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

Broken Engagements.

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

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

Clandestine Engagement.

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

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A Justifiable Case.

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

Where the Mother Shares the Secret.

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

Friends who act as Go-Between.

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

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



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CHAPTER XI

Foreign Etiquette of Engagements—Betrothal a much more Serious Matter than in England.

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

In Italy

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

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In France

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

German Betrothals

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

In Russia

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

In Spain

girls are most jealously guarded, and marriages are arranged by the parents. Still the romantic element is not wanting. The young man sees the lady who steals his heart, and begins to woo her from a distance with eyes and voice till he can gain an introduction to her family. The main joy in a Spanish courtship is the clandestine prelude to the actual engagement. He may follow the lady about and serenade her, according to regulations, but he may not speak till he is introduced. She appears to ignore his attentions, but she misses nothing. The courtship is often protracted, but the girl is given freedom of choice. The law can come to the assistance of lovers whose union is prevented by their parents, in the same way as in France.

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

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Sweden.

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

In Switzerland

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

The Hungarian

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

In Norway

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

In Greece parents pay a man to marry their daughter, and no man may marry till all his own sisters are provided with trousseaux and dowers.

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

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

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



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CHAPTER XII

Marriage—Fixing the Day—Preparations—Selecting the Bridesmaids and their Dresses—The Wedding Gown—The Trousseau—Invitations.

Marriage.

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

Fixing the Day.

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

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

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

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

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

The Bride's Burden.

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

The Choice of the Bridesmaids.

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

Wedding Frocks.

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

The Bridesmaids' Dresses.

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

Expense.

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

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

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

The Trousseau.

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

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

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

Invitations.

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

Mr. and Mrs. Carstairs

request the pleasure of

Captain and Mrs. Boyd's company

at

the Marriage of their Daughter

Gladys

with

Mr. Sydney Boroughs,

at

S. John's, Beckenham,

on Wednesday, April 17th, at 2 p.m.,

and afterwards at the Grange.

R.S.V.P.

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

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

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



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CHAPTER XIII

Wedding Presents—Choosing and Furnishing the House—What the Bridegroom Supplies—The Bride's Share in the Matter.

Wedding Presents.

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

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

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A Temptation.

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

How to Send Them.

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

The Art of Giving.

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

The Selection of the House.

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

Furnishing.

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

The Bride's Share in the Matter.

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

Things to be Considered.

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

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



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CHAPTER XIV

The Nature of the Ceremony—Religious or Civil—Banns or Licence—Legal Formalities—Settlements.

The Nature of the Ceremony.

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

The Religious Ceremony

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

Banns.

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

Licences.

These are of two kinds, the common and the special. A common licence is given by the archbishop or bishop, and can be obtained in London at the Faculty Office, 23 Knightrider's Street, Doctors' Commons, E.C., or at the Vicar-General's Office, 3 Creed Lane, Ludgate Hill, E.C., between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., on all week days, except Saturday, when they close at 2 P.M. Licences from these two places are available for use in any part of England or Wales. They cost thirty shillings, with an extra twelve and sixpence for stamps. In order to prevent fraud, no licence can be given till one of the parties has made a declaration on oath that there is no legal impediment to the marriage, and that one of them has lived for fifteen days in the parish or district where the wedding is to take place. This last restriction is often evaded by the bridegroom's taking a bedroom in which he possibly sleeps one night, and where he is represented by a bag containing—stones, or a collar, if he likes.

Those licences obtained from the bishop's diocesan registry can only be used in the diocese where they are issued. They cost from L1, 15s. to L2, 12s. 6d., according to the diocese. The vicar or rector of any parish will give full particulars as to how they are to be obtained in country places.

The Special Licence

costs about L30, and is given by the archbishop through the Faculty Office under certain conditions. It dispenses with {83} previous residence in the district, and can be used anywhere and at any time, providing satisfactory reasons have been given for its issue.

Witnesses.

No marriage should be performed in any church or chapel unless at least two witnesses are present, who also attest the signing of the parish register. The ordinary fee for the certificate, or "marriage lines," is 2s. 7d., including the stamp, but this charge may vary a little.

The Civil Contract.

