It is becoming customary to use the daylight as much as possible at all social functions; and, indeed, at no affair, unless it be very late in the afternoon and very ceremonious, is the daylight excluded and the candles and chandeliers lighted.
The Formal Dinner
The most enjoyable dinner is that with four or six guests, which is served in a simple and only semiformal way. This enables a hostess to bring together only congenial people, and the group is small enough for the talk to be largely general, and thence especially valuable, as each brings his wittiest stories, his clearest thoughts, and his best self to the appreciative and inspiring circle.
The formal dinner is usually set for seven o'clock, or half after, or eight. The elaborate dinner will take from an hour to two hours, according to the number of courses and the efficiency of the service. There should be a waiter for every six people, although at a small dinner an efficient maid may serve eight covers without much delay.
The invitations to a formal dinner are sent out two weeks ahead. No more people should be asked than can be comfortably seated and speedily served. Twenty inches at the very least should be allowed to each cover. Children are never present at a ceremonious dinner.
In choosing guests every effort should be made to have them congenial, with no glaring divergence of opinions, which would by any means make any one uncomfortable if the conversation were to become general. In seating the guests, only congenial people should be placed side by side. The intellectual harmony of a dinner is as important as the culinary harmony.
Ladies wear gloves at a formal dinner, and remove them only at table, resuming them when dinner is over and the guests have returned to the drawing-room.
The dining-room must be quietly but well lighted. There should be no glaring lights, but a soft radiance which is so general as to make everything clear. An electric light hanging eighteen inches above the table, or a tall lamp whose light is at about the same height, either of them well shaded, are satisfactory additions to the candlelight.
Sometimes high lights are dispensed with and only candles used. Candles should always be lighted three minutes before the dinner is announced. For a dinner of not more than eight covers four candles are sufficient light.
Relatives are not seated side by side, as the effort is to have a general mingling of the company. A clever hostess will see that her guests at a small dinner party are all introduced to each other before they enter the dining-room.
The table may be round, oval, or rectangular, but if too narrow it cannot be made to look well.
The tablecloth is always spread for a dinner. A thick pad of felt or double-faced cotton flannel should go under the tablecloth. The damask should be immaculate and of good quality. The tablecloth should hang almost to the floor at the corners.
At each place there is a card on which the guest's name is written. These place cards often have the monogram of the hostess in the center and are otherwise blank, except for the name written on.
The place cards at a dinner should be laid immediately before the plates of the guests or on the napkins, which are folded squarely, and of sufficient size to be of real usefulness.
In setting the table, the spoons for soup, dessert, and coffee are arranged at the top of the plate; the knives and forks, the latter of several sizes, are placed on either hand, in order of use, and the small plate for bread, olives, etc., is on the right.
In eating, the oyster fork is the first used, and then one takes the next in order. Should one be in doubt, the rule is to glance at the hostess and adopt her method, whatever that may be.
On elegant tables, each cover, or plate, is accompanied by two large silver knives, a small silver knife, and fork for fish, a small fork for oysters on the half-shell, a large tablespoon for soup, and three large forks. The folded napkin is laid in the center, with a piece of bread in it. Fish should be eaten with silver knife and fork.
A half-ladleful of soup is quite enough for each person, unless at a country dinner, where a full ladleful may be given without offense.
Individual salts or salt cellars are now placed at each plate, and it is not improper to take salt with the tip of the knife in lieu of a spoon.
The place plates stand under the oyster or soup plates and under any course when it is desirable to have them. Plates must be warmed or chilled according to the temperature of the food which is to be served in them.
The indispensable courses of a dinner are soup, fish, roast, salad, and dessert. In arranging her menu, however, each hostess will suit herself to her pocketbook and to what she considers good form in the amount and kind of food.
The formal dinner should be served in a very leisurely style.
At the daily family dinner as well as at formal dinners, all the ladies of the house and among the guests should be helped before any of the men are served, even if some distinguished guest is among the latter.
It is not necessary to wait until all are served before beginning to eat at a dinner, but wait until the hostess has commenced to eat.
Butter is not served at a formal dinner, and bread is laid in the napkin beside the plate.
There should be no urging of guests to eat. It is assumed that a guest is not afraid to eat as much as he wants.
When the fruit napkin is brought in, the user takes it from the glass plate on which it is laid, and either places it at his right hand, or on his knees. The doily beneath the finger bowl is not meant for use, but should be laid on the table beside the finger bowl.
After the dinner has been eaten, and dessert is reached, everything is cleared off but the tablecloth, which is now never removed. A dessert spoon is put before each guest, and a gold or silver spoon, a silver dessert spoon and fork, and often a queer little combination of fork and spoon called an ice spoon. For the after-dinner coffee a very small spoon is used.
Coffee may be served in demi-tasse at the table, or later in the drawing-room. Cream is never served with a demi-tasse.
The napkin should be left lying loosely beside the plate after a meal.
In case either a guest or a servant meets with any accident one should pass it over with as much speed as possible and turn the attention of all immediately toward some interesting matter. A mistake should be completely ignored by both hosts and guests.
Whenever a course is offered which you do not enjoy, never decline it, but accept it, and endeavor to take a small portion at least of it. You avoid then the tacit criticism of the taste of those who like it, and put your hostess at ease.
No personal preferences in foods are to be consulted or mentioned when one is a guest at dinner. If one cannot accept of the fare offered, one should have declined the invitation.
Should a guest be late, the hostess need not wait more than fifteen minutes for him, after which time, if he appear, the host rises from the table to greet him and cover the interruption of his entrance, but the hostess does not leave her place. If he does not come until after the second course, he is served only as the others are served, and no attempt is made to serve the previous courses to him.
When dinner is ready, the maid or butler appears in the drawing-room door, catches the eye of the hostess, and announces quietly that dinner is served.
Upon the signal, the host gives his arm to the guest of honor, and they lead the way, the lady being seated at the right of her host. After them come the other couples as the hostess has planned. Each man has found upon the dressing-room table an envelope addressed to him, in which is the name of the lady whom he is expected to take out to dinner, and also in the corner "R" or "L" to indicate on which side of the table he and his lady are to sit.
After all the others have passed out, the hostess brings up the rear with the gentleman guest of honor, who will sit at her right.
Evening dress should always be worn. For a lady a gown with low neck and short sleeves or elbow sleeves; for a gentleman, a dress coat and its accompanying trousers, vest, and tie of regulation cut and color.
Arrival a few minutes before the hour is customary in order for the guests to assemble in the drawing-room, greet their host and each other, and proceed together to the table.
When the meal is finished, the hostess catches the eye of the guest at her husband's right, smiles understandingly, and they immediately rise, and, followed by the rest of the ladies, leave the room, the men standing meanwhile. The men linger for a half-hour or so over their cigars and coffee, or liqueurs, before following the ladies into the drawing-room.
In the United States it is more usual for the men and women to leave the dining-room together, and the hostess to serve the coffee in the drawing-room, than it is for the men to linger by themselves at the table.
After a dinner party one should bid good-night to the lady one has taken out to the table, to one's host and hostess. It is not good form to omit the latter, for she should be assured that you at least have enjoyed the evening, and that her effort at hospitality has been appreciated by you. It is not necessary to take a formal leave of the other guests. If you choose you may wish them a general good-night.
A ceremonious dinner begins with a tiny bit of caviare on a tiny bit of toast.
Then comes the fruit. It may be melons, peaches, strawberries, or grape fruit. It must be in perfection, and should be on ice up to the moment of serving, and must tempt the eye as well as the palate.
Next comes the course of oysters or clams on the half-shell, which should be served on crushed ice, on oyster plates made with hollows for the shells, and picked up with silver forks made for the purpose. Or they may be served more daintily without the ice, immediately after they have been taken from the cooler, and without delay.
Then a clear soup. It may be served from a silver tureen by the hostess, or may be brought in soup plates to the guests by the waiter.
Then fish. This may be served by the host or arranged in a dainty mince and served in shells to the separate guests. If served by the host, potatoes very daintily cooked may accompany it.
Throughout the dinner olives, salted almonds, radishes, and similar relishes may be passed. These are the only articles of food on the table when the guests take their seats.
After the fish there can be an entree or two of some delicate dish, but the roast properly comes next. It may be turkey, beef, mutton, or lamb. The host may carve it if he pleases, and the waiter receive portions from him and carry them to the guests. In many houses the lady of the house is served first, and next the guest of honor, who is the lady at the right of the host. With the roast some vegetables are served.
Then comes a salad, and with the salad cheese and crackers are served.
