Marriage a la Mode: Three Would-be Brides: 1730, 1778, 1820

An 1824 wedding gown. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

An 1824 wedding gown. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


JULY, 1730.

Extracts from the Diary of my Great-grandmother.

Five o’clock.— Got up an hour before my usual time to distil surfeit-water. Said my prayers. Finished one of my father’s new shirts. Mem. To send to town for some currants, raisins, and ratafia water. Six .— Some poor women came for medicine to my mother; gave out of the store-room several doses, and a pint of sack. Mem. To carry two shillings to Tom, the carpenter’s wife, who is ill. Seven. — Breakfasted. A card has come from Mr. Jenkins, to let us know he will do himself the pleasure of dining with us. The match debated during breakfast. My father says, if he finds him a man of good morals, he’ll not differ as to the settlements. I am ordered never to be alone with Mr. J. until all the writings are drawn. Eight.— Read the Psalms and chapters for the day. Taught little Jemmy his catechism. Mem. Betsey has marked J. in her sampler to-day: that stands for Jenkins. Nine.— Darn some old point-lace tuckers. Do some clear-starching and ironing for next week. Ten.— Go see the carpenter’s wife. Her family in very great want. Give them a shilling from my own pocket-money. Eleven .— Sit down to my cross-stitch. A shepherdess the subject, for an urn-rug. Twelve.— My mother orders me to make a custard-pudding, to show Mr. Jenkins what I can do. Orders me to wear my best gown at dinner, and only two patches. Mem. I mean to appear in my new hoop and laced stomacher. Mr. J. is a man of figure, so will look to my appearance. One.— Too much ratafia water in the pudding. Mr. J. praised some hare of my potting. I begin to like him vastly well, but must not let him perceive it. Mem. Our currant wine just out. Mislaid the key of the corner-cupboard. Thinking of Mr. J. Two.— Miss T. and her lover stepped in to tea. Promise her receipt for pickling mushrooms. Mem. Mrs. Hart’s receipt for burns very good. Must have it in the house. Garlick syrup excellent for coughs. Eight. — Supper. My brother tells me Mr. Jenkins is very wild. Mem. Never to see his face again!

A 1779 wedding gown

A 1779 wedding gown


Notes from my Grandmother’s Pocket Diary.

Two o’clock.— Arrived this moment in town. We have been three days coming from S—– in our own coach. Just put off my riding-dress, and huddled on my green gown, to get to the milliner’s, mercer’s, &c. Overjoyed to be in town; so have no appetite for my dinner. Four.— Going out with Miss Tendrill. She tells me coque de perle necklace and ear-rings are much in vogue. Mem. To teaze my mother until she gets them for me. Arrive at Truefit’s. N. B. Truefit the first modeste in the world. Ordered a cane hat, lined with cerulean blue Persian, trimmed with blonde lace and ribbons, for walking in the Park, and making morning calls. Mem. Must bespeak two pairs of white leather shoes, with red heels, and bindings to correspond. Advised to have a Saint Teresa of sarsnet and blonde lace, as ’tis the latest mode. Ordered it at once. Mem. Blonde lace ruffles, with a large slope, vastly genteel. Uneasy till I get them. Eight.— Go home, fearing I may miss Mr. Cleveland. He advises, as my shoulders are rather round, that my stays be made high behind. He says ’tis quite the thing to have them so. I have desired they should be cut low before, as it shows the chest off to advantage. Sunday. Eleven o’clock.— Had no rest last night, anticipating the pleasure of the week to come. Too late for church. I shall dress in time enough for a ride in the Park. One. — Miss Wyndham has called for me. Go to Mrs. Emerson, to engage her to matronize us to an assembly to-morrow night. Mr. —– walked up to speak to us. An acquaintance of Miss Wyndham. A fine well-made man; improves on better acquaintance. He took great notice of me, and told Miss W. I was a prodigious fine girl. Miss W. jealous, and anxious to return home; he offered to escort us. Miss W. complained of headache, and would not speak. I improved the opportunity, by chatting away merrily to Mr. —– all the way home. Mem. To get green Persian calash, same as Miss Wyndham’s. Mr.—– praised it, so I won’t be outdone. Seven.— Mr. —– invited to dinner by my mother. I engrossed all his attention. He is very rich. Eleven.— Desired Mary to waken me at two in the morning, to have my hair dressed. It will be done in about four hours. Monday. Two in the morning.— Crumpe just arrived. Read Damon and Ella, whilst my head is being operated on. A sweet book! Seven.— My hair finished. Mem. Crumpe the first hair-dresser in Europe. Only 463 black pins in it. No other could have accomplished it with less than 470. Eleven. — Out shopping with Mrs. Emerson. Take the round of the fashionable milliners. Bespeak a grenadier cap of blonde lace, with a Mary Stuart peak. Saw a lovely clouded lute-string at Ball and Campbell’s. Resolved to have it. ‘Tis very much genteeler than Miss Wyndham’s. Twelve.— Had a glance at Mr. —–. They say half the reigning belles are dying for love of him. Charming creature! Mem. To dance the first minuet with him to-night, if possible. One.— Much fatigued from tumbling over silks, &c. Tried on my new negligee. Mem. Must not go to the assembly until ten. Country hours will not do here. Tuesday. One.— Paid so many visits yesterday before the assembly, that I was tired and out of sorts. Mr. —– danced with Miss Wyndham half the night. Well, to be sure, what taste some people have! She looked downright frightful. Her fortune is a large one; that covers all defects, I suppose. I am mortified, have a bad headache, and wish our stay in town was at an end. I have just heard that Mr. —– proposed for Miss Wyndham last night. I shall cut her acquaintance most certainly.