This may be done by certificate or licence. If a certificate is required, one of the parties must give formal notice to the superintendent registrar of the district in which both have lived for seven days immediately preceding the notice. If the couple live in separate places, similar notice must be given by each one. A solemn statement that there is no legal obstacle to the marriage must be made, together with notification of their places of residence, and, in the case of a minor, whether the consent of parent or guardian is forthcoming. The certificate may not be issued for twenty-one days after the notice has been entered, and this certificate is only available for three months.

After the expiration of twenty-one days the wedding may take place at the Registry Office, in the presence of the superintendent registrar, a registrar of the district, and two witnesses, within the appointed hours, from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. The mutual declaration is short and to the point. A ring is usually employed, but I have heard of strange substitutes being used at a pinch.

If a licence is desired, similar formalities must be observed as when procuring one for use in a church, and one day must elapse between its issue and the wedding.

No minister of religion need be present at a civil contract, even if it take place in a chapel or building certified for marriages. Members of the Society of Friends may, after giving notice as above described, be married in their Meeting House; but to make it legal, the fact must be duly registered {84} by the officer of the district as soon after the ceremony as possible.

The presence of a registrar is not necessary at marriages performed in Nonconformist chapels if they are duly certified and an "authorised person" (that is, one duly appointed by the trustees or governing body of the building) is present during the proceedings. Certain declarations, similar to those made before the registrar, must be included in any form of service. The "authorised person" must register the marriage at his earliest convenience.

Fees for Civil Contract.

A marriage by certificate costs about ten or twelve shillings. With a licence, the expense mounts up to about L2, 15s.

Settlements.

This is a matter of cold unromantic fact, and one which very ardent, impossible lovers regard almost in the light of a desecration. As the prosaic side of life has to be faced, it is very necessary that money matters should find a place in the matrimonial preparations.

An honourable man is always anxious to effect some arrangement by which his wife may be safeguarded from ruin or extreme poverty. If she has money of her own, he will see that it is settled upon her absolutely. Should he raise, or even hint at, an objection to this plan, he will lay himself open to a serious charge of possessing mercenary motives. A man with private means would settle a certain portion upon his wife; but, in the ordinary course of things, she would only have the interest of this amount, and would not have control over the capital during his life. At the same time, it could not be touched by his creditors.

In more legal language: "By marriage settlements the property to be settled by one or both of the parties is conveyed to trustees upon trust as to the lady's property for her separate use during her life, and after her decease for the husband for his life. The husband's property is settled on him for life with remainder to the wife for life. On the death of the survivor the trust is for the children of the marriage in such {85} shares as the husband and wife, or the survivor, appoint, and in default of appointment among the children equally." Clauses as to maintenance and education of the children, and powers of investment of trust funds, are inserted. In settling large estates and sums of money various modes of settlement are adopted to suit the circumstances, but the above is the outline of an ordinary settlement. Large landed estates are generally settled, after the decease of the settlers, upon the first and other sons in tail male with cross remainders between them, and in default of male issue among the daughters.

The Bride's Dowry,

or marriage portion, is of very ancient origin. Even two centuries before Christ the wealth possessed by a woman brought her an increase of respect from her husband, and lessened the humiliation of her legal and social position. By degrees the rich wife gained the upper hand, and what the law would not give to her sex as a right, she obtained by virtue of her money.



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CHAPTER XV

The Wedding-Day—What is expected of (1) The Bride; (2) The Bridesmaids; (3) The Bridegroom; (4) The Best Man; (5) The Bride's Parents—At the Bride's House—Dressing—Starting for the Church—The Tying of the Knot—Social Aspect—Reception or Breakfast.

The Wedding-Day.

"Happy is the Bride that the Sun shines on!" runs the old adage, but we may hope that the lives of all English brides are not as grey as the skies under which they are often married. We can also hope that every bride will have the sunshine of joy in her heart on her wedding-day. Most weddings now take place at 2 o'clock or 2.30, in consequence of the extension of the marriage hours, and this has in a great measure abolished the old "breakfast," which was a rather trying affair for all concerned. Now, a more informal reception takes place on the return from church, with champagne, tea, ices, and all sorts of pretty light refreshments. Those who, from choice or force of circumstances, decide upon the morning for the ceremony, would naturally give a luncheon, but the smarter section of society has spoken in favour of the reception.