The dessert follows the salad, and black coffee concludes the repast. This last may be served at the dining table, or later in the drawing-room by the hostess.
The dessert may consist of ices, fruit, pastry, or confections. Frequently there is a final course after the sweets, consisting of crackers and toasted cheese.
It is now considered quite proper for the host or hostess to specify the length of time covered by an invitation for a visit. The complication of duties in our present-day life makes the assignment of even pleasures to definite periods necessary. This is as important as the arrangement of trains and methods by which the guest may arrive and leave.
The English manner of entertaining is a very excellent one, as it gives the guest his freedom and makes his visit of the utmost profit to himself and also to his host. The English host sets the time of arrival, has his servant meet the guest at the station with conveyance, has him met at the house door again by a servant, and shown to his room, where he is made at home by being offered some light refreshments. He is told at what hour he will be received by his host and hostess in the drawing-room, usually a short time before dinner. Then throughout his stay he does not see his hostess till midday, although she provides amusement for her guests, which he is at liberty to enjoy or ignore as he chooses.
After the noon meal he may do as he chooses through the afternoon, appearing only at dinner, which is the formal meal of the day, and at the general gathering of the family and guests in the evening. The various members of the family are ready to show the visitors the place, or the countryside, or play their favorite games during the day; but there is no effort to make the entertainment formal or to force it upon the guest. We do not wish to see even our most honored guests or our dearest friends all of the time, and this arrangement makes the meeting at dinner all the more enjoyed and valued.
Before inviting guests it is necessary to see to the comfort which is represented in the guest chamber. This should be as dainty and comfortable as any chamber in the house, and, in addition to the usual furnishings, should have other fittings intended to supply all the comforts of one's home. A full line of towels, toilet articles, and even night robe, bathrobe, and slippers should be ready for the use of the guest in the event that her trunk and suitcase do not arrive at the expected time.
If the bed is fitted out with finery as well as with all the linen, blankets, and comfortables which a well-set-up bed requires, the care of the finery, its removal at night and folding up, should not be left to the guest. This should be attended to before bedtime by the maid, and the bed turned down ready for occupancy.
There should, of course, be vacant bureau drawers and wardrobe. The guest, especially if her visit be for a short time, and she has not brought her workbox, will much appreciate a small workbasket fitted out with needles, thread, thimble, and scissors. A desk fitted with stationery, pens, and postage stamps adds much to the comfort of a guest chamber, for, no matter how brief the stay, facilities for writing to the distant home are needed promptly and constantly.
The guest's comfort should be provided for before her entertainment or amusement, and she should be made to feel perfectly at home in her room, and her possession of it be absolute for the time of her stay.
It is a compliment to a guest to remember her favorite dishes, or to arrange things to suit her known tastes and preferences.
It is the duty of the hostess to give the signal for retiring. This should be done with a fine regard for the desires of guests, rather than according to one's personal wishes.
Special Duties of the Country Hostess
The country hostess should make her entertaining distinctive from that of the city. Every one should, at times, return to the country, for both physical and mental well-being. So when he is there, it is of great importance that he get country fare and country life, rather than make a fruitless attempt to live in the country as he does in the city.
The country hostess should not attempt to entertain unless she can depend upon her servants. Her relations with them should be such that there is no likelihood of having a houseful of guests and the servants thereupon suddenly weary of the quiet of the country, or for any other trivial reason promptly departing. The country hostess will, however, fit herself to meet any emergency which may arise, both on her own and her family's account, as well as on that of her guests.
Therefore, housekeeping and entertaining should be simplified as much as possible, and the most unexpected of emergencies should be anticipated and provided for, as far as may be. Unless the country hostess is herself competent to cook and to tend the fires, she will never be safe in the sending out of invitations. For the same reason, other members of the family should be trained in helpfulness, so that an emergency will simply mean the adoption of emergency tactics previously agreed upon and practiced to the point of efficiency.
The country hostess should remember that to her guests the charm and novelty of the fresh air and outdoor life are perhaps the greatest attractions of her home. So she should see to it that guests are left untrammeled, to go and wander where they may wish; and also that the guest chambers and all other rooms are kept filled with fresh air even in the coldest of weather.
Often the change to the invigorating country air makes the guest feel colder than the actual temperature of the room warrants. The hostess should remember this, and should provide that at all times the living-rooms and guest chambers be warmed as well as ventilated. The open fireplace is needed in addition to steam or furnace heat in an isolated country house.
"Simple things need to be excellent." The hostess should provide fresh fruit, chickens, eggs, vegetables, cream, and milk, the products of the country, rather than the elaborate dishes of the city.
The hostess should enjoy the country and teach her guests to enjoy it. She should know the attractive walks and drives, the places of real interest, and she should be able to point out the picturesque spots, and the points of vantage for especially fine views, and to make others feel the charm of the country.
The hostess should furnish outdoor occupations, should interest her guests in making collections of curious plants from the woodlands, and in getting acquainted with the trees. There should be some popular sports provided even in midwinter, and all the necessities for the enjoyment of these should be furnished, as well as a library, games, and all sorts of indoor entertainment and pastimes for the possible days of storm which shall block all exit from the house.
The serving of meals out of doors, if the season and weather permit, is a distinctive feature of country hospitality, and very enjoyable to city dwellers. Breakfast and afternoon tea are especially easy to serve on the lawn or piazza, but more elaborate meals may be so served if there are servants and facilities enough. Simple meals out of doors are preferable to more elaborate meals within. In order to do this enjoyably or successfully, it is necessary to have the piazza or garden somewhat secluded. A hedge, in the absence of other protection from the curious, easily makes this possible.
The informality possible in country entertaining is its greatest charm. Neighbors should be encouraged to "drop in" at any hour, as the monotony of country life may thus be greatly relieved.
The hostess who, in order to meet an emergency, is obliged to do much herself, should either simplify her plans of entertainment, so that she could carry them through without too great weariness to play her part as hostess by being with her guests, or should call upon them to assist her, and make it a companionable visit at any rate.
Rural festivities are usually festivals of labor, in which all join first in the work and later in the play. One should endeavor to do one's part of the work cheerfully, and in the spirit of good comradeship, as well as share in the fun.
One of the most enjoyable resources of the country hostess is the picnic. This idea may be varied to suit any circumstances and any surroundings. It may take the form of an athletic frolic for the young people, or of a reading party in some secluded and shady glen on a hot day, if the company be intellectual, or various other forms.
Men and women of prominence are often called upon to act as special hosts and hostesses at public or semipublic functions, such as club dinners or luncheons, society receptions, school or college graduations, receptions given by the heads of business houses on anniversaries or at openings, civil or state receptions, charitable social affairs, and the like.
As a rule, the etiquette and duties of such occasions do not vary greatly from those of the more private affairs, but usually greater formality is observed, and there is less responsibility on the part of the public entertainers for the details of the service.
At a club reception and luncheon, the president and chief officers of the club, with the guests of the day, stand in line and receive for a half-hour or more, in the parlors of the club. When all the guests, or the most of them, have assembled, the procession to the dining-room is headed by the president with the guest of greatest distinction, who is seated at his right. The other officers follow in order of rank, with the other guests in order of distinction.
After dinner, when the last course is completed and the debris removed, so that the tables present a neat appearance with their decorations intact, the president rises and raps for order. Then, after a few introductory remarks, he begins the program of the day. These programs vary greatly, but usually include after-dinner speeches of the light and happy or only semiserious order,—unless the purpose for which all are gathered is of serious moment,—music both instrumental and vocal, by excellent performers, and the responses to the speeches, either by the president or by others of the officers who may be called upon for brief and pertinent remarks. A spirit of good-will and enthusiasm should characterize such a gathering, whatever the object of it.
When one is appointed on the entertainment committee of a club, or of a city, or other body of people, for the holding of a congress of any sort, it is necessary to provide in minute detail for the entertainment of guests for a period covering the entire time of their stay. Such guests should be met at the depot or boat landing, should be given every assistance toward making them acquainted with the officers of the congress and club, and with the city, and every detail of provision for their comfort should be looked out for. Personal social claims upon their time should not be so made as to conflict with their real interest in coming, or with the advantages they may have sought in the visit, for carrying out their personal plans.
When one is a guest on such an occasion, he should remember that while his entertainment may have been official, his obligation for it is personal, and that he should personally thank his hosts and, in particular, his special host and hostess, as if he had been their only guest. No matter how absorbing the business of the congress or conference, no matter how strenuous his own official duties, his obligation socially is imperative, and must be met.
