The Victorian wedding was fraught with symbolism. Every detail, from the date to the choice of flowers, had significance. The following account of the wedding of Maud Carter (who married Nathaniel Clement and is remembered as local historian) was written by J. Wyatt Whitehead of Chatham in a letter to his daughter Parke. Parke was in school at State Normal (now Longwood College) in Farmville, Virginia. J. W. Whitehead wrote the letter on the day of the wedding, a Tuesday in November, 1897.
My dear Daughter,
I was delighted with the beautiful letter I received from you yesterday. It made me feel proud of you, not only as a letter writer, but also to know that you were having a grand time. Nothing of importance has transpired since I last wrote except Miss Maud & Nat's marriage which took place at high noon today at Episcopal Church. The bridesmaids, about six in number, with the maid of honor and ribbon holder, all came in carriages to the church door, followed by the bride & her father, all dismounted & the maids went in first & took their places on each side of the altar, then followed Maud & gentleman Jim. Old Mrs. Collier was in the vestibule straightening out their trains as they passed in. When the bride & her father arrived at the altar, I spied a tall lean lank fellow emerge from a side door. This I recognized to be Nathanial. The organ which had been vigorously handed by Mrs. Martin during the time stopped suddenly & the ceremony commenced, Rev. Mr. Dabney as pastor for a time & Rev. Mr. Pruden put on the finishing touch. As soon as the blessing was received the old organ burst forth again, I left immediately for the store & don't know what happened afterwards. Upon the whole it was a pretty marriage, the bride was attired in white organdy & fine appliques, with a profusion of tulle & one lovely orange blossom in her beautiful hair. Nat looked as if he had won a great victory & everybody was envying him his good fortune. After my return to the store it was not very long before the bridal party passed for the depot & I learned the bride & groom are going to Charlottesville where the groom will take a special Summer Course in law. So much for the marriage….
The Victorians were superstitious about the day of the wedding. A little verse went, “Monday for wealth; Tuesday for health; Wednesday, the best day of all.” Thursday was all right, but Friday was considered an evil day to start anything important. Saturday was the most unlucky of all; and Sunday, being the Sabbath, was out of the question.
In the East, a wedding sometime between ten o'clock and noon was considered the most fashionable because this was the English custom.
Miss Maud's dress was white (although some Victorian brides wore other colors). According to fashion, the veil could be lace, but silk tulle was preferred. The orange blossom, a symbol of purity, was often worn. In fact, in 1839, when Queen Victoria married Albert, a coronet of orange blossoms held her veil in place above her eighteen-foot satin train.
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Copyright © 1995–2007 Patricia B. Mitchell.