I know of a capricious couple who played their friends a very shabby trick. The invitations had been issued for a Wednesday, and at the last moment they decided to be married on the Tuesday morning. They went quietly to church in the early hours, left the town separately during the day, met in London, and started for the honeymoon. The next afternoon their friends assembled to find that the objects of their congratulations were away across the Channel. This was a most serious breach of etiquette, as there was no reason for such rudeness.

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What is Expected of the Bride.

However long and frequent the visits of the fiance may have been to his sweetheart's home, tradition decrees that he must not sleep under the same roof with her the night before the wedding, nor is he supposed to see her on the day, till he meets her in all her bridal beauty. She is supposed to keep in retirement even from the members of her own household during the early part of the day; but this is a matter of opinion, and all old ideas are giving way to more modern views.

On her wedding-day, at least if it is to be a smart affair, the bride is handicapped as well as adorned by her clothes, as seems to be the general lot of women on all important occasions. Let us hope that every care has been taken to minimise the minor anxieties as to the fit of her frock, the set of her veil, the comfort of shoes and gloves. She must feel something like a debutante dressing for her presentation at court; but while the latter is only making her entry into society, the bride is entering upon a condition that will affect her eternally, and one that ought to have the blessing of God upon it. One would therefore like the bride to be free from such inconveniences as will drag her down mentally. Let her be free to respond to the high inspirations and holy desires that best become a woman on this great day of her life. She will probably be nervous, and small wonder, but she will be none the less attractive for a little maidenly diffidence. The bride who marches triumphantly through her wedding does not show the best taste. In the rush and excitement of the wedding morning some one must make a point of seeing that the bride has proper food to sustain her through her part in the day's proceedings. Her appearance will not be improved by the look of strained weariness that combined fatigue and exhaustion will bring even into the youngest face. She is expected to look her best and to have her emotions under control nowadays. The weeping bride is out of date. She is expected to look happy, for is she not completing the choice which she freely made? If her shoes pinch, or she is faint from hunger, those expectations cannot be fulfilled.

The Bridesmaids.

These attendant maidens must be at the church awaiting the bride, ready to follow her up the aisle, and the chief one {88} takes her place so as to be prepared to receive the gloves and bouquet from the bride before the putting on of the ring. One or more of them will help the bride, later in the day, to change into her travelling costume, and they can be of assistance in countless ways, both to the hostess and her guests. Sometimes, however, a bridesmaid is too occupied preparing for another wedding, in which she will play the chief part, to have much time for any one else.

The Bridegroom.

Though of the highest and most vital importance, the bridegroom never seems quite so much to the fore as the bride. It is probably a mere matter of clothes. He is expected to have the ring in readiness, to provide a conveyance to take himself and the best man to the scene of the ceremony, and, above all, to be in good time, waiting in proud anticipation for the bride's arrival. He does not always look happy or quite at his ease with the eyes of the curious congregation upon him, but that is only his modesty. He has to give the bridesmaids a present (generally some trinket is chosen), and the bride receives her bouquet from him. Sometimes the best man gives the bridesmaids their bouquets, but it is generally the bridegroom, unless they are all related together.

The Best Man.

I have heard it said that the office of the Best Man is to see that the bridegroom does not run away at the last moment. We will hope he does not often have hard work in that case. He certainly has to see that love does not make the bridegroom oblivious to the practical details of life. He escorts him to church and supports him through the service. He pays the fees of clerk and clergyman and calls the carriages when the register is signed. He is a very busy and useful person, if he does his duty, and much of the success from a social point of view may lie in his hands.

The Bride's Parents.

The heaviest burden of responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the bride's mother. She has to arrange with a caterer for the refreshments, unless she prefers to have all the trouble of {89} preparing them at home; she must order the carriages, arrange the meals for guests staying in the house, and settle the order in which the wedding party is to go to church. She has to see about floral decorations wherever they are wanted, and now flowers play such an all-important part in every festivity. She will be the one to whom every one will go for instructions, and it may be her own heart will be very sore at the thought of parting with her daughter. Where there are other grown-up girls they would naturally take some portion of the work off her hands, but she is nominal head of affairs in most households.

The father has to escort his daughter to church and bestow her upon her husband. In the event of his being prevented from doing this, her mother would drive with her, and the relation or friend who was acting as her father's deputy would meet her at the church door. The bride's father pays all the expenses of music or decoration in the church in addition to those of entertainment at home and conveyances. He will find the bill a large one in these days of lavish display and increased luxury. The idea that a reception is much cheaper than a luncheon is balanced by the facts that a far larger number of people can be included in the former and that champagne cannot be dispensed with.