When one is a member of the graduating class of a school or college, or of any small group of people who, as a society, are entertaining, one should show the courtesy of host or hostess to every guest. This does not mean that one is responsible to every guest, to see that he or she is well entertained, but that, aside from his personal responsibilities to his own guests, he should be, at all the public functions, in the attitude of host to any stranger to whom he may show even the slightest hospitality.
As for his own guests, there are one or two points of special courtesy because of the nature of the entertainment. If he is inviting young women, or even only one, to whom he intends to give his whole, or a large part of his time, he must also invite her mother or chaperon. This rule is invariable for the high-school boy graduate, for the graduate of the men's college, and for the man graduate of a co-educational university.
In addition to the usual provision for guests, he must provide for their entertainment overnight or during their stay, if they be from the distance. He should, in addition, and early in their visit, acquaint them with the peculiarities of the local college customs. These customs are distinctive with each college, and their etiquette should be made clear to one who, though unused to them, is about to share them.
DUTIES OF THE CHAPERON
THE need of the chaperon is recognized in communities where there are large populations, and people are necessarily of many classes and unknown to one another. For this reason the system of chaperonage of the small communities of rural America has not been as elaborate or as strictly adhered to as that of the cities.
The chaperon is the accepted guardian of very young girls, taking oversight of them in their social life as soon as the governess gives up her charge. The chaperon is only a poor substitute for the rightful care of a mother, or takes the place of a mother when the latter cannot be present, or performs in the person of one the duties of several mothers.
Young girls should never go about the streets of a city or large town unaccompanied by an older person or a maid. This rule is not so much for physical protection as for the example of teaching her that fine conduct and discretion which will forestall the possibility of unpleasant experiences.
When a group of young people go to some public place of amusement or instruction, an older person should always accompany them. Such an attendant, who should be one of the fathers or mothers of the young people, if possible, would be in so great sympathy with the spirit of the group that his presence would impose no restraint and spoil no fun, yet it would be a curb on undue or undignified gaiety, and a protection against criticism.
The day is not very far distant when it was expected that if a daughter entertained a young man in the drawing-room, her father or mother would be present during the whole of the call. For debutante daughters the custom still holds good. For a daughter who has been out in society for one or more seasons, it seems somewhat rigorous and unnecessary, as the presence of the father or mother for a part of the call serves all the purposes of cordiality, and gives, as well, the young people a chance to talk without constraint of interests which seem perhaps foolish and trivial to any but young people. The wise father and mother or chaperon know when to trust young people, and when it is best to throw them quite upon their honor. It is only by having responsibility for their actions thrust thus upon them, that they ever attain to natural dignity and self-reliance.
It is sometimes permitted to a young woman to be escorted to a party or entertainment alone by a young man, but only by one who is well-known to the family as quite to be trusted, and only to such parties as are presided over by responsible patronesses. This should be exceptional for any but the young woman who has been left without immediate family and who has been already in society more than one season. The duenna who acts as her natural guardian and chaperon, ordinarily accompanies her.
It may be objected that there are large numbers of young women who are of necessity unprotected by adequate chaperonage,—through loss of relatives, financial limitations, or the following of some business calling or profession,—and that they are not, in general, treated with less respect than the young woman carefully guarded in her home. It yet remains true that the independent girl must needs provide for herself a chaperon upon certain occasions, or lose that consideration which she would keep at all costs. A strong character welcomes the aid of a careful observance of conventions.
Even the spinster of recognized professional standing finds herself somewhat restricted in social pleasures. She cannot go out socially with one man more than occasionally; she has little pleasure in going unattended; she can entertain but infrequently and in a small way, if at all, and never without an older married woman to assist her. She may, however, have her regular afternoon or evening "At Home," provided she has with her this friend; and with that friend present, she may entertain a gentleman caller until ten o'clock in the evening, but she may not offer him cigarettes, nor any beverage but tea, coffee, chocolate, or lemonade.
In fashionable life in the cities, the chaperon is an important and ever-present personage. Wherever the young debutante goes in society,—to every place of amusement, when walking or driving in the park, when shopping or calling,—and during her calling hours at home, the chaperon is her faithful and interested attendant.
The common usage of smaller towns, seashore places, and country villages differs in degree of attendance. The only wise rule is to follow the custom of the place in which one may happen to be, remembering always that the principle at the basis of the custom is wise and valuable, and that there should be good and sufficient reason for failing to follow it in its entirety. It is, however, not the letter of the law but the spirit of it which saves. Experience shows that not always the completely chaperoned girl is safe and the quite-free girl in real danger. Everything depends upon the girl, and the spirit of the chaperonage she receives. The relations with one's chaperon should be the most intimate and reliable and trustworthy of one's whole life; or they may be a mere farce and evasion. As a rule, however, too strict observance of the dictates of society in this connection is better than too lax.
The careless way in which many parents allow their sons and daughters to go off with a group of boys and girls of their own age, unattended by any adult, is to be deplored. Among the parents of several young people there certainly is some parent, who cares enough about his children and their associates to become a chum, and be at once a magnet to draw them to more mature and valuable ways of thinking, and a safeguard against that group folly towards which the irresponsibility of youth tends.
Until a girl makes her debut in society, she is not seen at a party of adults except in her own home, and not there at a formal entertainment unless it be a birthday party, a marriage, or a christening.
Even after an engagement is announced, the chaperon is still the attendant of the young couple in fashionable circles, when they go to any place of public amusement.
THE ETIQUETTE OF THE MARRIAGE ENGAGEMENT
IT is a wise and courteous action on the part of a lover to consult with the parents of the young woman and win their consent to his proposals before he presents them to her. This is largely a form in America, for the reason that in a well-ordered home the young man has not had much opportunity to pay attention to the daughter, unless the father and mother have considered him eligible for their daughter's friendship; also, the daughter, rather than the parents, does the choosing, and few parents would have the temerity to refuse a young man, whom they had permitted to enter their home, a chance to try his fate. Should they have good cause for such refusal, they should have used their influence and authority to counteract any favorable impression the young man may have made, before matters came to a crisis.
In matters of great moment, where the emotions are deeply stirred, the trivialities of etiquette are at once superfluous and important.
One may be so greatly overwrought as to do the unintentionally cruel and inconsiderate thing, unless habitual good breeding comes to the rescue, and steadies one by showing what is the conventional thing to do.
No woman should permit a friendship to culminate in a proposal of marriage unless she is free to entertain such a proposal and has not decided in her own mind upon a negative answer. Of course, there are times when she receives, without power to check it, an unwelcome proposal. Her refusal then should be very decisive but very considerate. She should express regret at the situation, and her appreciation of the honor which has been done her, at the same time leaving no opportunity for future hope. In case she is already engaged, she should tell him so.
If the proposal be written, it requires an immediate answer. Urgency of response is determined by the importance to the sender.
The return of a letter unopened, even if the woman have good reason to think that it contains a proposal which she must refuse, is extremely rude, and should be done under no circumstances but flagrant breach of confidence. If a letter is received by a woman from a man whom she has refused and whose persistency she has sought to end, she may place the letter in the hands of her parents, or guardians, or legal representatives, to be acted on as they think best.
The manner of a proposal is the touchstone of character. No man and woman, having passed through this experience together, can fail to have obtained at least a glimpse of the depths or the shallows of each other's character.
In a great majority of cases in America, at least, where access to the young woman is gained through a thousand social channels, the real declaration of love comes spontaneously, and is accepted or rejected before there is opportunity even for the formal proposal. For by a thousand half-unconscious signs does that state of mind reveal itself. So it happens that when the opportunity offers to settle the matter, there is little doubt in the mind of the lover and little hesitation on the part of the woman. This is true in that society where really well-bred and noble-minded women hold sway, for no woman of character permits the man to be long in doubt of her withdrawal of herself, when she sees he is attracted and yet knows that she cannot respond to his advances.
The method of proposing is not a matter for a book on etiquette. It concerns, along with all major matters of morals, those deeper things of life, for which there is no instruction beyond the inculcation of high ideals.
When the engagement is a fact and so acknowledged in the home, it is not a wise or courteous thing for the engaged couple to monopolize each other. Consideration on the part of the family would see to it that they have some time to be alone together. Yet the lovers should be as careful to keep their place in the social life of the home as if there were no special attachment. For social exclusiveness shows an absorption in each other which, if selfishly indulged, will bring its own penalty. That a couple are engaged denotes expectation of a future when they will be thrown largely upon each other's society; and, because it is essential for those who are to marry to become thoroughly acquainted, they should together mingle with other people, for so are the actual traits of character best brought out. This does not mean that they should avoid or neglect being alone together at times, but they should not obviously and selfishly absent themselves.
