An Introduction and Study of Marriage Ceremonies - 1912

Mrs. Alfred Macy, Jr., formerly Miss Dorothy Hayden

Mrs. Alfred Macy, Jr., formerly Miss Dorothy Hayden, is a rich New York girl who wisely selected a detachable court train for her beautiful wedding gown of soft brocade, thus making it adaptable for a dinner or dance frock.

By Frederick Townsend Martin
Illustrations from photographs of brides and wedding parties

In the opinion of the world, marriage ends all.  The truth is precisely the reverse.  Marriage really begins all, and in this season of many brides, it is well to emphasize this fact.

What a lesson in conjugal happiness can be taken from the heroic end of Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus on the Titanic! What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life to strengthen each other in all labor, to lean on each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of the last embrace.

A characteristic wedding party in Merry England.

A characteristic wedding party in Merry England. The bride and groom surrounded by girls of varying ages, and a wholesome, out-doors smile on nearly every face. Lady Aileen Butler is the bride and the Marquis of Stafford is the groom.

Love one human being purely and warmly and you will love all. Was it not their great love for each other that enabled this aged couple, noble and sweet beyond expression, to stand by and see all others go to safety, while they chose to die together rather than be separated?

The treasures of all the vaults on earth are not so precious as are the concealed comforts of a pair locked in each other’s love. I scent the air of blessings when I come but near such fortunate.

Society Bride Wilfreda Mortimer

One of the prettiest and merriest of the New York society brides was Mrs. Jack Rutherford, who before her marriage was Miss Wilfreda Morlimer.

Wedding Dress of Mrs. Marsh Hurst Durston

Mrs. Marshall Hurst Durston, who was married in Ellay. Mrs. Durston is the daughter of the late Charles Spencer Francis, of Troy, N. Y., who was Ambassador to Austria.

In the good old days of the early settlers of our country, as soon as young people were engaged the whole family united in furnishing them with the best possible dowry, and the marriage ceremony was made as simple as the honest folk of yore could make it.

In our day the reverse is done. There is now too much costly pomp and vulgar ostentation in connection with the marriage ceremony which often leaves the parents and the young married couple in financial straits.

Marriage is too sacred an event to be subject to public exhibition. Let the money laid out on costly weddings be put to much better use. Give the young a fair start in wedded life.

Again drawing a lesson from the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Straus from the Titanic and from those of other noble married couples I have known, let me say that marriage is the best state for both man and woman. It is the greatest character builder.

One’s character is but half finished until after wedlock. And all are worse in proportion as they are unfit for the marriage state. Men and women may be cheerful and even contented in singleness, but I know that they never can be perfectly happy.

Singleness is an unnatural state that never calls the best in the human into action. Every creature seeks its perfection in another. All life pictures marriage to us. What earthly happiness can exceed that of a reciprocal satisfaction in the conjugal state?

I do not mean the marriage of convenience, and assuredly not the marriage of passion; but the marriage of love. Marriage without love is acted falsehood and varnished sin.

All true love is grounded in esteem. Love is not blind. Passion is blind. To say that love is blind is a libel and a lie. It is as universal and inevitable as birth and death.

To speak of love as an illusion is profane. To speak of it as an impulse is coarse. To speak of it as a disease is degeneracy. To say it is a weakness is a shame. To say it is a mere accident is levity.

Never marry out of sympathy. There is more of good nature than good sense at the bottom of such a marriage. Never marry anyone much older than yourself, no matter what the motive is.

If the motive is bad, beware. They that marry old people merely in expectation of burying them, hang themselves in the hope that someone will come and cut the halter.

“If you would have a nuptial union last, let virtue be the bond that ties it fast.” That which is founded on true virtue will always continue. Those only are blessed in true love who loves for years and love but one. Solid love whose root is virtue can no more die than virtue itself.

Brides of this Year, and Changing Wedding Customs

Although changes in wedding customs have gradually been brought  about, the changes that are of greatest interest have occurred not because of new laws of etiquette and of dress, not by such trivial reasons as those in which dressmakers, florists, and caterers are concerned, but by more important conditions affecting the families of multimillionaires.

While it is true, as Mr. Martin points out in the foregoing article, that there is now “too much costly pomp and vulgar ostentation,” the intelligent bride from among the multimillionaire families now has what has come to be known as a “simple” wedding.

This is a good sign of the times, for the “simple” wedding is popular not merely because it is considered good form, but because such brides and those of her sort now have an understanding of economics.