At the Bride's House.

Before the appointed hour, bustle and possible confusion will reign in the bride's home. The young people will take a pride in decking the reception-rooms with flowers. The presents will be in a room by themselves, and will probably have been arranged the day before, but there are always a hundred little finishing touches to be put to everything. The caterer will, if required, supply all needful glass, china, tables, and attendance for the reception or breakfast. Everyone should be dressed in good time. There will be belated presents, telegrams of congratulation, and all sorts of minor distractions.

Dressing the Bride.

In many cases the dressmaker who has created the wedding gown comes to see it put on, but where such skilled help is not required the loving hands of mother, sister, or friend would deck the bride. One thing I would suggest. It is a risk {90} to dress the hair to suit the veil rather than the face. I remember seeing a bride quite spoiled by having her pretty hair dragged up under her veil, when as a rule she wore it in soft, natural waves round her face and ears. The less jewellery a bride wears the better, and some recent leaders of fashion have exchanged the bridal bouquet for a prayer-book, which they carried in ungloved hands. A bride who is married in the veil of a happy wife is supposed to be lucky. It is a pretty idea for a girl to wear her mother's bridal veil.

The Tying of the Knot.

When she is ready and all the others have started for the church, the bride drives with her father or mother, as the case may be, away from her old home and her maiden name. These few moments are too sacred for an outsider to speak of. Upon her arrival the bells ring out, the choir and clergy form the head of the procession, and she goes up to the chancel step on her father's right arm to take her place on the left side of her expectant bridegroom. It seems almost an impertinence to tell her how she should look at this solemn time, but it is not necessary or seemly for her to smile and nod to her friends in the church. She should remove both gloves on taking her place, so that she may be prepared to take the bridegroom by the hand and to receive the ring.

Arrangement of Seats.

The brothers or cousins of the bride show the guests to their seats in church. The bridegroom's family and friends sit on the right as they enter, the bride's party on the left. Parents and nearest relations occupy the front seats, then others in order of kinship.

As soon as the service is over, the newly-wedded pair, and such of their relations and friends as have been asked to do so, withdraw to the vestry, where the register is duly signed and witnessed.

The Social Side.

The bride and bridegroom drive off first from the church, so as to be in readiness to receive the congratulations of the {91} guests, who greet them immediately upon returning to the house. They are the principal people for the time being. The parents follow in the next carriage, her father taking his mother. Where there are many guests, no one should expect to take up much of the bride's attention, as she will have to divide her favours among the company. If there is a sit-down meal, she would be between her husband and father. The newly-married pair would either take the head of the table or sit in the centre of one side of the festive board. The practice of making long speeches has fallen into disuse, and every bride must be thankful for the relief. At an informal reception, where there is a chance to move about, the strain is not so great; but whichever form of entertainment is chosen, the bride must cut the cake, and every one is invited to partake of it.

Some Items of Expense.

The supply of carriages should be sufficient to enable all the guests to be conveyed to and from the church with as little delay as possible, and each carriage and pair will cost from 12s. 6d. to 15s., while a guinea is charged for the bride's special equipage. Grey horses are extra, but few people have them now, as it gives the situation away. Each driver will expect a tip of a few shillings.

A simple 5lb. wedding-cake can be had for 8s. or 10s., but the larger and more elaborate ones run up to L5 and L8, the ornamental stands being extra. Of course there is practically no limit to expenses if people wish to throw money about. One American wedding cost over a million dollars. At another the wedding-cake was stuffed with expensive gewgaws, and as it weighed a quarter of a ton it was conveyed on silver tram lines up and down the table or buffet.

The bouquets for the bridesmaids cost anything from 15s. to L5, while that for the bride may run from L4 to L10, or as much more as the bridegroom likes to give.

Many people who do not want their homes turned upside down or whose houses are not convenient for a wedding, entertain their friends at an hotel or a restaurant. This has its advantages, but is not so homelike for the bride's farewell to her old associations and home life.



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CHAPTER XVI

The Guests—The Presents on View—Starting for the Honeymoon—Dress and Luggage—Where to Go and How Long to Stay—Inevitable Test of Temperament—Possible Disappointments—Disillusion, Passing or Permanent.

The Guests.

