Weddings

  • Regency,  Research,  Risky Regencies,  Weddings

    Regency Widows

    I can recall reading somewhere (a long time ago) that, sociologically, the happiest population group are widows. The logic of this argument was that a widow had experienced a happy married life, possibly with children and now grandchildren, and with widowhood was now able to live a life of independence in decisions about spending, where to live, activities, friends. I presume the statistics assume the widow has an adequate income for her needs because poverty certainly spoils everything.

    I’m not certain how true this conclusion is in today’s world, but I can say that widowhood in the Regency had its advantages, especially for those Regency ladies who entered into loveless marriages of convenience or for status and wealth.

    When a Regency lady married, she, in effect, became the property of her husband. She lost all identity as a person; she was not considered separate from her husband. He existed legally; she did not. Of course, that meant that she could rack up debts, like the exorbitant gambling debts incurred by the Duchess of Devonshire, and her husband must pay them. He might even be held responsible for any illegal acts she engaged in. On the other hand, marriage meant all the wife’s property became her husband’s.

    Her only protection was her dower rights, that is, the rights to one third the income of her deceased husband’s estates, which could be a lot or very little, depending. Most aristocratic wives had marriage settlements negotiated by their fathers or guardians before marriage which would stipulate how much she would get if her husband died. This settlement would include the dowry she brought into the marriage. Her husband’s will could also bequeath her money and property. In Sense and Sensibility, Mr. Dashwood did not provide a will to protect his wife and daughters. Thus the income Mrs. Dashwood had to live of was the income from her dowry.

    A widow could also inherit her personal belongings-her clothing, jewelry, personal furniture, and other personal adornments. So it benefited a wife to encourage her husband to buy her jewels. She even retained her husband’s status, keeping her title, albeit with Dowager placed before it.

    So an aristocratic widow who had a generous marriage settlement, a large dowry, and lots of expensive personal belongings could live a very comfortable life.

    Even more, though, she could live a comfortable life of vastly increased independence. She could spend her money as she chose. She could pursue whatever interested her. She could run a business, if she liked. And, unlike the unmarried, closely chaperoned ingenue she once was, she could love whomever she liked. Regency widows were permitted their love affairs without scandal as long as they were discreet.

    If the widow remarried, she’d lose all those advantages.

    But in our books, we want our widow heroines to remarry, don’t we? We want them to find true love and a happily ever after.

    Do you like widow heroines in your Regencies? What are the advantages to the author in using them?

  • History,  Regency,  Research,  Risky Regencies,  Weddings

    What We “Know” about Regency Weddings

    Why write another post about Regency weddings? If you search this site, you’ll find a whole collection of fun & fact-filled wedding-related posts written by various Riskies over the years. But the book I’m currently working on is set against the background of a Regency wedding, and I’m reviewing everything I know about such events. I’m looking at how we know what we know as much as the “what we know” both in this post and in my research. As a former journalist, I always remember to “consider the source” when collecting information.

    Pride & Prejudice Wedding

    As romance writers, we authors can find it a bit disappointing to hear that Regency weddings were not as big and special as they tend to be today. It’s true that many of our revered traditions developed during Victoria’s reign or later. One of the oft-cited sources for documenting the “low-key” Regency approach is a remembrance by Jane Austen’s niece Caroline (b. 1805), describing her half-sister Anna’s marriage to Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814.

    Note the following from her recollection: “The season of the year, the unfrequented road to the church, the grey light within… no stove to give warmth, no flowers to give colour and brightness, no friends, high or low, to offer their good wishes, and so to claim some interest in the great event of the day – all these circumstances and deficiencies must, I think, have given a gloomy air to the wedding…” She adds, “Weddings were then usually very quiet. The old fashion of festivity and publicity had quite gone by, and was universally condemned as showing the bad taste of all former generations…. This was the order of the day.” (my added emphasis)

    Genre painting by Henry G. Schlesinger

    I haven’t found the date when Caroline wrote this reminiscence, but I note that she was all of nine years old at the time of the actual wedding. I find her insistence that “this was the order of the day” a bit suspect. How would she know this? She was not then at an age to be attending any other weddings. Also, it was November. I’m sure hothouse flowers were not in the budget!

