It was but a matter of time before I posted something about the whole big affair. My trouble has been concocting a connection to my Great Grandmothers in a sense more intimate than a posting of marriage records I have found. However, a dash of research has brought me a connection, albeit distant, that certainly served to entertain me.
We held our wedding at the Sokol Hall in St. Paul, built in 1887. The facility has served as a community center for Czech and Slovak descendants in St. Paul ever since. It’s a beautiful venue with dark woodwork, lofty ceilings, a cascade of natural light, and an incredible stage with four hand-painted backdrops.
Back in my great-grandmother’s days, it was much more likely to be married in a church and then have the reception at someone’s house. I don’t have much in the way of records of their individual wedding ceremonies. Luckily, the customs of a wedding c. 1920 is no mystery because Emily Post made certain to write of the etiquette of such an event in excruciating detail. Her debut book, Etiquette: In Society, In Business, In Politics and At Home, was a smashing success and had a whole chapter dedicated to wedding day customs.
“Some brides prefer to remove their left glove by merely pulling it inside out at the altar. Usually the under seam of the wedding finger of her glove is ripped for about two inches and she need only pull the tip off to have the ring put on. Or, if the wedding is a small one, she wears no gloves at all.”
I hadn’t been aware that I could cut the ring finger off my left glove…? When the time for rings came, I just took my gloves off. Hopefully, the wedding was small enough for that to not be shocking.
“When it is time for the ring, the best man produces it from his pocket. If in the handling from best man to groom, to clergyman, to groom again, and finally to the bride’s finger, it should slip and fall, the best man must pick it up if he can without searching; if not, he quietly produces the duplicate which all careful best men carry in the other waistcoat pocket, and the ceremony proceeds. The lost ring—or the unused extra one—is returned to the jeweler’s next day. Which ring, under the circumstances, the bride keeps, is a question as hard to answer as that of the Lady or the Tiger. Would she prefer the substitute ring that was actually the one she was married with? Or the one her husband bought and had marked for her? Or would she prefer not to have a substitute ring and have the whole wedding party on their knees searching? She alone can decide. Fortunately, even if the clergyman is very old and his hand shaky, a substitute is seldom necessary.”
It is certainly lucky that Brandon is not terribly old and shaky, otherwise we would have been in real trouble. Although, a spare ring would have come in handy when we accidentally left Kyle’s ring at the hotel. (Don’t fret; Moondoggy heroically retrieved it in the hour before the ceremony started!)
“If she has no father, this part is taken by an uncle, a brother, a cousin, her guardian, or other close male connection of her family.
If it should happen that the bride has neither father nor very near male relative, or guardian, she walks up the aisle alone. At the point in the ceremony when the clergyman asks who gives the bride, if the betrothal is read at the chancel steps, her mother goes forward and performs the office in exactly the same way that her father would have done.
If the entire ceremony is at the altar, the mother merely stays where she is standing in her proper place at the end of the first pew on the left, and says very distinctly, ‘I do.'”
I see the exclusion of the mother during the ceremony a perfect atrocity! I made certain to flout tradition in this instance and walk the aisle with both my parents. And I’m sure glad I did because that was an incredibly emotional walk and it was assuring to have that support. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d had to do it alone.
“At a perfectly managed wedding, the bride arrives exactly one minute (to give a last comer time to find place) after the hour…The moment the entire wedding party is at the church, the doors between the vestibule and the church are closed. No one is seated after this, except the parents of the young couple. The proper procedure should be carried out with military exactness.”
Of course, I can’t imagine my GGs spent a great deal of time reading Emily Post’s dictates. I find myself, after the course of an hour, tired of her relentless orders. It’s interesting to compare her to the wedding websites now. At least back then, you could read Emily Post’s book and know what the mainstream (albeit posh) customs were. Nowadays, the wedding websites list hundreds of creative and unique suggestions that seem increasingly impossible and set a nigh unattainable standard for unique touches, all with their own costs. Then the article closes with something like, “Choose whatever you like! It’s your day.” No pressure! That’s not hysteria you’re feeling; it’s excitement! At least Emily Post isn’t so passive aggressive to suggest that there’s not any standard of behavior when there very clearly is.
I may hold a small grudge against the wedding industrial complex.
After our ceremony we had a receiving line to ensure that we talked to every one of our guests and thanked them for coming. Luckily for them, Emily Post was thoughtful enough to provide scripts for people to use, in case they were caught tongue-tied.
“Or, if a very close friend, also kissing the bride, ‘All the happiness you can think of isn’t as much as I wish you, Mary dear!’ But it cannot be too much emphasized that promiscuous kissing among the guests is an offense against good taste.”
For my husband and I, the most important part of our wedding was the party we threw after it. We stocked an open bar (which, during set up, literally demanded a blood sacrifice), had two bands perform, and demanded that if anyone wanted to see us kiss, they must sing us a love song. None of this clinking glass nonsense.
Emily addresses dancing at the wedding with her characteristic precision:
“On leaving their table, the bridal party join the dancing which by now has begun in the drawing-room where the wedding group received. The bride and groom dance at first together, and then each with bridesmaids or ushers or other guests. Sometimes they linger so long that those who had intended staying for the ‘going away’ grow weary and leave—which is often exactly what the young couple want! Unless they have to catch a train, they always stay until the ‘crowd thins’ before going to dress for their journey.
“At last the bride signals to her bridesmaids and leaves the room. They all gather at the foot of the stairs; about half way to the upper landing as she goes up, she throws her bouquet, and they all try to catch it. The one to whom it falls is supposed to be the next married.”
Emily Post doesn’t say anything about a garter toss. Judging by her rather Victorian appearance, I’d like to imagine she’d be scandalized.
Now that the wedding is over, Kyle and I have a tower of thank you notes to individually and most sincerely pen. Emily has some advice on that too, though I am loathe to inform Kyle of her advice as it seems to allow him to lend not a lick of help. If only I were a Fifth Avenue socialite like Emily Post and I didn’t have to work and I could just float around town wearing fabulous hats…
“Although all wedding presents belong to the bride, she generally words her letters of thanks as though they belonged equally to the groom, especially if they have been sent by particular friends of his.”