The average crowd, mainly composed of women, who throng to see a wedding are unfortunately notorious for their utter lack of reverence and total want of manners. The invited guests do not always behave in accordance with the rules of etiquette. One hears a running fire of comments, such as: "They say she's marrying him for his money!" or "Well, her mother ought to be glad; she's worked hard enough to catch him." "He's stepping into a nice thing. I suppose the old boy paid his debts!"

Frequent allusions to former flirtations, or worse, are made in a stage whisper, and open expression is given to the question: "How long will it last?" by the cynics who seem to have come to be disagreeable. A wedding is bound to call forth both retrospective and anticipatory thoughts, but all unkind words should be silenced by a common desire to let that one day pass happily for all. Guests who snatch at wedding-favours to take home, who are boisterous in their leave-taking of the departing couple, who stay to the bitter end and pocket morsels of bridecake, who loudly appraise the value of the presents, or audibly speculate as to "what it has cost So-and-So to get his daughter off," have as yet to learn the rudiments of etiquette.

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The Presents on View.

The hostess should see that all the guests have opportunities of seeing the wedding presents; but it is not judicious for visitors at a big function to poke about among the gifts unless accompanied by one of the family or, perhaps, a bridesmaid, because it is generally deemed wise to have a detective present on such an occasion, and he might misinterpret this friendly interest to the discomfort of the prying guests. In arranging the presents a nice thoughtfulness and tact are necessary. Let the smaller offerings have due prominence, for the sake of the kindly thought that prompted them. One who had not been able to afford a gift in any proportion to her affection would feel touched by its occupying a place of honour.

Starting for the Honeymoon.

As the time for departure draws near the bride will slip away to doff her bridal splendour for her travelling costume. Her sister, the favourite bridesmaid, or her mother will doubtless go and help her, and probably some of the real "Good-byes" will be spoken before she rejoins the company. The dress will have been chosen with reference to the journey she is now undertaking. If she has but a short distance to go it may be a picturesque, dainty creation, but if she has hard travelling before her it will be of the tailor-made type, at once stylish and business-like, devoid of unnecessary fallals.

All present will be anxious to take leave of the newly-wedded pair, and to wish them God-speed. There is often deep sorrow under the surface of merriment at such partings. It is the moment when young brothers and frivolous cousins perform impish pranks, while the parents, and maybe the bride, are feeling the keen pang of separation. Paper confetti are a harmless substitute for rice, which is not soothing to receive in the eye or ear. The throwing of old shoes is said to be a relic of the sticks and stones hurled in wrath by the defeated friends of the bride when the victorious bridegroom carried her off as his prize and captive.

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The Journey.

Many are the devices resorted to by the newly married to escape detection on the wedding journey. Some take old battered portmanteaux. I have heard of a baby being borrowed to block up the window of the railway carriage; but matrimony, like murder, will out. The bridegroom will naturally do all in his power to make the journey an ideally pleasant one, and he will do well to remember that his bride has had much more to strain her nerves and weary her than he has.

Luggage.

At any time it seems well to avoid a number of small parcels, but on this occasion it is doubly advisable. Even if the husband and wife can fix their minds on such prosaic things, it is hardly fair for her to hang him round with her bags, hat-boxes, and other feminine impedimenta. On the other hand, if he has brought his cycle, his golf clubs, his fishing-tackle, and his camera, his attention is bound to be divided between the safety of his possessions and the comfort of his bride.

Where to Go.

The destination of the honeymooners will depend upon the time they have to spare, the money they can spend, and their combined tastes. There are a few practical hints that may be given. It is often said that travelling is one of the best tests of temper, so let the woman who soon feels fretted and looks jaded or is physically indisposed by a long railway journey take her honeymoon near home. Let no one who is not reliably happy on board ship attempt to cross the water and run the risk of ending her wedding-day in the terribly unbecoming condition caused by mal de mer.

How Long to Stay.

The modern tendency to shorten honeymoons seems born of wisdom as much as of expediency. It may sound brutal, but undisturbed possession soon palls, and man was made {95} for something more virile than perpetual billing and cooing. The long honeymoon makes a very heavy demand upon the emotions. It is fatal to try and keep up a lost illusion. The 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.



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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.

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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 debut. 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.



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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.

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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 L100 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.



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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 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 Brautfuehrer. 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.

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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.

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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.

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