Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The "Big Day"

Victorian weddings definitely started the trend of the "Big Day" which is now a modern day obsession and multi-billion dollar industry.  

The Victorian Bride
Brides always had a trousseau tea when her lady friends and family got together for refreshments and the viewing of every piece of the prospective bride's trousseau.  A typical trousseau included lace-trimmed camisoles, silk and flannel undergarments; at least two French corsets with extravagant lacework, two crinolines, plus a beautifully hand-embroidered special-occasion petticoat. Numerous pairs of white and grey stockings, gloves in white kid, grey cotton, fine black leather and long satin evening gloves, bonnets and cloaks, neat travelling suits, as well as a variety of pretty day dresses and a spectacular evening dress in peach coloured lace and peau de soie.  A collection of hand-painted fans as well as china, crystal, silverware, table and bed linens.  No such thing as light packing!
The Victorian bride wore a dress of shimmering white satin, the long, flowing sleeves and stiff collar edged with delicate lace.  Below the collar, the neckline was filled with the same silvery lace beneath which the “something blue” sparkled, a rich sapphire pendant from her parents or matching sapphire earrings.  In the mid-19th century it had a crinoline skirt, after the 1870's a bustle. 
Headdresses were made from real orange blossoms often imported from Morocco and fastened together with a gauzy tulle veil.  The bouquet was usually a posy of the creamy-white blossoms trimmed with loops of satin ribbon. 
The bride went to church in a carriage, decorated with white ribbons and pulled by two horses driven by a liveried footman.  Crowds gathered in the street to see the bride and, as was the local custom in some areas, the bride threw coins from the carriage window onto the street for the little children to pick up. 
The wedding breakfast
The groom and groomsmen waited at the church in morning suits with dashing waistcoats (lavender was popular) and grey gloves.
 The wedding reception was usually a breakfast set up at the bride's parents' home. A typical wedding breakfast was massive - punch in frosted tumblers, platters of stewed oysters, colorful galantines gleaming in their coat of aspic, mayonnaise of fowl piled into pyramids and decorated with anchovies and hard-boiled eggs, cold pheasant, fruit ices, crystal dishes filled with rich trifles, and trays of ├ęclairs and petit fours.  At the center of it all was a tiered wedding cake iced with  flower and leaf decorations on a plate of silver leaves and white flowers.
After the speeches the happy couple held hands and cut the wedding cake. The servants transported it away to the kitchen where it would be packaged into little silver boxes and given to all the guests. 
Victorian marriages were meant to last forever since getting a divorce was next to impossible - but that's a whole other blog entry! And one of the problems the main character in my novel Unnatural encounters.

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