The young woman should be formally courteous to her affianced husband, and should never slight him because he is pledged to her, nor unduly exalt him for the same reason. She should now remember that the broad world of her social interests is narrowing as they intensify, and she should not attempt in any way to break the bounds set for the engaged girl. She should not go alone with other young men to places of amusement or entertainment. She should maintain her dignity so carefully as an affianced wife, that her betrothed shall not have the slightest reason to be jealous of the attention she gives to the men whom she meets in society. On the other hand she must not cater to the man she is to marry, to the extent of failing to do her social duty, or of making others feel that she has no interest in them.
As members of the same social set, the engaged couple will naturally meet much in society. They should not meet with effusion, or sufficiently marked discrimination to make others about them embarrassed. They should not spend too much time with each other. Their hostess will send them out to dinner together,—which is in marked contrast to the custom later when they are married, for then they will always be separated when in society. The young woman should be careful not to permit her fiance to take her away in a corner from other guests for a long time, and he should remember to do his social duty by other young ladies present, even if he wishes to devote himself to one.
The task of meeting each other's friends, after the engagement is announced, is one which should be most interesting and enjoyable, and should have nothing of that embarrassment which comes from the sense of critical scrutiny. The great ordeal of winning each other is decided, and the die cast. The smaller matter of establishing friendships on a mutual basis should be a pleasure and not an object of dread. Real affection and deep sincerity will make all prominent roughnesses smooth.
An engaged couple are apt to be in the foreground of any social event which they may both grace with their presence. The common human interest of the unengaged, and the reminiscent interest of the married, tend to focus all eyes upon them. For this reason they will try and be as little conspicuous as may be.
Announcement of Engagement
The announcement of an engagement may be made in several ways, but always first by the family of the young woman. If a public newspaper announcement is desired, a notice similar to the following, signed with a name and address, must be sent to the society editor of the local paper or papers:
"Mr. and Mrs. Howard Abbott announce the engagement of their daughter Ethel to Mr. Hayden B. Bradley, of Cleveland. The date of the wedding has not been fixed, but it will probably take place soon after Easter."
Or it may read: "Miss Ethel Abbott announces her engagement to Mr. Hayden B. Bradley," etc.
If a less public announcement is desired, the young couple may each write personal notes to their friends. In these notes one or two afternoons are mentioned when the young woman with her mother will be "At Home." This gives an opportunity for the relatives and friends of the young man to meet his fiancee.
The entertainment will be an informal afternoon tea, in which she and her mother receive, the former wearing a pretty but not too rich-looking gown with long or elbow sleeves. Sandwiches, cakes, and tea should be served.
If an engagement is to be for long, it would be well to have the announcement of it as quiet as possible, or not to announce it until the time for the wedding draws near, and, also, for the young people not to be seen very much together until its final stages.
Immediately upon the announcement of an engagement, the mother of the man should at once call upon the young woman and her mother, and invite them, or the entire family, to dinner.
The family of the young man should be the first to make advances. The other members of the young man's family should call upon the young woman promptly, even if they have never met her before, or, if calling is impossible, they should write and express their approval and good wishes. According to the position of the family, should the elaborateness of entertainment be. It is a nice custom, when the young lady lives in another city and has never met the family of her fiance, for them to invite her to come and visit them.
The calls of his family upon her, and their letters to her, should be very promptly returned or answered.
If the young woman live in the country, her father will invite the young man for a visit.
The bestowal of engagement presents has of late years taken on a wholesale aspect. Instead of the occasional receipt of a present from one or another of her friends and relatives, the bride-elect is often now the guest of honor at one or more parties called "showers," and the recipient of numerous gifts which are literally showered upon her. There are many kinds of "showers," as many as the ingenuity and financial resources of friends may admit of. When, however, any one bride is to be made the object of a series of such attentions, it is well for the girl's friends who have the matter in hand to see to it that no one person is invited to more than one shower, or, if so invited, that it be at her own request and because she wishes to make several gifts to her friend.
These affairs should be purely spontaneous and informal, and occasions of much fun and jollity. Nevertheless, there is danger of overdoing the idea, and making the recipient feel burdened rather than gratified by the zeal of her friends in her behalf.
Effort should be made not to have the articles given at a "shower" duplicate each other. They should be some simple, useful gifts, which will be of immediate service, and need not be either expensive or especially durable, unless the giver so desires. A "shower" is usually given when a wedding is in prospect, and the necessity of stocking up the new home confronts the young home-makers. The aim is to take a kindly interest in the new home and help to fit it out, more in the way of suggestion than in any extravagant way, which would make the recipients feel embarrassed or indebted, or overload them with semidesirable gifts.
The "shower" is usually in the afternoon, and is joined in almost exclusively by the girl friends of the bride-elect, with perhaps a few of her older women friends and relatives. If, however, it comes in the evening, the men of the bridal party are usually also invited. The refreshments are simple and the style of entertainment informal. The invitations to a "shower" are usually given by the hostess verbally, or she sends her cards by post with the words "Linen shower for Miss Hanley on Wednesday at four."
There is a wide range of possible kinds of "showers," but the only rational way is to choose for a donation party of this sort only such objects as will be needed in quantity and variety, and in the choice of which one has not too strong and distinctive taste, as, for instance, the following: Linen, towels, glass, books, fancy china, silver, spoons, aprons, etc. Of course, the furnishings of some one room, as the bath-room, laundry, or kitchen, might be the subject of a "shower," but usually a housewife would prefer to have what she wanted and nothing else for use in these places.
The Broken Engagement
When an engagement is broken the young woman should return to the young man all letters and presents, and may ask, by a brief, courteous, but dignified, note, for the return of her letters to him. It would not be necessary, ordinarily, to write such a note, as the man would take the sending back of his gifts as final, and to mean the return of hers also.
In case the wedding is near, so that wedding presents have been received from friends, the no longer "bride-elect" should return them to the givers with an explanatory note. The note should mention nothing beyond the fact that the engagement has been broken.
The mother of the young woman is the one to announce the breaking of the engagement. She quietly does so, by word of mouth or notes to friends. In case of a broken engagement, it is not delicate to allude to it, unless one is a very intimate friend, and then it is better to leave the first broaching of the subject to the one most concerned.
It is customary for the privilege to be granted the woman of terminating an engagement without offering any explanation other than her will. Nevertheless, she will not use this privilege arbitrarily, without casting a shadow upon her reputation and character for faithfulness and integrity. A man is expected to make no explanation, even privately, as to the reason for the breaking of the engagement, as the release must at least appear to come from the woman. Whatever she chooses to say, or however unjust the remarks of friends seem, he is in honor bound to show great reserve, and not to cast any shadow upon her reputation, even if his own suffers instead.
However, in many circles to-day it is enough to say that an engagement has been broken mutually, even though no reason is obvious. This should be so, for if too much comment attaches to the breaking of a marriage engagement, marriages will be entered into the almost certain outcome of which is the divorce court.
A lady should never accept any but trivial gifts, such as flowers, a book, a piece of music, or a box of confectionery, from a gentleman who is not related to her. Even a marriage engagement does not make the acceptance of costly gifts wise.
Preparation for a Wedding
The preparation which the bridegroom makes for the new home, is, of course, by far the larger share of its establishment. He provides the home, furnishes it with everything but the linen, which the bride will bring, and the ornamental decorations, including silver for the table, which the wedding guests may, in these days of lavish presents, be expected to furnish.
Even if he does not choose to set up a house-home at once, the provision for the future is all his, and he has to bring to the wedding the wherewithal to make a home, whether it be in household furniture or only the certificates of wealth with which to provide for the bride. This is a matter of pride with even the poorest lover,—with all save that small class of men who, either from the most worldly of motives or, in the very opposite extreme, from motives so high that they will not permit personal pride to stand in the way of the real union of hearts, submit to the indignity of becoming pensioners rather than donors.
Whatever the custom for the division of responsibility in regard to the home and the future, in actual life, in every true home responsibility is equal, and convenience alone decrees what the bride and the bridegroom shall each contribute to the common hoard.
The bridegroom also provides a part of the wedding, and although his share is minimized, yet it is often a costly and important part. He should provide the flowers which the bride and her attendants carry. The bride usually chooses her flowers, which are ordinarily white roses, lilies of the valley, or fragrant white flowers of her favorite kind.
Besides providing the wedding ring, the bridegroom usually presents to the bride some gift. It is perhaps the deed of the house he has bought and furnished for her. Or it may be jewelry, or anything else that she desires and that he may have it in his power to bestow. The bride makes him no special gift other than her hand, as that is her supreme gift.
