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Etiquette Of Courtship And Marriage
It is a growing custom in America not to announce an engagement until
the date of the marriage is approximately settled. Long engagements are
irksome to both man and woman, and a man is generally not supposed to
ask a girl to marry him until he is able to provide a home for her.
This, however, does not prevent long friendships between young couples
or a sentimental understanding growing up between them, and it is during
this period that they learn to know each other and find out if they are
suited for a life's partnership.
When a young man goes a-courting it generally means that he has some
particular girl in mind whom he has singled out as the object of his
devotion. A man a-courting is generally on his best behavior, and many a
happily married wife looks back on her courting days as the most
delightful of her life. At that time the woman is the object of a
devotion to which she has as yet conceded nothing. She is still at
liberty to weigh and choose, to compare her lover to other men, while
the knowledge that she is the ultimate girl that some man is trying to
win gives her a pretty sense of self-importance and a feeling that she
has come into the heritage of womanhood.
Whether it is one of the fictions about courtship or not, it is
generally assumed that a young woman is longer in making up her mind
than is the young man. When a man finds the right girl he is pretty apt
to know it, and it is his business then to start out and persuade her to
his point of view. Neither willing nor reluctant is the attitude of
the young girl.
Gifts and Attention.
Just what attention a man is privileged to show a young woman to whom he
is not engaged, and yet to whom he wishes to express his devotion, is a
point a little difficult to define.
If she is a bookish girl she will be pleased with gifts of books or the
suggestion that they may read the same books so they may talk them over
together. She will probably feel complimented if a man discusses with
her his business affairs and the problems that are interesting men in
their life work. When a man begins to call often and regularly on a girl
it is best to have some topic of conversation aside from personalities.
When a man is led to spend more money than he can afford in entertaining
a girl it is a bad preparation for matrimony. Courtship is a time when a
man desires to bring gifts, and it is quite right and fitting that he
should do so within reasonable limits. A girl of refined feelings does
not like to accept valuable presents from a man at this period of their
acquaintance. Flowers, books, music, if the girl plays or sings, and
boxes of candy are always permissible offerings which neither engage the
man who offers them nor the girl who receives them. This is the time
when a man invites a girl to the theater, to concerts and lectures, and
may offer to escort her to church. The pleasure of her society is
supposed to be a full return for the trouble and expense incurred in
showing these small attentions.
The Claims of Companionship.
A man cannot justly complain if a girl accepts similar favors from other
men, for until he has proposed and been accepted he has no claim on her
undivided companionship. An attitude of proprietorship on his part,
particularly if it is exercised in public, is as bad manners as it is
unwise, and a high-spirited girl, although she may find her feelings
becoming engaged, is prone to resent it. It should be remembered that a
man is free to cease his attentions, and until he has finally
surrendered his liberty he should not expect her to devote all her time
At this period it is a wise man who makes a friend of a girl's mother,
and if he does this he will generally be repaid in a twofold manner. No
matter how willful a girl may be, her mother's opinion of her friends
always has weight with her.
Moreover, what the mother is the girl will in all probability become,
and a man has no better opportunity of learning a girl's mental and
moral qualities than by knowing the woman who bore and reared her.
Engagement and Wedding Rings.
The form and material of the mystic ring of marriage change but
little, and innovations on the plain gold band are rarely successful.
The very broad, flat band is now out of date and replaced by a much
narrower ring, sufficiently thick, however, to stand the usage of a
lifetime. It is generally engraved on the concealed side with the
initials of the giver and the date of the marriage. The gold in the ring
should be as pure as possible, and the color, which depends on the alloy
used, should be unobtrusive, the pale gold being better liked now than
the red gold. Many women never remove their wedding ring after it has
been put on and believe it is bad luck to do so.
There is but one choice for an engagement ring, a solitaire diamond, and
clusters or colored stones are not considered in this connection. As
after the wedding the engagement ring is used as a guard to the wedding
ring, it should be as handsome as possible, and a small, pure stone is a
far better choice than a more showy one that may be a little off in
color or possess a flaw.
Correct Form in Jewelry.
On the wedding day the groom often makes the bride a wedding present of
some piece of jewelry, and if this is to be worn during the ceremony it
should consist of white stones in a thin gold or platinum setting, such
as a pendant, bracelet or pin of pearls and diamonds. If a colored stone
is preferred--and a turquoise, for instance, adds the touch of blue
which is supposed to bring a bride good luck--it should be concealed
inside the dress during the services.
As a memento of the event a groom often presents his ushers with a scarf
pin or watch or cigarette case ornamented with the initials of the bride
and groom, and the bride generally makes a similar present to her
bridesmaids of some dainty piece of jewelry. Whether this takes the form
of a pin, bracelet or one of the novelties that up-to-date jewelers are
always showing, it should be the best of its kind. Imitation stones or
silver gilt have no place as wedding gifts.
There is no time in a woman's life when ceremonies seem so important as
when a wedding in the family is imminent. Whether the wedding is to be a
simple home ceremony or an elaborate church affair followed by a
reception, the formalities which etiquette prescribes for these
functions should be carefully studied and followed. Only by doing so can
there be the proper dignity, and above all the absence of confusion that
should mark the most important episode in the life of a man or woman.
