Wedding Gifts a Source of Worry: 1870

Glass and metal "bride's baskets" were a popular Victorian wedding gift.

Glass and metal “bride’s baskets” were a popular Victorian wedding gift.

WEDDING PRESENTS are a source of much mental worry both to their givers and receivers. So-and-so is going to be married, and all her friends and relations, down to her ninety-ninth cousins, are supposed to be called upon by that fact to make her a present. When the bride belongs to a rich family, she receives bracelets, lockets, necklets, and rings innumerable. Several opera glasses, and, of late, several fans, are also included, and there are presents of Dresden, and Sèvres, and other famous porcelains, enough to stock a shop of moderate size. In homelier circles, where presents that are not of quite so personal a nature are given, there is sometimes quite an embarras de richesses in the way of teapots, cruet-stands, butter knives, and cake baskets. We have known three cake baskets and six butter knives to be presented to a lady, in whose establishment one would have been sufficient for all needs. The question is, what can be done? Would it not be convenient for a lady about to enter the holy estate of matrimony to make out a list of what she wanted, and to send it round to her friends, requesting each person to make a mark against the article which he or she would desire to present? In this way, as the list went round, people would see what had been chosen, and there would be no such unfortunate repetitions as those we have indicated. This plan is, however, open to the objection that it savors somewhat of the begging-letter system, and that people might find themselves the subject of forced contributions under such an arrangement even more directly than they are under the present system. Perhaps the wisest plan would be to follow a late example. This gentleman’s present was a box containing five hundred dollars, which, of course, the happy bride could lay out as suited her own taste. It would be a change from the present style of bridal gifts for a lady about to be married to receive from her friends checks for the amount of the money they meant to expend on her behalf. The checks are quite as capable of being shown as are the usual presents, and a drawing-room table would be very interesting on which were exhibited a large number of autographs appended to orders to “pay the bearer” sums up to any conceivable amount. Humble people who have not got bankers might employ the medium of post-office orders. If actual coin were preferred, small heaps of eagles would make a fine show. Wedding presents are undoubtedly a relic of the old fashion of presenting to the newly-married couple something in the way of household goods with which to commence housekeeping. In the ranks of Scottish peasant life, it is not very long ago since all persons who attended a wedding feast made actual presents in kind or money to the bride or bridegroom, with the avowed object of giving them a start in life, and all the guests were admitted on condition of giving a present. A New York lady received, among her wedding presents, three sewing machines, six large family Bibles, and ten ice pitchers. A Boston lady had twenty-one pairs of silver salt-cellars among her bridal presents. Wedding presents of our own day are generally more ornamental than useful, and there is a certain monotony about them. We think we deserve some credit for having done away with wedding presents altogether. 

Godey’s Lady’s Book October, 1870

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Some of the more memorable wedding presents that Mrs Daffodil has seen in the press:

The bridal presents at a recent wedding in Washington, Ind., consisted of a dime’s worth of candy and a plug of tobacco. Albany [NY] Evening Journal 15 February 1870: p. 2

It is alleged that a London  money lender has a $2,500 note which he lends to aristocratic brides to be exhibited as a wedding gift along with other presents. The Stark County Democrat [Canton, OH] 9 June 1899: p. 7

A Queer Wedding Present.

Among the bridal gifts to Mlle. Henrietta de Charotte, on her recent marriage was one from the Dowager Duchesse de Fitzjames—a copy of the funeral oration delivered over James II of England, recovered and preserved for grateful posterity by the Baron de Maynard at Lisbon. How this precious document came to be considered cheerful enough for a wedding cadeau surpasses conjecture, for there is not the least ground to assume that it was a mariage de convenance,  and therefore peculiarly solemn and need of homiletic consolation. One service the relic may perform, should the happy couple ever fall into the estranging straits of poverty—if sold by auction at the Hotel Drouot the document would fetch a little fortune. Kansas City [MO] Times 27 October 1887: p. 4

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