Leaves from my Mother’s Journal.

Tuesday, Dec. 2.— The boxes containing my trousseau have just arrived. My cousin Annie and I busy unpacking them. Annie to be my bridesmaid. How brilliant her color is to-day: she looks very lovely, and will grace our wedding. Of course, dear Edward is charmed with her, for my sake. My wedding-dress is of white lace, gored on the hips, and quite tight down to the knee, where small flowers, headed with thick wadded rolls of white satin, commence. The body is just one finger deep in front, and a little deeper behind. The dress is made low, for the ball on the evening of the wedding; and with it has come a white flowered satin spencer, covered with small white tassels on the front, and with a stiff standing collar, which looks very stylish. My hat is composed of blonde and satin, and has six full ostrich feathers in it, three at each side, the two end ones being very long, so as to fall gracefully on the shoulders. Madame Lion has sent, amongst other things, a blue cloth pelisse, trimmed with sable; the price of it is thirty-five guineas. Edward made Annie try on some of my things to see how he liked them. Strange that it was not me he wished to see them upon! Dear Edward, how thoughtful he is— he made me retire to my room very early, saying I looked fatigued. Annie did not follow me until twelve o’clock, and seemed flushed and slightly agitated on entering the room. She says I look so pale I should wear a little rouge. ‘Tis a fashion I never yet adopted. Wednesday, Dec. 3.— Papa and dear Edward all day in the study, closeted with Mr. Grabb, our attorney, arranging about settlements. Tomorrow I shall be the happy bride of him whom I adore. Guests arriving all day. I saw Annie coming out of the shrubbery with dear Edward, before the dinner-bell rang. What could they have gone there for? The hour late, too, for walking, and the evening cold and damp. Twelve o’clock.— Just retired to my room for the night. Take one more peep at my wedding dress, laid on the sofa, and now retire to dream of the happy morn fast approaching.

* * * * * *

Here the manuscript ceases; for, when morn came— that morn so longed for— Edward was missing; and, stranger far, Annie was nowhere to be found, and was sought for in vain. The faithless pair had eloped together, and the following day were united at Gretna Green. Long did my poor mother pine and mourn her sad fate. But at length brighter days arose for her; and in my dear and honored father she found what she had long searched for— a congenial loving, and honest heart. M.E.H.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] June 1854

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wonders what the author’s Great-Grandmother would have thought of Dollar Princesses, or flapper-brides, or today’s faux-celebrity weddings with sponsorships and paparazzi. Obviously her daughter did not absorb that lady’s sensible character or her notions of useful service and parental obedience. And with such a flirt for a mother, the 1820 bride could scarcely choose wisely, no matter how fascinating Dear Edward.

But to some extent, the essentials have not changed: weddings bring on an onslaught of fashion, rather than thoughtful contemplation about how to pass the time after the Happiest Day of one’s life has passed. Marriage ought to mean more than a trousseau, champagne toasts, and the cover of Hello Magazine.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.



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