    She continues: “No one was in the church but ourselves (she had listed six men and four females, all relatives in the two families), and no one was asked to the breakfast, to which we sat down as soon as we got back…The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.”

    Isn’t it possible that, looking back in her later life, she might have been tempted to justify the extreme austerity of this family wedding by claiming it was the norm? Both Anna and Ben Lefroy were the offspring of clerics, and the groom was a cleric himself, as yet without a living. An expensive wedding was doubtless not an option for the family (and probably not considered suitable for clerics, anyway). A longer version of the same quote begins, “My sister’s wedding was certainly in the extreme of quietness: yet not so much as to be in any way censured or remarked upon….”  Caroline sounds defensive to me, as if she feared people would judge her family against the more elaborate Victorian wedding customs that became the fashion later in the century when she was looking back.

    The Village Wedding by Fildes

    Just eight years before Anna Austen’s minimalist wedding, we have another oft-quoted wedding example from the opposite end of the continuum that I propose existed as much then as now. The Annual Register for 1806 includes this description of a very elaborate wedding clearly designed to show off the extreme wealth of the bride:

    “Sept. 9.  This day was married at Slinsford Church, Dorset, Viscount Marsham, son of Earl Romney, to Miss Pitt, only daughter and heiress of William Morton Pitt, esq., with a fortune of 60,000 pounds and an estate of 12,000 pounds per annum, independent of the estates of her father.” (There follows a list of the witnesses, seven of whom were prominent enough to be named, in addition to the bride & groom and family members, plus one “officiating” attendant each for bride and groom.)

    The astronomical expense lavished on this wedding would be almost unimaginable if you didn’t take into account that the ultra-wealthy aristocrats were the rock star celebs of their day. “In the early part of the morning the whole of the unmarried female branches of the neighbouring tenantry and villages attended at Kingston-house, the seat of W.M. Pitt, esq., each female attired in an elegant white muslin dress, provided for them, as a present on the occasion, by Miss Pitt. After refreshments, about 40 couples proceeded, two and two, before the procession to the church, strewing the way (before the happy couple), in the ancient style, with flowers of every description. After the ceremony they returned in the same order, attended by nearly 300 spectators, where a dinner, consisting of English hospitality, was provided on the occasion in booths on the lawn; and the festive eve concluded with a ball on the green, in which the nobility present shared in the mirth. At an early hour in the evening, the happy couple and suit set off in post chaises to pass the honey-moon at the lady’s own seat, Enchcome-house, Dorset.”

    Health to the Bride, genre painting by Sadler

    It makes me a little bit crazy when I hear people now try to characterize the behavior of people in the past as being all one particular way. I’m not saying fashions and trends didn’t exist, but individual people and families still followed their own traditions and were limited (or not) by their incomes and situations, just as we are today.

    Knowing this makes me comfortable designing the wedding in my new book the way that fits my characters and their specific situations, within a good grounding in what we do know about Regency weddings. Since they’re not using a Special License, the wedding has to be in the morning, and at church. This was a matter of law, not choice, as was the presence of an officiating clergyman and a clerk to record the proceedings. There will be no white dress, veil, or assemblage of bridesmaids. Her dress could be white, but since in this period it could be any color, I think it’s more fun to go there. And while fashion prints start to show veils in the late Regency (see an interesting post here), my 1814 wedding is too early for that. A wedding “breakfast” will follow, as was customary. It makes sense that you need to feed your guests! As my groom’s family is wealthy, the breakfast will be more elaborate than the one Caroline Austen described, but nothing so grand as Miss Pitt’s! And as my bride has almost no family near her, her relatives will travel a distance to attend.

    If you married, how big or small was your wedding? Or weddings you’ve attended? How big or small is your family? I’ve been to intimate weddings with less than 30 people and one huge wedding with 500 guests where I didn’t even know the bride or groom.

    It’s just one more very sad ripple effect of the Coronavirus pandemic that weddings since March of 2020, if happening at all, have to be small, intimate celebrations, and preferably held out-of-doors. Circumstances require adaptation. That was as true back in the Regency as it is now, so I think assuming Regency weddings were only done in one particular way is a false view of the times. Sorry, Caroline Austen!