The personal provision of the bridegroom sometimes consists of a new wardrobe throughout, besides his wedding suit. If he is wise he will wear his new suits somewhat before he appears in them as newly married. His wedding suit will consist of evening dress, if he is to be married in the evening, complete with white gloves and tie, and boutonniere of the same flowers as the bride's bouquet. If married in the afternoon, or any time before six o'clock, he will wear a frock coat of black, white vest, gray trousers, and white tie and gloves. In case the wedding is in the evening and the bride is to wear her traveling dress, hat, and gloves, the bridegroom may wear the same suit as for an afternoon wedding, if he chooses.
The custom of having a new wardrobe throughout is not necessarily followed, of course. It is through the bridegroom's consideration for the bride, and his appreciation of the housewifely duties which she undertakes on his behalf, that he makes those as small as possible at first, knowing that the years will bring her her full share.
The bride's wedding wardrobe is made a matter of special moment, because it is for the last time that she is outfitted by her father. Therefore, he wishes to give her all that she needs for some time to come, that she may grow used to reliance upon her husband before he has to undertake the burden of her personal expenses in the matter of clothes.
The outlay, however, is limited in quantity to the probable needs of the first season of married life, if the bride is wise, as there is no wisdom in having more garments than can be worn to advantage before the style changes.
No sensible woman will set a standard of expenditure too high for her future income, in what she buys for her wedding wardrobe. The only circumstances in which she should exceed the modest sum of her usual outlay,—beyond the fact that she needs more and special garments for the different social occasions, and has a pride in having them as nice as possible,—are those in which she marries a man of much higher social station and much larger income than her own. In that case it may be well for her to put some of her savings for the future into the gowns which she knows will be necessary for her in her new station.
The special gowns necessary for a bride are: Her wedding gown,—which is of pure white if a maiden, or pearl gray or some other delicate color if a widow,—the wedding veil, the traveling suit, a reception gown, a church suit, a somewhat elaborate visiting suit, a plain street suit, house dresses, a dainty wrapper, and a new outfitting of underclothing, in number and quality to suit her usual custom, or as nice as she can afford.
For the bride whose purse is not overfull the number of gowns and suits can be materially diminished; the wedding gown, with some slight changes, such as the removal of the high collar and long sleeves, can be used as an evening dress; the traveling, church, and visiting suit may be one and the same; the house dresses may be reduced to a minimum by frequent washing. That one cannot provide an elaborate wardrobe with which to begin married life should not be a barrier to a marriage which in every other respect appears to be auspicious.
The bride's trousseau proper, or that store of linen which she provides for her new home, should consist of approximately the following:
For every bed three pairs of sheets, three pairs of pillow cases, three bolster cases, one or two pairs of blankets, two counterpanes, and an extra quilt.
For her bedrooms she should provide table, stand, and bureau covers, as the style of the furniture may suggest, and also such covers for couch pillows or armchairs as a thrifty housewife would desire for the sake of cleanliness.
For the bath-room there should be three dozen towels, a half-dozen bath towels. Towels for the maid should also be included.
For the dining-room, four tablecloths and two dozen napkins for common use, with two finer tablecloths and two dozen napkins for special occasions, make ample provision for the average home. There should be doilies and tray cloths, covers for the sideboard, also mats and centerpieces for the table.
For the kitchen, three dozen cloth towels for dishes, hand towels, cleaning cloths, holders, and every necessary sort of towel in abundance. With the increasing use of the paper towel, much of this provision for bath-room and kitchen may be dispensed with, as the paper towel is much neater and more economical.
The wedding gown, which is of white satin or silk, and usually as rich and elegant as the bride can afford, is always cut high in the neck and with long sleeves, or, if elbow sleeves, they are supplemented by long gloves, which are not removed even at the wedding breakfast. The custom is to wear white exclusively from veil to shoes. Whether or not the veil is worn, a hat is never provided for this gown.
It is customary, in case a bride is married in her traveling suit, for her to wear the hat and gloves which go with it. At a home wedding, however, this rule is not usually adhered to, unless the couple leave at once.
The bridal veil and orange blossoms are worn only at the first marriage of a woman, and usually only with a gown made with a train.
The bridegroom should acquaint himself with the rules and regulations in regard to the marriage license some weeks ahead of the date set for the wedding, if possible, as the rules vary in different states, and in some a period of residence or notification is necessary.
A marriage certificate, furnishing easily available knowledge of the legality of the marriage and its date, is often of great convenience in the disposition of property, the probating of wills, and in the settlement of numerous questions which might arise in minor matters. This should be provided before the ceremony, filled out and signed immediately after it by the officiating clergyman, and signed by several witnesses.
The wedding ring is, by long established custom, a plain gold band. It should be of the best gold, and the fashion now is for it to be moderately narrow and thin rather than wide and thick. The ring, the unbroken circle, is symbolic of eternity. The bridegroom gives it into the keeping of the best man, whose duty it is to hand it promptly to him at the proper moment of the ceremony. The initials and date are engraved upon the inner surface of the ring. When wider rings were worn some appropriate sentiment was also often engraved.
Once placed upon the bride's finger, it is her pride to see that it is never removed. As Mrs. Sangster feelings says, "It is a badge of honor, and, worn on any woman's hand, a symbol of her right to belong to the ranks of worthy matrons."
It is well to rehearse the movements of the bridal procession within a day or two of the ceremony, that there may be no flaw in the conduct of the actors in this dramatic bit of realism. If it is to be a church wedding, more than one rehearsal may be required. In that case the organist should be present, as well as every member of the bridal party, except the clergyman. The opening of the church for such rehearsal is included in the fee which the sexton receives, which ranges from ten to fifty dollars.
Usually refreshments, in the form of either a dinner or supper, follow the rehearsal, the bride entertaining at her home.
If the Episcopal service is to be used, or any other service in which the bride and bridegroom kneel, cushions for their use should be provided. These are usually covered in white satin, with outer covers of very sheer lawn upon which the initials may be worked.
The floral decorations of the church or home should be subordinated to the main interest; that is, they should not be too elaborate, take up too much room, or do other than furnish a fitting background for the bridal couple. The decorations usually follow some definite color scheme, although simply the white flowers with green foliage are appropriate and symbolic for a church wedding. A few palms, simple bouquets of flowers arranged naturally and gracefully, with foliage to contrast and fill the corners, will decorate an altar or make a pleasant bower. When costliness rather than beauty is the effect of flowers, the display is vulgar.
An awning should be stretched from the house or church door to the sidewalk, so that the guests and bridal party may not be subjected to the gaze of curious passers-by as they leave the carriages. An attendant should be stationed at the sidewalk to open the doors of the carriages, and to give to the coachmen and guests numbers by which their carriages may be speedily called.
While the provision of the carriages belongs with all other things to the bride's family, the carriages for the bridegroom and his family are provided by them.
THE CONDUCT OF A WEDDING
IN cities at present the most fashionable hour for the ceremony is "high noon," following the English custom, and in remembrance of the long-standing tradition which placed the wedding early in the day, before the night's fast had been broken.
The afternoon is a suitable time, as it enables friends to gather more conveniently from the distance, and as the reception with refreshments is much more easily arranged for than is a breakfast. For an afternoon wedding, three o'clock is the proper hour in the winter, four o'clock in the summer.
The evening was at one period the fashionable time, and it still retains its popularity and long will among the middle class of people and in the country, because a larger gathering of friends can be expected at that time, as all are free from business and household cares.
The Church Wedding
For the church wedding special arrangements must be made for the seating of the guests. A certain number of pews in the center front of the church are reserved for the families and intimate friends of the bride and bridegroom. The reservation is indicated by a broad white ribbon barrier across the aisle, or a garland of flowers. The family of the bride is seated on one side of the aisle, and that of the bridegroom on the other.
The ushers should be at the church at least a half-hour before the guests begin to arrive. They wear small buttonhole bouquets of flowers like those used in the decorations of the church, which are sent them there by the florist.
In seating the guests they should take great care to seat in the reserved space only those whose names are on the list given them as belonging there. Therefore, they ask the name of each guest whom they do not know before assigning him his seat. Sometimes, however, each of these special guests is provided with a card which he gives to the usher.
When a gentleman and lady enter the church together, the usher offers his right arm to the lady, and the gentleman follows them as they proceed down the aisle. When several ladies arrive together, the usher offers his arm to the eldest, and requests the others to follow as he conducts her to her seat.
Each usher asks of each guest whether he is friend of the bride or bridegroom, and seats him accordingly, upon the left of the church if a friend of the bride, upon the right if a friend of the groom. In case the bridegroom is from the distance, and therefore there are few of his friends present, this custom is not followed.
