Tag Archives: bridesmaids

Bridesmaid Superstitions: 1888

1889 wedding wreath

1889 wedding wreath: orange blossom and myrtle flowers of wax and fabric. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/wedding-wreath/twEacgKuA0O25Q


Some of Those Relation to Bride-Maids and Their Duties.

Instead of being so many graceful ornaments at the marriage ceremony, as nowadays, the bride-maids in olden times had various duties assigned to them. Thus, one of the principal tasks was dressing the bride on her wedding morning, when any omission in her toilet was laid to their charge. At wedding, too. where it was arranged that the bride should be followed by a numerous train of her lady friends, it was the first bride-maid’s duty to play the part of drill mistress, “sizing” them so that “no pair in the procession were followed by a taller couple.” She was also expected to see that each bride-maid was not only provided with a sprig of rosemary, or a floral rose pinned to the breastfolds of her dress. but had a symbolical chaplet in her hand. In many parts of Germany it is still customary for the bride-maids to bring the myrtle wreath, which they have subscribed together to purchase on the nuptial eve, to the house of the bride, and to remove it from her head at the close of the wedding-day. After this has been done the bride is blindfolded, and the myrtle wreath being put into her hand, she tries to place it on the head of one of her bride-maids as they dance around her; for, in accordance with an old belief, whoever she crowns is sure to be married within a year from that date. As may be imagined, this ceremony is the source of no small excitement, each bride-maid being naturally anxious to follow the example of the bride. Referring once more to the bridal wreath and chaplet, it is still current notion in many parts of our own country that the bride, in removing these, must take special care that her bride-maids throw away every pin. Not only is it affirmed that misfortune will overtake the bride who retains even one pin used in her marriage toilet, but woe also to the bride-maids if they keep any of them, as their prospects of marriage will be thereby materially lessened.

La Cygne [KS] Journal 12 May 1888: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To-day, of course, the brides-maid has a massive list of expensive and onerous duties: Pedi-dates, spa week-ends, a “Hen Do” in Las Vegas or Bournemouth, and unspecified and on-demand “pampering.” The list above only scratches the surface of a long list of vintage “do’s and don’t’s” for the bridal attendant. Some others:

Slices of cake passed thru the bride’s wedding ring and eaten by the bridesmaids, will bring a husband within a year.

A piece of wedding cake should be put under the pillow of a maiden and if she dreams of a man, she will marry him within a year.

In some countries a plain gold ring is baked in the wedding cake and the maiden who gets the slice with the ring will have the privilege of proposing to a man of her choice.

Bridesmaids date from Anglo-Saxon times. It was the bridesmaid’s duty to escort the bride to church, and it was believed that the girl on whom this honor fell would be married within a year.

A bridesmaid who stumbles on the way to the altar will die an old maid.

Signs, Omens and Superstitions, Milton Goldsmith, 1918: p. 12-13

Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride, 1896

It is said when a bride retires to rest on her wedding night, that her bridesmaid should lay her stockings across, so as to assure her good luck.

If one of the bridesmaids stumbles, it carries evil luck to the bride.

When the bride goes from her seat to the altar, the bridesmaids must close up quickly, lest the seat grow cold, which is a sign the bride and groom’s love will quickly grow cold also.

If one of the bridegroom’s stockings, thrown by one of the bridesmaids, falls on the bridegroom’s head, it is a sign she will be married herself soon.

If a bridesmaid goes to bed backward, with her hand over her heart, and the first man she sees in the morning is an old man, she will marry before the year is out.

Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Cora Linn Daniels, Charles McClellan Stevens, 1903

Mrs Daffodil wonders that, with so much responsibility to bear, anyone would accept such a weighty honour.