    Wedding Couple, 1826

  • Frivolity,  Giveaways,  Weddings

    Reader, I Married Him

    “Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary.  But still he would be her husband.  Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.  This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.”

    on Charlotte Lucas’s marrying Mr. Collins
    Pride & Prejudice, Volume 1, Chapter 22

    1_MG_9842Last week, at 6:30 on a Friday evening, I married my sweetheart (and future romance novel inspiration), Kyle!  It was nothing like Charlotte Lucas’s pragmatic arrangement, really nothing like a small church Regency wedding at all (except that it was small!  We married in the garden of a hotel in Taos, New Mexico, with 10 people there including us, and a lovely dinner with cake and champagne after).  There were no grand spectacles, a la Marie Antoinette’s great crush or the Cambridges’ regalness, but it was beautiful and romantic, and exactly what we wanted.  It was a day I never thought would come for me–walking down the aisle toward a man I am madly, romance novel-style in love with, my best friend and partner in a crime.  And now we’ve stared a new life together, which I find to be amazing (and scary as heck, natch).

    1 IMG_1054My dress was a pale pink silk and soft white organza, with a pleated bodice and pearl-beaded satin belt, strapless with a pleated bodice, and I told the salon I wanted a “fairytale” look for the hairstyle and makeup, which I think they did so well with long curls and soft lipstick.  The vows were tailored just toward us, how we met, how we share a love of music and theater and creativity, and my best friend and her husband read a lovely poem that perfectly depicts “us.”  (see it at the end of this post!).  The rain held off until just after we finished the photos and went in to dinner, so all went off perfectly. 🙂

     

     

    1 IMG_1059Next year we’d like to renew our views in England, maybe Bath in Regency attire at the Pump Room, or Tudor garb at Hever Castle.  Or maybe I’ll be crazy, get a Kate lookalike gown and parade around Westminster Abbey!!!  With him, the adventure is endless.

    What was your wedding like?  What would you have done differently/the same?  Where would you have a wedding now?  And whos had your very favorite wedding ever (in books, in history, or in real life!).  We have wedding fever here today….in fact, I will give away a signed copy of my book “Betrayed By His Kiss” (not out til October!) to one commenter on the subject of weddings….

    “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

    I like you and I know why.
    I like you because you are a good person to like.
    I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
    And you remember it a long, long time.
    You say, “Remember when you told me something special?”
    And both of us remember

    When I think something is important
    you think it’s important too
    We have good ideas
    When I say something funny, you laugh
    I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too

    I like you because you know where I’m ticklish
    And you don’t tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
    But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too

    You know how to be silly
    That’s why I like you
    Boy are you ever silly
    I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you
    I like you because you know when it’s time to stop being silly
    Maybe day after tomorrow
    Maybe never
    Too late, it’s a quarter past silly!

    That’s because you really like me
    You really like me, don’t you?
    And I really like you back
    And you like me back and I like you back
    And that’s the way we keep on going every day

    If you go away, then I go away too
    or if I stay home, you send me a postcard
    You don’t just say “Well see you around sometime, bye”
    I like you a lot because of that
    If I go away, I send you a postcard too
    And I like you because if we go away together
    And if we are in Grand Central Station
    And if I get lost
    Then you are the one that is yelling for me

    I like you because I don’t know why but
    Everything that happens is nicer with you
    I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
    It must have been lonesome then
    I like you because because because
    I forget why I like you but I do

    So many reasons
    On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
    On the fifth of July, I like you too
    If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
    If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
    We could be a HOLIDAY
    We could be a CELEBRATION
    We could be a WHOLE PARADE

    See what I mean?
    Even if it was the 999th of July
    Even if it was August
    Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
    Even if it was no place particular in January
    I would go on choosing you
    And you would go on choosing me
    Over and over again

    That’s how it would happen every time
    I don’t know why
    I guess I don’t know why I really like you
    Why do I like you
    I guess I just like you
    I guess I just like you because I like you.

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