This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
"Some essays have been written on the barbarisms of civilization; many more might be. Many of the habits prevailing in what ought to be our most refined society are at variance with almost elementary ideas of decency. Others are equally marked in their injurious physical tendencies. It is not surprising that clergymen, even when not of the strictest sect, and philosophers of no particular sect at all, have declaimed against fashionable dresses and dances at late hours. But there are other customs against which no church has fulminated its anathemas, the dangers and absurdities of which no fidgety reformer has perceived or noticed. One of these conspicuously is the Bridal Tour.
"Let us illustrate by a typical case. During one of the earliest and coldest 'cold snaps' there comes off a wedding, which, from the official standing of the parties, naturally attracts some attention. We are soon told that the 'happy couple' are off on their wedding trip to -- well, not exactly Alaska or Greenland, but a territory nearly as frigid, and that part of the journey is to be made in stages or sleighs. The intense excitement in appropriateness of the proceeding, the wonderful pains taken by these people to make themselves uncomfortable on what is supposed to be the most festive occasion in their lives, would move one to Homeric laughter, did not events disastrous to the health of the conjugal pair usually follow so closely on the heels of bridal tours." If the parties are not as high in the social scale and less wealthy, the mischief done is as great, if not greater, for in their tour they may lack substantial comforts which the wealthy alone can afford. To all married couples a bridal tour seems to be considered as absolutely essential to give the marital union an importance, without which it would, in their opinion, be an unromantic and but partial marriage.
Looking at the custom from an aesthetic and sentimental point of view, nothing can be more repulsive. An American marriage is theoretically a love match, and it is generally so in practice. Now two persons in love want to see as much as possible of each other, and as little as possible of other people. It is to that we find exceptions; there are individuals whose diseased vanity desires to give publicity to every act of their life. It is a misfortune that these vulgarians are not rarer in every class. An instinct of seclusion and modesty should be the general rule, but this absurd custom forces a new-married couple to put on an unnatural restraint on their legitimate affection, or to make themselves ridiculous before the public. Love, both emotional and passionate, is usually most exuberant to those recently joined in wedlock, and philosophy would suggest the exercise to be confined more to seclusion than the sporadic opportunities afforded in a wedding tour.
Now, in the common-sense, practical, man-of-the-world point of view, the fashionable practice is equally objectionable. It is notorious that nothing, except marriage itself, tries the temper more than joint travel. Therefore, at the very outset of their life-partnership, the quality on which the happiness of that union principally depends is put to the rudest strain. The happy couple expose themselves to the insolence of hackmen and hotel-clerks, the discomforts of rail and hotel, irregular hours and uncertain meals. The Irishman, in the song, married a wife to make him "unaisy." A wedding tour on one of our great thoroughfares of travel is admirably contrived to accomplish this result for both parties.
All this, however, it may be suggested, is matter of taste. We cannot expect to shape the caprices of fashion or custom by the dictates of deliberate philosophy. But what follows is not a questionable point of taste or comfort; it is a matter of downright fact, as certain as if it could be mathematically demonstrated.
The consummation of marriage is, with the exception of child-birth, the most critical period, physically, of the woman's life. After the moral and physical excitement which attends it, her system demands rest, repose, quiet, regular and good living, a supporting and restorative way of life. If these can be secured for some weeks, so much the better, but at any rate they are necessary for some days. Her emotional nature attains the highest state of excitement, in consequence of assisting in a repast which is approached only by intense agitation, no matter how much she may feel it to be a legitimate incident to marriage. This makes it doubly exhaustive, and not only her health for the rest of her mortal existence, but the health and strength of her offspring may be, and often are, materially affected by the want of proper care at this time. Instead of which, the bridal tour piles on additional excitement and fatigue, makes regularity of life impossible -- in short, the act involves the reverse of all that the rules of health and physiology require. There is an underlying sense of modesty which may urge the bride on to a journey immediately after marriage. The new condition of life exacts changes which she rather would fulfil among strangers then in her own or husband's domicile. It may confuse the modest and retiring woman to assume the conjugal associations in presence of her parents, brothers and sisters; but as this is one of the modesties not really commendable, however natural it may be, it does not afford sufficient inducement for encountering all the vicissitudes of a wedding tour.
For man, too, at this time, repose and calm, though not so necessary, are highly desirable. It constantly happens, in the case of both sexes, that a slight indisposition, which passed unnoticed in the hurry of preparation, is aggravated to a serious and even fatal extent by the excitement, exposure, and neglect consequent on the wedding tour. No man, for instance, would think of postponing his marriage on account of a slight cold. If he stayed quietly at home afterward, and took care of himself, it would pass away like other slight colds; but he goes off on a bridal tour in the depth of winter, and the malady develops into a chronic pulmonary complaint. Nor would a young woman put off her marriage because she felt a little extra lassitude and want of appetite, with an occasional headache, which, however, may be premonitory symptoms of typhoid fever. If you take typhoid fever in time, there is nothing specially dangerous abaout it; care, patience, and slight treatment are only necessary, and it runs its course. But, if neglected at first, it is almost inevitably fatal. Many cases of brides and bridegrooms, in my professional experience, came under my observation, dying of typhoid fever just after a wedding trip, which had caused the early symptoms to be misunderstood and neglected. And I have known things worse than death to happen -- insanity, temporary or permanent, brought on by the extra fatigue and excitement of the wedding journey.
One old New York custom, and probably to some extent prevailing in other places, was infinitely more rational. The new-married couple took up their quarters at the house of the bride's father, and remained there in seclusion for a week. The only fault about this arrangement was the shortness of time, but for a week, at any rate, they had absolute repose and quiet, and enjoyed all the comforts of a home without the trouble of housekeeping. For one week, at least, the inter-communion of the conjugal pair was unhampered, and secured against the criticism and gaze of the public.
The present fashion of bridal tours is an unmeaning and unreasonable imitation of the European, especially the English practice. The original English theory of a wedding trip is, driving in a comfortable carriage, at a rate of speed just sufficient to exhilarate without fatiguing, over good roads, in weather which may be pleasant or unpleasant, but is never dangerously cold or dangerously hot, to some secluded country-place or seaside village, and resting there a month. The new mode of continental tours is in some respects just as absurd as ours, though the advantage of climate lessens the fatigue and physical risk to some extent. The notorious mutability of our climate is in itself reason enough why a bride should not be exposed to the accidents of travel.
It will thus be seen that the medical aspect of a bridal tour is sufficiently important, and the risk incurred sufficiently great, to cause the wedded pair, if they wish to be actuated with impulses of reason and prudence, rather than by the dictates of custom, to pause before they undergo the trials of a wedding journey. It would certainly be more conducive to their health and happiness if they were guided by a better reason in this respect, and leave wedding trips to be indulged in by those who would rather run the risk of injuring their health and general well-being than offend a fashionable practice. It is a fashionable vulgarity, and not prompted by the behests of good-breeding and social dignity.