Wedding customs have undergone some changes of late years, mostly in the
direction of simplicity. Meaningless display and ostentation should be
avoided, and, if a girl is marrying into a family much better endowed in
worldly goods than her own, she should have no false pride in insisting
on simple festivities and in preventing her family from incurring
expense that they cannot afford. The entire expenses of a wedding, with
the exception of the clergyman's fee and the carriage which takes the
bride and groom away for their honeymoon, are met by the bride's family,
and there is no worse impropriety than in allowing the groom to meet or
share any of these obligations. Rather than allow this a girl would show
more self-respect in choosing to do away with the social side of the
function and be content with the marriage ceremony read by her clergyman
under his own roof.
Invitations and Announcements.
In the case of a private wedding announcement cards should be mailed the
following day to all relatives and acquaintances of both the contracting
Evening weddings are no longer the custom, and the fashionable hour is
now high noon, although in many cases three o'clock in the afternoon is
the hour chosen. Whether the wedding is to be followed by a reception or
not, the invitations to it should be sent out not less than two weeks
before the event, and these should be promptly accepted or declined by
those receiving them. The acceptance of a wedding invitation by no means
implies that the recipient is obliged to give a present. These are only
expected of relatives and near friends of the bride and groom, and in
all cases the presents should be addressed and sent to the bride, who
should acknowledge them by a prettily worded note of thanks as soon as
the gifts are received or, at the latest, a few days after the marriage
Silver and Linen.
The usual rule followed in the engraving of silver or the marking of
linen is to use the initials of the bride's maiden name. The question of
duplicate gifts is as annoying to the sender as it is to the young
couple who are ultimately to enjoy the gifts. Theoretically, it is bad
form to exchange a gift after it has been received, but, in truth, this
is often done when a great deal of silver is given by close friends or
members of the family it is a comparatively easy matter to find out what
has already been sent and to learn the bride's wishes in this matter.
After the wedding invitations are out it is not customary for a girl to
attend any social functions or to be much seen in public. This gives her
the necessary time to devote to the finishing of her trousseau and for
making any necessary arrangements for the new life she is to take up
after the honeymoon is over. Family dinners are quite proper at this
time, and it is expected of her to give a lunch to her bridesmaids. The
wedding presents may be shown at this occasion, but any more public and
general display of them is now rarely indulged in and is, in fact, not
considered in good taste.
The groom, as a prenuptial celebration, is supposed to give a supper to
his intimate bachelor friends and the men who are to act as ushers at
the marriage ceremony. The ushers are generally recruited from the
friends of the groom rather than those of the bride, but if she has a
grown brother he is always asked to act in this capacity. Ushers, like
bridesmaids, are chosen among the unmarried friends of the young couple,
although a matron of honor is often included in the bridal party.
The Bride's Trousseau.
The bride's trousseau should be finished well before the fortnight
preceding the wedding. Fashions change so quickly now that it is rarely
advisable for a bride to provide gowns for more than a season ahead. If
the check her father furnishes her for her trousseau is a generous one
it is a wise provision to put a part of it aside for later use, and in
so doing she has the equivalent of a wardrobe that will last her for a
year or more.
Custom has decreed that the bride's wedding dress shall be of pure
white, and, as the marriage ceremony is a religious one, whether it
takes place in a church or in a private house, that it shall be made
high in the neck and with long sleeves. Orange blossoms, the natural
flowers, form the trimming to the corsage and a coronet to fasten the
veil. A bride's ornaments include only one gift of white jewelry, pearls
or diamonds, from her future husband, and the bouquet he presents her.
So many awkward moments have been occasioned in wedding ceremonies by
removing the glove that brides are dispensing with wearing gloves at
this time. The bride's appearance is by no means affected by this
custom, and the slipping of the ring on the third finger of the left
hand is made simpler and thereby more graceful. The engagement ring,
which up to the time of the wedding ceremony has been worn on this
finger, afterwards serves as a guard for the wedding ring.
Millinery is a most important question in discussing a wedding, and we
cannot dismiss the question with the gown worn by the bride. A most
serious consideration is what the bridesmaids are to wear, and this is
generally only settled after long and serious consultation with the
It is generally agreed that all of these gowns shall be made by the same
dressmaker so that they may conform to the colors and styles decided on,
the gown of the maid or matron of honor differing slightly from the
general scheme. At a church wedding bridesmaids wear hats and carry
baskets or bouquets of flowers, but, if bouquets are carried, they
should be quite unlike the one borne by the bride. It is customary for
the bride to give her bridesmaids some souvenir of the occasion, and it
is expected that the groom provide the gloves and ties for the ushers.
Duties of the Best Man.
The duties of the best man are arduous, and it is indeed wise, as it
is general, for a man to ask his best and most devoted friend to serve
in this capacity. The best man is supposed to relieve the groom of all
the details of the ceremony and to take on his shoulders all the worry
incident to its success as a social function. It is he who purchases the
gloves and ties for the other ushers and sees that they are coached in
their duties; he procures the marriage license, if that is necessary,
and has the ring ready for the groom at the critical moment. After the
ceremony he is supposed to hand the clergyman his fee, and at the same
time be in readiness to conduct the line of bridesmaids and ushers to
their carriages. He must be at the bride's home, in case there is a
wedding reception, before the principal actors in the ceremony are
there. It is he who sends the notices of the event to the newspapers,
and, if there is a formal breakfast with speech-making, it is the best
man who proposes the health of the newly-married pair and replies to the
toast in behalf of the bridesmaids. He is the one member of the wedding
party who sees the happy couple off at the station and bids them the
last farewell as they depart on their honeymoon. This is perhaps the
time and moment when his good sense and social tact is the most needed,
The foolish custom of decorating bridal baggage with white ribbon, and
of throwing a superabundance of old shoes and a rain of rice after the
departing pair, may be mitigated by a little care on his part.
Next: Mourning Customs