Immediately before the bridal party appears, the mother of the bride is escorted by the head usher to a seat in the front pew. Any sisters or brothers of the bride who may not be in the bridal procession enter with their mother.
Meanwhile the bridal party has been gathering, the bridesmaids going to the home of the bride and there receiving from her their bouquets, which are the gift of the bridegroom. Thence they take carriages to the church, where they all arrive at the hour set for the ceremony. When the first carriage arrives, containing two of the bridesmaids,—as the carriage of the bride and her father is the last,—the head usher closes the inner vestibule door, and the other ushers see that all entrance at side doors is barred. When the bride arrives the outer street doors are closed, and the procession forms. Two of the ushers have already carried the broad white ribbon down the sides of the main aisle, thus shutting in the pews, and have taken down the ribbon barrier across it.
The bridegroom and his best man have come in a carriage by themselves and entered the church by the vestry door. They and the clergyman await the notice of the bride's arrival.
The organist, who has been playing appropriate selections while the guests were assembling, begins on the wedding march as the doors to the church are thrown open in signal that all is in readiness. The audience rises. The clergyman takes his place, and the bridgegroom and best man enter, the former standing at the clergyman's left, the latter just behind the bridegroom, who is facing the aisle down which the bride will come.
First come the ushers, two and two, keeping pace with the time of the music, which is a stately, dignified march. The bridesmaids follow, also two and two, with about six feet of space between each couple. The maid of honor alone, or the maid and matron of honor together, then come. The flower girl, or flower children follow, scattering flowers from a basket hung upon the left arm.
Then come the bride and her father, or nearest male relative, she with downcast eyes and leaning upon his right arm.
The procession divides as it reaches a spot opposite the place where the bride and bridegroom are to stand, or, in an Episcopal church, the top of the chancel steps; half go to the right and half to the left. The bridesmaids stand between the ushers, all being grouped in a semicircle. The maid of honor stands at the left, in front of the bridesmaids and near the bride.
The bridegroom advances to meet the bride, who leaves her father and takes the bridegroom's hand, then accepts his left arm and is escorted by him to a position in front of the clergyman. The couple kneel for a moment before the ceremony begins.
At the place in the ceremony where the question is asked, "Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" the father, who has been standing a few feet back, advances and places the bride's right hand in that of the clergyman, who places it in the right hand of the bridegroom. The father then takes his seat in the front pew with his wife, whom, as they leave the church, he escorts.
Should a widowed mother be the only one to respond to this inquiry, she simply rises from her seat and bows. In such a case the bridegroom usually enters with the bride, and the procession is less elaborate.
When the troth is being plighted and the ring is about to be given, the best man hands it to the bridegroom, who passes it to the bride. She hands it to the clergyman, who returns it to the bridegroom. Then the latter places it upon the third finger of the bride's left hand. The significance of the passing of the ring is that it completes a circle, the symbol of eternity, of which the clergyman is one, thus symbolizing the sanction of the church.
After the ceremony the clergyman congratulates the newly wedded couple, and the bride takes the right arm of her husband, walking thus down the aisle, the bridal party following in reverse order, the ushers therefore last. Even at a stately church ceremonial it has been known for the bride to stop and kiss her mother before passing down the aisle.
The duties of the maid of honor during the service are to take from the bride her glove and bouquet as the clergyman asks the bride and bridegroom to join hands. Then it is her care to remove the veil from before the face of the bride when the ceremony is over, and to turn the train of her gown that it may fall rightly as she passes up the aisle.
Occasionally when there are two main aisles to the church, the bridal procession enters on the one amid the friends of the bride, and returns on that amid the friends of the groom, to signify that the bride has now become one of them.
The best man follows the clergyman to the vestry, hands him the fee, if the groom had not before done so, and passes down the side aisle to signal for the bridal carriage, and to give the bridegroom his hat and coat. He then goes to the bride's house, where he assists the ushers in introducing the guests to the pair.
The organist starts up a very joyous march at the conclusion of the ceremony, and continues playing while the guests are dispersing.
Following the bridal procession the families and intimate friends of the couple pass out before the audience, as the ribbon barriers which reserve the aisle are not taken down until all have passed out. If the reception is at the home, this gives the bridal party time to enter the carriages; if the reception is in the church parlors, it gives time for them to take their places in the receiving line.
At the bride's home there is now time, before the guests arrive, for all of the bridal party to congratulate and felicitate the bride and bridegroom, and also to sign after them the register of the marriage, which is in the care of the best man. This is usually in the form of a book bound in white, with the initials of the bride and bridegroom embossed upon it, and opportunity is usually given for the wedding guests to add their signatures also.
The bride's mother, who is the real hostess of the occasion, stands near the entrance of the room in which the reception is held. In a receiving line at the head of the room stand the bride and bridegroom with half of the bridesmaids ranged on the bride's right and the other half on the groom's left. The parents of the groom stand near and the father of the bride with them or with his wife, as host. The ushers present the guests to the bride and bridegroom, and then to their parents, as guests of honor. A few words of congratulation to the bridegroom and of best wishes to the bride are all that the few moments possible for each guest permit. The bride offers her hand to each guest, and presents to her husband her friends, as he does his to her.
The Home Wedding
The home wedding may be made in every way quite as ideal as the church wedding, and is much more simple, its privacy appealing to many. The house will be decorated with flowers in good taste and not too great profusion. Usually a canopy or bower of flowers and foliage is erected at the head of the drawing-room. This should not be too massive, as only a special grouping of the flowers is preferable to an arrangement which is too crowded or shaded.
As the guests arrive the mother and sisters of the bride receive them. The father of the bride does not appear, nor, of course, does the bride, until they enter together. A room is placed at the disposal of the bridegroom, the best man, and the clergyman.
At the stroke of the hour appointed, the clergyman enters and takes his stand facing the company. The bridegroom and best man also enter and stand at the left of the clergyman, the best man somewhat behind. As in a church wedding, the broad white ribbon is used to mark the aisle. If bouquets are attached to the ends of it, they will hold it in place.
Then from the farthest corner of the room enters the bridal procession, formed as for a church wedding.
At a simple house wedding there are often no attendants, the bride and bridegroom entering the room together, the bride's father having taken his position near at hand, where he can readily respond at the right moment.
Another way of forming the procession, which has all the advantages of the more elaborate one, is for the best man to follow the ushers, then the one bridesmaid to enter immediately preceding the bride and bridegroom.
Music is often dispensed with at a home wedding.
When the ceremony is over the clergyman congratulates the couple and withdraws, and they, turning, face their friends, who then come to wish them happiness.
Whether the wedding take place in the home or at the church, the bridal pageant has only one object in view,—it is wholly for the sake of the bridegroom. Every woman desires to come to her husband in all the glory of her womanhood and of her social position. By all custom the bridegroom does not see his bride upon the wedding day until she approaches him as he stands at the altar. So, with her family doing her the utmost honor that they can, she comes to him, bringing all that she has and is, and placing herself and her future in his care. The coming is just as real, however, though the utmost simplicity prevail.
Back of all the minute detail of wedding custom there is a symbolism. With the constant elevation of the standards of marriage, this symbolism and these customs grow purer and more in accord with the ideals. Just as it is always taken for granted that a marriage ceremony is uniting loving hearts, so little by little all that is at variance with that thought will drop away, as have already several minor details, and new forms and customs more in harmony with the new ideals take the place of the old. These changes, however, come very gradually, and should not be hastened, but should only keep pace with the new conceptions. Nevertheless, there should not be too tenacious a clinging to the old forms, which expressed lower conceptions, when the masterly thought of the day is forging out higher and purer ideals of marriage.
The Wedding Breakfast
The wedding breakfast is the name given to the refreshments which follow the noon wedding. It is usually given when there are but few relatives and intimate friends, because it is an expensive feast if large numbers are invited. It is really a dinner, served in courses, at numerous small tables, each with a complete dinner service. One large table, placed in the center of the room or elsewhere conspicuously, is reserved for the bridal party.
The menu usually consists of "fruit, raw oysters, bouillon, fish or lobster in some fancy form, an entree, birds and salad, ices, cakes, bonbons, and coffee," according to one recognized authority. Or it may be much simpler, and include only oysters or bouillon, sandwiches and salad, ices, cakes, and coffee.
Usually some punch is served in which to pledge the bride and bridegroom. If wine is used, champagne is customary for weddings.
The caterer usually supplies all the necessities for the wedding feast, even to china, linen, silver, candelabra, and flowers, should the bride's parents so wish.
