This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
The gentleman should be upon pleasant terms with the lady's family, making himself agreeable to her parents, her sisters and her brothers. Especially to the younger members of her family should the gentleman render his presence agreeable, by occasional rides and little favors, presents of sweetmeats, etc.
He should also take pains to comply with the general regulations of the family during his visits, being punctual at meals, and early in retiring; kind and courteous to servants, and agreeable to all.
He should still be gallant to the ladies, but never so officiously attentive to anyone as to arouse uneasiness upon the part of his affianced. Neither should he expect her to eschew the society of gentlemen entirely from the time of her engagement
The lady he has chosen for his future companion is supposed to have good sense, and while she may be courteous to all, receiving visits and calls, she will allow no flirtations, nor do anything calculated to excite jealousy on the part of her fiance.
The conduct of both after the engagement should be such as to inspire in each implicit trust and confidence.
Visits should not be unduly protracted. If the gentleman makes them in the evening, they should be made early, and should not be over two hours in length. The custom of remaining until a late hour has passed away in genteel society. Such conduct at the present time, among the acquaintance of the lady, is certain to endanger her reputation.
For the gentleman and lady who are engaged to isolate themselves from others when in company, or do anything that shall attract the attention of the company to themselves, is in bad taste. Such conduct will always call forth unfavorable comments. The young ladies will sneer at it from jealousy, the young men will pronounce it foolish, and the old will consider it out of place.
And yet, by virtue of engagement, the gentleman should be considered the rightful escort, and upon all occasions the lady will give him preference; and he will especially see, however thoughtful he may be of others, that her wants are carefully attended to.
Should a misunderstanding or quarrel happen, it should be removed by the lady making the first advances towards a reconciliation. She thus shows a magnanimity which can but win admiration from her lover. Let both in their conduct towards the other be confiding, noble and generous.
The wedding-day having arrived, the presents for the bride, if there be any, which may be sent at any time during the previous week, will be handsomely displayed before the ceremony. The presents, which have the names of the donors attached, are for the bride - never the bridegroom, although many of them may be sent by friends of the latter.
The form and ceremony of the wedding will be as various as are the peculiarities of those who marry, and comprise every description of display, from the very quiet affair, with but a few friends present, to the elaborate occasion when the church is filled to repletion, or in the palatial residence of the father of the bride, "the great house filled with guests of every degree."
We will suppose that the parties desire a somewhat ostentatious wedding, and the marriage takes place in church. In arranging the preliminaries, the bride may act her pleasure in regard to bridesmaids. She may have none; she may have one, two, three, four, six or eight; and, while in England it is customary to have but one groomsman, it is not uncommon in the United States to have one groomsman for every bridesmaid.
The bridegroom should make the first groomsman the manager of affairs, and should furnish him with money to pay necessary expenses.
Ushers are selected from the friends of the bride and groom, who, designated by a white rosette worn on the left lapel of the coat, will wait upon the invited guests at the door of the church, and assign them to their places, which will be a certain number of the front seats.
The bridegroom should send a carriage at his expense for the officiating clergyman and his family.- He is not expected to pay for the carriage of the parents of the bride, nor for those occupied by the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
The latter will furnish the carriages for the ladies, unless otherwise provided. The invited guests will go in carriages at their own expense.
The clergyman is expected to be within the rails, and the congregation promptly in their seats, at the appointed hour. The bridegroom will proceed to the church, accompanied by his near relatives, and should precede the bride, that he may hand her from the carriage, if not waited upon by her father or other near relative.
The bride goes to the church in a carriage, accompanied by her parents, or those who stand to her in the relation of parents (as may other relatives, or legal guardian), or she may be accompanied by the bridesmaids.
When the bridal party is ready in the vestibule of the church, the ushers will pass up the center aisle, the first groomsman, accompanied by the first bridesmaid, coming next, the others following in their order. The groom walks next with the bride's mother upon his arm, followed by the father with the bride. At the altar, as the father and mother 'step back, the bride takes her place upon the left of the groom.
Another mode of entering the church is for the first bridesmaid and groomsman to lead, followed by the bride and groom. When in front of the altar, the groomsman turns to the right, the bridesmaid to the left, leaving a space in front of the minister for the bride and groom; the near relatives and parents of the bride and groom follow closely, and form a circle about the altar during the ceremony.
The former mode is, however, established etiquette. At the altar the bride stands at the left of the groom, and in some churches both bride and groom remove the right-hand glove. In others it is not deemed necessary. When a ring is used, it is the duty of the first bridesmaid to remove the bride's left-hand glove. An awkward pause is, however, avoided by opening one seam of the glove upon the ring finger, and at the proper time the glove may be turned back, and the ring thus easily placed where it belongs, which is the third finger of the left hand.
The responses of the bride and groom should not be too hastily nor too loudly given.
Following the ceremony, the parents of the bride speak to her first, succeeded by the parents of the groom before other friends.
Essentially the same ceremonies will be had, the same positions will be assumed, and the same modes of entering will be observed, in the parlors at the residence, as at the church.
The bride and groom, after the ceremony, will go in the same carriage from the church to the home or to the depot.
Should a breakfast or supper follow the ceremony, the bride will not change her dress until she assumes her traveling apparel. At the party succeeding the ceremony, the bridesmaids and groomsmen should be invited, and all may, if they prefer, wear the dresses worn at the wedding.
It is customary, at the wedding, for the young bride to wear only pure white, with a wreath of orange flowers to adorn the full veil of lace. The widow or elderly lady will wear pearl color or tinted silk, without wreath or veil. The bridesmaid of the youthful bride may wear colors, but a very beautiful effect is produced by pure white, with colored trimmings. In some cases, one-half of the bridesmaids will wear one color, and the other half another color. No black dresses should be worn by the guests. Any in mourning may, for the time, wear purple, lavender, iron-gray and other quiet colors.
The bridegroom and groomsmen will wear white gloves, vest and neckties.
The bride's traveling dress should be very quiet and modest, and not such as in any way to attract attention.