although it is perfectly good form to hold a wedding reception in a ballroom, a breakfast in a private house, no matter how simple, has greater distinction than the most elaborate collation in a public establishment. Why this is so, is hard to determine. It is probably that without a home atmosphere, though it may be a brilliant entertainment, the sentiment is missing.
The marriage of a widow is the same as that of a maid except that she cannot wear white or orange blossoms, which are emblems of virginity, nor does she have bridesmaids. Usually a widow chooses a very quiet wedding, but there is no reason why she should not have a big wedding if she cares to, except that somber ushers and a bride in traveling dress, or at best a light afternoon one with a hat, does not make an effective processionalunless she is beautiful enough to compensate for all that is missing.
A wedding in very best taste for a widow would be a ceremony in a small church or chapel, a few flowers or palms in the chancel the only decoration, and two to four ushers. There are no ribboned-off seats, as only very intimate friends are asked. The bride wears an afternoon street dress and hat. Her dress for a church ceremony should be more conventional than if she were married at home, where she could wear a semi-evening gown and substitute a headdress for a hat. She could even wear a veil if it is colored and does not suggest the bridal white one.
A celebrated beauty wore for her second wedding in her own house, a dress of gold brocade, with a Russian court headdress and a veil of yellow tulle down the back. Another wore a dress of gray and a Dutch cap of silver lace, and had her little girl in quaint cap and long dress, to match her own, as maid of honor.
A widow has never more than one attendant and most often none. There may be a sit-down breakfast afterwards, or the simplest afternoon tea; in any case, the breakfast is, if possible, at the brides own house, and the bridal pair may either stay where they are and have their guests take leave of them, or themselves drive away afterwards.
All the expenses of a wedding belong to the brides parents; the invitations are issued by them, the reception is at their house, and the grooms family are little more than ordinary guests. The cost of a wedding varies as much as the cost of anything else that one has or does. A big fashionable wedding can total far up in the thousands and even the simplest entails considerable outlay, which can, however, be modified by those who are capable of doing things themselves instead of employing professional service at every point.
The service of a professional secretary who compiles a single list from the various ones sent her, addresses the envelopes, both inner and outer; encloses the proper number of cards, seals, stamps and mails all the invitations. (This item can be omitted and the work done by the family.)
The biggest item of expensethe trousseau of the bride, which may consist not alone of wearing apparel of endless variety and lavish detail, but household linen of finest quality (priceless in these days) and in quantity sufficient for a lifetime; or it may consist of the wedding dress, and even that a traveling one, and one or two others, with barest essentials and few accessories.
Awnings for church and house. This may be omitted at the house in good weather, at the church, and also in the country.
Decorations of church and house. Cost can be eliminated by amateurs using garden or field flowers.
Choir, soloists and organist at church. (Choir and soloists unnecessary.)
Orchestra at house. (This may mean fifty pieces with two leaders or it may mean a piano, violin and drum, or a violin, harp and guitar.)
Carriages or motors for the bridal party from house to church and back.
The collation, which may be the most elaborate sit-down luncheon or the simplest afternoon tea.
Boxes of wedding cake.
Champagneused to be one of the biggest items, as a fashionable wedding without plenty of it was unheard of. Perhaps though, pocketbooks may have less relief on account of its omission than would at first seem probable, since what is saved on the wine bill is made up for on the additional food necessary to make the best wineless menu seem other than meagre.
The brides presents to her bridesmaids. (May be jewels of value or trinkets of trifling cost.)
A wedding present to the bride from each member of her familynot counting her trousseau which is merely part of the wedding.
The bride gives a wedding present or a wedding ring or both to the groom, if she especially wants to. (Not necessary nor even customary.)
The engagement ringas handsome as he can possibly afford.
A wedding presentjewels if he is able, always something for her personal adornment.
His bachelor dinner.
The marriage license.
A personal gift to his best man and each of his ushers.
To each of the above he gives their wedding ties, gloves and boutonnières.
The bouquet carried by the bride. In many cities it is said to be the custom for the bride to send boutonnières to the ushers and for the groom to order the bouquets of the bridesmaids. In New Yorks smart world, the bridesmaids bouquets are looked upon as part of the decorative arrangement, all of which is in the province of the brides parents.
The wedding ring.
The clergymans fee.
From the moment the bride and groom start off on their wedding trip, all the expenditure becomes his.
In Germany a silver wedding is a very important event and a great celebration is made of it, but in America it is not very good form to ask any but intimate friends and family to an anniversary partyespecially as those bidden are supposed to send presents. These need not, however, be of value; in fact the paper, wooden and tin wedding presents are seldom anything but jokes. Crystal is the earliest that is likely to be taken seriously by the gift-bearers. Silver is always serious, and the golden wedding a quite sacred event.
Most usually this last occasion is celebrated by a large family dinner to which all the children and grandchildren are bidden. Or the married couple perhaps choose an afternoon at home and receive their friends and neighbors, who are, of course, supposed to brings presents made of gold.