At the wedding reception, after the congratulations and greetings are over, and the breakfast is announced, the bride and bridegroom lead the way to the dining-room. Then comes the bride's father with the groom's mother. The bridegroom's father follows with some member of the bride's family, then come the best man and the maid of honor. The ushers and bridesmaids pair off, and other members of the bridal party or of the two families follow in pairs. Lastly, as hostess of the occasion, comes the bride's mother, with the officiating clergyman, or the senior and highest in rank of the clergymen, if there be more than one, as guest of honor.
The rest of the guests, who are not seated at the bridal table, find their seats as they choose, with friends, no place cards being used.
For an afternoon or evening reception the refreshments are served as for any reception. A large table in the dining-room is decorated with flowers and piled with the edibles, which are served by the waiters to the guests as they enter. The variety of food depends wholly upon the resources of the bride's parents and the size and elaborateness of the wedding. Many prefer a simple repast as the hour is unusual for a meal, and a dinner is not to be served.
When the bride and bridegroom enter and are served, the best man proposes a toast to their health and happiness, and all present stand, glass in hand, and pledge them.
At a wedding breakfast the English custom is to have toasts and speeches, but it is not followed largely in this country. Where it is, usually at a small wedding party, the father of the bridegroom or the best man proposes the health of the bride and bridegroom. The father of the bride responds. Sometimes the bridegroom is called on to respond to this toast, which he does, proposing in turn the health of the bridesmaids. To this the best man responds.
The wedding cake is a rich dark fruit cake, which is at its best only when made months in advance and kept in a stone crock well covered. This is finely frosted and ornamented.
At the close of the wedding breakfast the wedding cake is set before the bride, who cuts the first slice from it. It is then passed to the others.
At a large wedding, where no breakfast is served, the wedding cake is usually cut into small pieces and placed in white boxes, which are decorated with the initials of the bride and bridegroom and are tied with white ribbon. These are placed upon a table in the hall near the door and the guests either each take one as he leaves, or one is handed him by a servant.
Sometimes a part of the wedding cake is put away in a tin box and sealed, to be opened by the couple on some future anniversary.
The wedding cake is distinct from the bride's cake, which may be served by the latter at a dinner to her bridesmaids a day or more before the wedding, and in which a thimble, a coin, and a ring are hidden. The superstition is that the young women who by chance receive the slices containing these are respectively destined for a future of single blessedness, wealth, or domestic bliss.
At a reception the larger number of the guests depart before the bridal couple go to the dining-room. As soon as refreshments are served them, and the toast to them has been drunk, they retire to don suits for traveling. The bridegroom waits for the bride at the foot of the staircase, and the bridesmaids gather there too, as when she comes, she throws her bridal bouquet among them, and the bridesmaid who catches it will be the next bride, according to an old superstition.
As the outer door is opened to let the couple out, all the friends and relatives present throw flowers or confetti or rice after them, for good luck, and an old white slipper is thrown after the carriage as they drive off. The custom of thus showering the departing couple has been sometimes carried to such an extreme that many refrain from it. Rice is somewhat dangerous, and confetti is so distinctive as frequently to cause embarrassment when in a public train or station. Flowers may appropriately be used, and are always at hand in the decorations of the home.
The Wedding Journey
The wedding journey is the bride and bridegroom's affair, and the knowledge of it is kept their secret and divulged only to the best man, who probably helps arrange for it, and to the father and mother of the bride, and they all are silent about it. The intrusion of even intimate friends upon such a trip is not considered good form.
The custom of taking a journey at this time is not so rigidly observed as it used to be, many young couples preferring to go direct to their new home, or to a quiet country house for the honeymoon.
The real wishes of the couple should be followed out at this time, because they are now more free from social obligations than they will be later, and a wise start upon married life is of all things most desirable and necessary.
The fee should be placed in an envelope or purse, and given to the clergyman by the best man or some friend of the bridegroom, just before or just after the ceremony, as may be most convenient. It is sometimes handed to the clergyman by the bridegroom at the close of the ceremony and before the couple turn away from the altar. It should be always given quietly, privately, and with no display or comment.
The clergyman does not examine the fee or comment upon it, other than indicating his acceptance.
The size of the fee is a matter of individual taste. Because it is unostentatiously given, its size is known only to the bridegroom and the clergyman, and to none others unless they wish to tell. There are some people in fashionable circles who employ a minister only at marriages and funerals, and who labor under the impression that they are objects of charity and that by them even the small favor is always thankfully received. No one thing so denotes the degree of real refinement in a man as the fee he offers the clergyman for marrying him. The clergyman is one of the three principals in the marriage ceremony. The great majority of brides desire that their marriage should have the sanction and benediction of the religious body with which they worship, or which has standing in their community and among their people. At the very least, in the civil marriage, without a third party to represent either church or state a marriage ceremony and therefore a legalized marriage is impossible. The third principal is therefore an important part of the affair. To treat him shabbily in any way denotes no real appreciation of his presence. So it is that the true gentleman is as willing to give a handsome fee to him, if his means permit it, as he is to give to his bride something which shall delight and please her, and which shall symbolize his appreciation of the gift of herself. The bridegroom's offering to the clergyman is indeed the touchstone of his refinement. Wedding fees vary from five to a thousand dollars, the usual amount being twenty-five dollars for the fairly affluent.
So extreme has become the custom of sending wedding presents that it is perhaps necessary to remind those who really desire to do the correct thing, that a perfunctory service, or gift, or courtesy has no intrinsic value, and the omission of it would often be far more satisfactory than its bestowal.
The usual form of wedding gift is something of use and ornament for the new house. Silver, linen, cut glass, or china for the dining-room, furniture, rugs, lamps, clocks, vases, books, and pictures, or bric-a-brac for the rest of the house, are all appropriate.
If silver is given, it should not be marked, as the bride may have duplicates and prefer to exchange some pieces for others, or as she may have a special form of engraving which she prefers. The exchange of a gift, however, removes from it the personal thought of the giver, and makes its acceptance more a matter of mercenary than of friendly interest. If, however, such exchange is made at the suggestion or with the approval of the giver, it still remains a personal gift. The indefinite way in which many people choose wedding gifts for their friends, following only the conventional ideas of what is suitable, has taken a great deal of personal interest from the gift at the very first.
The wedding gift should be a real gift in spirit, something expressive of the giver's good wishes, and something which the bride and bridegroom can enjoy and appreciate for its worth to them. Foolish things, whether expensive or not, have no real utility or beauty, and have always the atmosphere of insult about them, or else always reflect upon the intelligence of the giver.
A bride should acknowledge all gifts as soon as they are received, and before her wedding day if possible. Spontaneous rather than stereotyped notes of thanks are preferable. They should show appreciation of the gift, and include the name of the bridegroom-elect in her expression of their gratitude. A bride should remember that too elaborate notes, which are a grave tax on her strength or time in the busy days preceding a wedding, are unwise, as is any other unnecessary expenditure of energy.
It is never obligatory to send a wedding present. The wedding announcement and wedding invitation are equally suggestive of such gifts, for in either case, whether one is invited to the ceremony or not, one is perfectly free to do as he pleases about conferring a gift.
The Country Wedding
There is an especial attractiveness and simplicity about the out-door wedding in the country, for those who desire to get rid of the conventional and artificial. Such a wedding is, of course, a day wedding. The late afternoon might be chosen, but the twilight never. The weather must be warm.
A secluded corner in the garden, the shade of some stately tree on the lawn, or the flowery seclusion of some orchard tree make attractive chancels for the ceremony.
The grass should be cut close, and all leaves and debris swept away.
Somewhat removed from the place of the ceremony, but still on the lawn or piazza, small tables and chairs may be placed in groups, and refreshments served out of doors also.
The simplicity and homelike yet solemn atmosphere of a wedding in a country church appeal to many. There much of the formality of a city church wedding may be dispensed with, and yet the whole of the religious spirit, which should attend a church wedding, and indeed any wedding, be retained. The country church lends itself more aptly to those private weddings where the bridal party, whether small or large, are the only spectators, than does the large city church. The sense of exclusiveness is preserved without the great sense of bareness and emptiness.
To many the private church wedding appeals with great force. The religious and sacramental nature of the ceremony is emphasized, without the pomp and display of the public service. Such a wedding usually takes place in the daytime rather than in the evening.
ETIQUETTE FOR CHILDREN
ONE may be taught self-restraint and unselfish consideration for others at so early an age that such virtues become habitual, and minor maxims are to a large extent unnecessary. Of course, the child will still have to be shown the various ways in which he can show consideration, but he will quite frequently do of himself those acts which make for the comfort and well-being of others.