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the senator from Rackensack, “you don’t know what bashfulness is. Let me tell you a story, and when I get through I will stand the bob if you don’t agree that you never knew anything about bashfulness and its baneful effects. I was the most bashful boy west of the Alleghenies. I wouldn’t look at a girl, much less speak to a maiden; but for all that I fell desperately in love with a sweet, beautiful neighbor girl. It was a desirable match on both side, and the old folks saw the drift, and fixed it up. I thought I should die, just thinking of it. I was a gawky, awkward country lout about nineteen years old. She was an intelligent, refined and fairly well educated girl in a country and at a time when the girls had superior advantages, and were therefore superior in culture to the boys. I fixed the day as far as I could have put it off. I lay awake in a cold perspiration as the time drew near, and shivered with agony and thought of the terrible ordeal. The dreadful day came. I went through with the program somehow in a dazed, confused, mechanical sort of a way, like an automaton booby through a supper where I could eat nothing, and through such games as “Possum Pie,” “Sister Phoebe,” and all that sort of thing. The guests one by one departed, and my hair began to stand on end. Beyond the awful curtain of Isis lay the terrible unknown. My blood grew cold and boiled by turns. I was in a fever and then an ague, pale and flushed by turns. I felt like fleeing into the woods, spending the night in the barn, leaving for the west never to return. I was deeply devoted to Sallie. I loved her harder than mule can kick; but that terrible ordeal!—I could not, dare not stand it. Finally the last guest was gone, the bride retired, the family gone to bed, and I was left alone—horror of horrors, alone with the old man. “John,” said he, “you can take that candle, you will find your room just over this. Goodnight, John, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul,” and with a mischievous twinkle in his fine gray eye the old man left the room. I mentally said “Amen” to his “Heaven help you,” and when I heard him close a distant door, staggered to my feet and seized the farthing dip with nervous grasp. I stood for some minutes contemplating my terrible fate, and the inevitable and speedy doom about to overwhelm me. I knew that it could not be avoided, and yet I hesitated to meet my fate like a man. I stood so long that three love letters had grown in the wick of the tallow dip and a winding sheet was decorating the side of the brass candle-stick. A happy thought struck me. I hastily climbed the stair, marked the position of the landing, and the door of the bridal chamber. I would have died before I would have disrobed in that holy chamber, where awaiting me a trembling and beautiful girl, a blushing maiden, “clothed upon” with her own beauty and modesty, and her snowy robe de nuit. I would make the usual preparations without, blow out the light, open the door, and friendly night would shield my shrinking modesty and bashfulness and grateful darkness at least mitigate the horror of the situation. It was soon done. Preparations for retiring were few and simple in their character in Hickman, altogether consisting of disrobing, and owing to the scarcity of cloth in those days man was somewhere near the Adamic state when he was prepared to woo sweet sleep. The dreadful hour had come; I was ready. I blew out the light, grasped the door-knob with a deathly gripe and a nervous clutch; one moment and it would be over.

One moment and it wasn’t over by a d__n sight. I leaped within, and there around a glowing hickory fire, with candles brightly burning on the mantel and bureau, was the blushing bride, surrounded by the six lovely bridesmaids.”

The Fresno [CA] Republican 24 June 1882: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add….

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.




No Marriage Ceremony Complete Without Him: The Professional Usher: 1903

The Bridal Party, complete with ushers, who may be amateurs.

The Bridal Party, complete with ushers, who may be amateurs.

The Professional Usher.

You can always tell the professional usher by the number and style of his scarf pins. Few men run naturally to the accumulation of scarf pins as a fad. The usher does not have to achieve his, but has them thrust upon him.

He is apt to begin his career as a page at some wedding when he is a child, and makes a hit by his bearing and dignity as he marches down the aisle with the little maid of honor.

Somehow this first performance of his becomes a part of family history and he then begins ushering in a mild way at the weddings of relatives. By degrees he forms the habit of being asked to usher sometimes at the wedding of men with whom he may only have a slight acquaintance, but as he gets on in certain sets, it would almost seem as though no marriage ceremony were complete without him.

He is so experienced and graceful in his ushering that his presence adds tone to a wedding, and sometimes he has two or three in a day during the rush season at Easter or in June. But he fairly revels in it, and it is a joy to him to be asked out of town to usher at a wedding where he may only have a casual acquaintance with the groom or may be, perhaps a distant relative of the bride.

The fact that he is invited out of town shows conclusively that his fame as an usher is growing, and in time he becomes an authority as to the newest wrinkles in church weddings, the proper togs which will show a knowledge of the season’s fashions, and the best hotels to go to on a wedding tour.

Of course, the usher must be popular, but he must be something more than that. He must be a man of which the bride and her family strictly approve. No over-gay college chum or roistering bachelor companion can figure prominently as an usher. His reputation must be as spotless as his linen.

Eccentricity and the artistic temperament are all very well in their place, but not in an usher. To be depended on he must be correct through and trough. Many a man’s career as an usher has been cut short at his first wedding by the trace of levity on his face, or perhaps too deep a sorrow, or a severe expression calculated to give the event a funereal tone.