Recognition of a certain important principle in economics has made a great change in those weddings in which either of “the high contracting parties” is a person of enormous wealth. Now when an elaborate ball is given publicly, it is “for the benefit of charity.”

When given privately, although, with great extravagance, the hostess is secretive and announces untruthfully that she will give “a small dance.” The “small dance ” has been brought about by the same condition that produced the “simple” or the “quiet”  wedding.  For radical changes in wedding, customs look among those people subjected to the limelight.

As a result of those spectacular international weddings at which the mob pressed so close to the church awning as fairly to pluck the orange blossoms from the bride’s head, at which the wholesome interest of the crowds later resolved itself into adverse criticism, some of the brides have even sought the peace of the Alps for their weddings.

Sometimes for the sake of privacy, the bride leaves New York for her home city, where the public eye is less impertinent.

An outdoor wedding party in 1911

An outdoor wedding party in 1911. Mrs. I. Townsend Burden, who was Miss Florence Sheedy, avoided undue publicity by having her wedding at her old home in Denver instead of in New York.

Another outdoor wedding. Mrs. George Peabody, formerly Miss Grace Howe Allen.

Another outdoor wedding. Mrs. George Peabody, formerly Miss Grace Howe Allen, was married under one of the largest trees in New Jersey, planted by one of the early settlers.

But outside of the ranks of the multimillionaire, there are many interesting weddings illustrative of pretty fashions and customs now in vogue.

The spring bride of 1912 has had the distinguishing attribute of joyousness. Fittingly the favorite colors at weddings this season have been pink and blue, the simple colors of La France roses and of a summer sky that our mothers and our grandmothers loved.

There have been bridesmaids’ bouquets of pink roses, pink rambler roses in hats, and coats of sky-blue taffeta over white frocks. Not until this season, it would seem, did people generally fully realize that a wedding is a happy occasion.

There was Miss Nellie Granville Brown, of New York, now Mrs. C. Allan Hudson. She had just come down the aisle from the altar. She stood at the church door on the arm of the bridegroom. 

She had just given him a kiss, not of the clinging variety but of the sort that goes off with a smack. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “I’d like to go back and do it all over again.”

Apropos of veils, as an incidental fashion note, tulle is now preferred by even the wealthiest brides. Grandmother’s rare lace is more frequently used to lay over the satin gown.

Then, too, it is often the bride that has absolutely no need to be economical that has her wedding gown made only slightly trained, the court train, hanging from the shoulders, being detachable.

Many of the weddings this spring were particularly happy because of Cupid’s great aid, propinquity, and that very best sort of propinquity resulting from active life out-of-doors at country resorts.

Wedding Dress of Mrs. Russel Barrage

The June weddings at Tuxedo Park are splendid examples of that proximity of young people resulting in weddings that make new ties of kinship between families that are old friends.

Preceding the wedding resulting from friendship as children, from outdoor life in summer, and when bride and groom have many friends in common, there is often a dinner at which young men and women, the ushers and the bridesmaids, all meet, instead of the bachelor dinner, at which an orgy formerly was considered necessary as a farewell to the man about to become a benedict.

A fashion that is far more important than anything apropos of clothes or wedding etiquette is the tendency resulting from the modern girl’s independence in character.

The bride who is only twenty-five is now considered still remarkably young, and at thirty-five she often makes a more desirable match than those friends long settled in matrimony.

Sentiment has kept many wedding customs protected from change. The history of the bridal dress shows that sentiment has been more powerful than fashion.

The orange blossoms and the veil antedate even the Christian era. As a matter of personal, individual sentiment, there is often an original feature at weddings. Some girls have their favorite flowers embroidered on their wedding gowns. Of course, all the Marguerites have daisies.

And then we had the famous butterfly bride, Miss Evelyn Schley, who married Max Behr. Both the bride and her mother had a fad for butterflies, a butterfly in a heart being the symbol of immortal love.

The bride's and the bridesmaids’ gowns were embroidered with butterflies. When the bride’s best friends are of various complexions, and she can select no one color equally becoming to each, she may have a rainbow wedding.

The girls, two by two, may be in colors just a shade more tender than the colors in the heavenly arch, and, standing at the altar, they form a rainbow.

Martin, Frederick Townsend, "An Introduction and Dissertation on Marriage" in Good Housekeeping Magazine, New York, Good Housekeeping Magazine, Vol. LV, No. 1, Whole No. 405, July 1912: 4-12.

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