Habits of deference to elders spring from more complex motives, and the training in them may have to be more persistent and rigorous. Boys should be taught to take off their caps to their elders, both in the family and in the circle of friends, when they meet them on the street. They should rise when ladies enter the room, and remain standing until all are seated.
An important part in a child's bringing up is to teach him to put away his own garments and to clear up after his play or work. If this is instilled early into the child, there will never be any need of the pain of counteracting slovenliness, and also never any of that disagreeable haughtiness toward servants, which is fostered by nothing so much as by the inch-by-inch waiting upon a child.
The child who has been made a companion of, and not repressed or driven away by the older people of the family, has a sort of instinctive respect for them, which, though it may overstep itself in some daring familiarity occasionally, is the basis of a strong authority over him. The child who has been spied on, and whose idea of all adults is that they are a sort of modified policemen, will show respect only under compulsion, and will fail in all those fine courtesies which the thoroughly well-bred child grows to delight in.
Self-control and self-repression are equal virtues to be cultivated in the child. To permit the child to be indifferent and inattentive when one is trying to amuse or entertain, to be impatient to get at the end of a story or a game, to keep yawning; or making other expressions of weariness when being reproved or reprimanded, cultivates in the child a mental laziness which is as bad as its opposite,—parrot-like facility for chattering and asking questions, which gives a child no chance to think, and makes him develop into a man of only surface intelligence and thoughtless flippancy. Even a child can appreciate, if rightly taught, the motive back of a kind action, and can respect that even if the action does not interest him.
On the other hand, it is a serious matter to allow a child to be constantly bored with lectures on his conduct, or even with efforts to amuse him. He should be let alone, thrown upon his own resources, and not permitted to be taxed beyond adult endurance by well-meaning but futile efforts on his behalf.
Children should never be allowed to interrupt. For that reason parents, and those who have the care of children, should remember not to monopolize the conversation when there are children present, nor talk on and on for a long time, as no person, least of all a child, can follow such continuous talk without weariness.
Children should be taught that thinking will answer most of their questions for them, that they should wait and see if the answer will not be given by something that is said later on. Every effort made to drive the thought of a loquacious child back upon itself is an effort in the right direction; just as every effort made to express and reveal the thought of an imaginative child is much to the latter's benefit.
The sayings of a child should never be quoted in his presence, nor his doings related. He becomes hopelessly self-conscious thereby.
A child should be taught to respect the rights of the father and mother to the easiest chairs in the room, or those which they may prefer, and should leave those chairs vacant until the father and mother are seated elsewhere.
The boy who has been brought up at home, both by precept and by his father's example, never to seat himself at the dining table or in the family sitting-room until his mother is seated, will not need to be told that he should rise in a crowded street car and give his seat to an elderly woman. He will do it so instinctively that it will not be a burden,—indeed, the regret would be more keen if he could not do it.
If children are present at the dining table, it is wiser to help them first, and the grown people last, than the reverse. In everything it is well to follow the etiquette of adult life, as, for instance, by helping the girls before the boys.
Children should be taught to be punctual at meals, not simply for the sake of health, but out of consideration for the cook and for those who might otherwise be obliged to wait for them. They should not be allowed to hurry through a meal because of their impatience to get at play, although they may be wisely excused when they are quite through. There is no value in making them the bored, squirming, or subdued listeners to conversation quite beyond their comprehension or interest. They should be taught to eat leisurely, and to regard the mealtime as a chance to talk with their parents about interesting things, and not simply as a time to be shortened and slighted if possible.
Usually the child's first rigid lesson in punctuality comes at the beginning of school life. Then, most profitably, may be cultivated a sense of the rights of others, and of his individual responsibility toward the social group, represented for him by his teacher and schoolmates. If the emphasis is rightly laid upon the necessity of his not delaying the work of his classmates and teacher, he will naturally find many ways in which he may apply the same thought, greatly to his own advantage and to theirs as well, and to the permanent strengthening of his habits of work.
A keen sense of social oneness may also prevent the too frequent heart-burnings among shy and sensitive children. This is as easily cultivated as is the opposite, and is of great importance both in childhood and in later life. The seeming injustice of the teacher may often be made clear, and seen to be just, when the welfare of the whole school is taken into consideration. This is a matter of the natural enlargement of the child's mental horizon, and if the proper spirit has been fostered, the child will welcome it. Should it be done carefully and wisely, the roots of many social weeds will at once be eliminated.
Fault-finding should be discouraged in school and at home. It is never the best method of fault correction, and should not be countenanced.
The bringing home of tales of the teacher and of schoolmates, in a spirit of complaint, should not be permitted. Pleasant accounts of happenings at school should be encouraged, but grumbling against rules, as well as personal gossip, should not be permitted. The authority of the home must support the authority of the school or the child will nowhere receive that discipline and training which he needs in order to meet the experiences of life.
The child should be allowed a certain sum of money, which, even in the most lavish homes, should be a little under what the wants of the child require. The giving of this money should be done regularly at a stated time, and there should never be any extra giving, or increase of the usual sum, except under very unusual circumstances, which should not be allowed to happen more than once a year.
The child should also be held accountable for his money. If he is old enough to have any money, or to spend any, he is old enough to tell how he spent it, even to the last penny. Unless all is accounted for, the habits of accuracy and care are not formed. The record of this should be written down, even if done very simply and without special form, and later, as the child grows older, more conventional forms of bookkeeping should be required.
It should be also required that there be some saving, which is preferably a certain proportion of the whole, this for a beginning to which to add extra sums as the child may wish. This saved sum should be permanently put by, and drawing from it should not be permitted. It may be transferred to a bank at long intervals, always by the child himself, and his pride in doing it and keeping it there should be cultivated.
These matters may all be made a game and sheer fun. Their grave importance is apparent on every hand. For the child which has been taught early to do these things, will do them with such ease as to make it seem instinctive, and the child who does it will never, under any ordinary circumstances, come to want.
The proper behavior in church should be taught rather by trying to inculcate the spirit of worship than by making rules to be followed. A child is very susceptible to impressiveness of any sort, and if the reason for it is made clear to him, he will be quicker to respond to it by a reverent attitude of spirit than does an older person. Even the obstreperous child is at least temporarily impressed, if he sees that others are, and if he knows the reason for it.
Children should realize that it is their privilege and duty to serve guests, whether their own or their parents. The sacrifice of one's own comfort for the sake of the guest takes, with a child, the form of a sort of play, usually because of the excitement of the arrival of a stranger, and the possibilities of fun in the enjoyment of the stranger's stay.
The child should be taught respect for the guest's person, and should not be allowed to take the same liberties with a gown or a glove that sometimes the mother or aunts permit, no matter how great the novelty of the texture or how it appeals to the child's sense of beauty. The privileges of being a guest should be always duly respected, and the child be thus taught at once his duty as a host and his position as a guest.
Children should never be allowed to play with a visitor's hat or cane, or handle furniture or ornaments in a strange house, or show by ill-mannerly conduct the curiosity which a child, in unaccustomed surroundings, naturally feels. They can be taught so great a respect for the possessions of others that they would become able to stifle their curiosity, or express it only at a fitting time.
Children should not be sent to the drawing-room to entertain visitors, unless the visitors request it themselves. Nor should they be allowed to be troublesome to visitors or guests at any time, any more than servants should be allowed to be insolent. They should never be allowed the freedom of the rooms of the guests, nor to visit them often or long.
Children should not be permitted to enter into the pleasures of their elders when, to do so, would be to spoil the kind of sociability for which the occasion was intended. At all formal functions, children are out of place. When making formal calls, children are usually in the way, and the silent part they are forced to play is disagreeable for them. They are also out of place at a funeral, or in a cemetery, or anywhere that there is mourning. It is an injury to a child to see grief,—unless it be his great concern, and in that case it is no longer a matter of etiquette, but of necessary life experience.
Children should not dine out except by special invitation. It is as discourteous to permit a child thoughtlessly to inconvenience a neighbor, as it is wrong for the child to think that such uninvited visits are permissible.
A child should be taught never to touch what does not belong to it, except with the express permission of the owner. This applies to goods in a store, as well as to the furniture of places other than his home, and to the belongings of others in his home.
A child should not be allowed to intrude into a drive, a walk, a call, or a conversation. It is unfair to the child, and awkward for him, and is no kindness, as it takes away the benefit which he might otherwise derive from the pleasure either by continually snubbing his self-respect, or by repressing his energy and curiosity to the danger point.