A bad gait or a peculiarity in the manner of arranging the hair makes a man impossible as an usher. His appearance counts as much as a butler’s or a footman’s. Ushers at a wedding, you will notice, are  nearly always cast somewhat in the same mould. They acquire the professional usher manner unconsciously and can always be trusted to do the right thing in the right way. At the farewell bachelor dinner the next day the ushers are always as conspicuously gay as the next day they are enveloped with a gracious charm of manner that has just its infinitesimal trace of regret. In reality the usher is always heartily congratulating himself on the fact that he continues a bachelor. Popular as he is as an usher with the community at large and with prospective mothers-in-law, he goes on ushering to the end of the chapter and rarely attempts the feat of personal bridegroomhood.

Once an usher can proudly display twenty-four presentation scarf pins that he has acquired by assisting at the nuptials of his friends, he gives up the idea of any marriage for himself. He accepts the role of a looker-on in Venice. [a jocular misquote of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, “a looker-on in Vienna.”] There is certainly some deterring influence in the habit, for there is a legend that a girl who acts as bridesmaid more than a certain number of times will never wear orange blossoms of her own.

So the usher grows old and gray in the work of escorting his friends from the altar. He rarely achieves the dignity of best man, for the best man is always chosen for some deeper reason than his good appearance or even his good character. Old friendship, a college intimacy, or a palship that extends back to schoolboy days, will bring a man forward in the part of best man, and in this, at least, the groom is allowed his own choice.

But the ushers are a different proposition. They must match as far as possible in size, and must never present the appearance of a vaudeville quartet—one tall, the other short, one fat and jolly, the other lean and severe looking. Above all, the usher must be experienced and guaranteed not to escort some unknown woman on his arm to a place of honor in the front pew, while he leaves the rich maiden aunt of the bride languishing in the back of the church. He must not stumble over his own feet or the bridesmaid’s gowns, nor must he starts hastily from his place, as though glad that the matter was over and done with, as soon as the clergyman pronounces the last word of the service. On the contrary, the usher, of all men, must seem reluctant. His progress up and down the aisle must be slow, for a step too quick will throw the whole procession out of order and demoralize it.

The usher has his name in the papers so often in connection with weddings that people get to take him for a society man, but in reality he never gets further than being an usher. It is his life work, and he is prominent at weddings and bachelor suppers only, and the sextons get to know him well by sight. It is as an usher that he shines, and he knows his limitations. To miss an occasion of the sort would make him positively ill, for it is the one thing that he does well.

The man who occasionally acts as usher can always be picked out in contrast to the hardened habitué. He is confused and nervous, sometimes almost as uncomfortable looking as the groom himself. But the professional usher you can tell at once by his swan-like motion of proceeding up an aisle—the head erect, the eyes calm, the shoulders held well, and the elbows gracefully posed. He is a glowing contrast to the “duffer” usher, and, of course, he is a valuable factor to a fashionable wedding. This is what causes him to be sought for, and this it is that finally transforms him into a sharper on weddings who knows all the very newest fads in the event matrimonial.

Kate Masterson.

The Illustrated Bee [Omaha, NE] 13 September 1903: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Always an usher, never a groom… Mrs Daffodil thinks it a pity that a young man, so clever at finding his métier, does not think of a way to woo the rich maiden aunt.

Surprisingly, the professional usher had a female counterpart: The professional bridesmaid, noted for her statuesque beauty and ability to step-halt, step-halt to the “Bridal Chorus” from Lohengrin.

Here is one of the fairy-tales about American customs that find credence in England. It is from one of the leading society weeklies: “The professional bridesmaid is one of the latest transatlantic institutions. Whether from unwillingness to incur expense, or to receive the cost of a dress from the bride’s family, the young ladies who belong to the creme de la creme of New York society are no longer available for this purpose. Some say they are not invariably up to the accepted standard of beauty. So it comes about that a good-looking, graceful girl may earn thirty dollars and all expenses for appearing at one of the fashionable matrimonial ceremonies of Fifth Avenue. The other day a fair bride was followed to church by no fewer than fifteen hired virgins to bear her company. An exceptionally charming young lady can command even a bigger remuneration, and one of the most successful of these feminine acolytes is said to expect at least one hundred dollars. She has officiated on two hundred occasions and saved twenty thousand dollars, so that her own turn may come very soon.”

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 23 May 1897

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.