Tag Archives: wedding gifts

A Modest Proposal About English Wedding Presents: 1872

A representative specimen of English wedding gift horror http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23462/lot/212/


It is a matter of unquestionable notoriety, that all marriages are made in heaven; and it is equally certain that the beautiful descriptions of them, which we read, must be due to celestial correspondents. Such choice of words, such felicity of arrangement, such grace of epithets, could not emanate from any inferior source; and the future historian will best gather from these chronicles the condition of the English language in our day, and the manners and customs of those who spoke it. We shall not, perhaps, be accused of unnecessary repetition, if we call attention to the subject.

The sun is shining, and peculiar interest is excited. The bridegroom is accompanied by his friend, who is officiating as groomsman, and who is qualified by frequent service for the efficient discharge of the multifarious duties which are attached to the position. At precisely thirteen minutes and a half past eleven they alight at the church, saluted by the acclamations of the crowd, the excitement of the bystanders, and the symphony of bells. When the door is opened, four and twenty perpetual curates and prebendaries, deans and archdeacons, begin to assist one another. The scene increases in interest, until the climax is reached, when the bride enters, leaning on somebody’s arm, and supported by her bridesmaids, supplied with jewelry by a neighboring firm, which thus has the good fortune to secure eight advertisements of its goods.

The religious ceremony is performed with peculiar solemnity, unbroken, save by the fidgeting of the groomsman; the benediction is pronounced, and on repairing to the vestry, the formalities of registration are gone through, — a part of the ceremony which is often described in language worthy of Burke. After this, the party repair again to a mansion or residence, where a sumptuous dejeuner is prepared, and numerous covers are laid; a mysterious but interesting process. It is here that English oratory is displayed to its best advantage; and graceful tributes are paid on all sides, characterized by good taste, by brevity, and fluency. The peer forgets his pomposity, and the fact that nobody listens to him elsewhere; the groomsman feels that the lightest part of his duties has come, and all regret the close of his remarks. At precisely four minutes past two the bride and bridegroom take leave of their friends, and seek the seclusion of a country-seat.

Meantime, the “friends” separate, and the correspondent is enabled to furnish those advertisements which all read with interest, if not with excitement. The enumeration of the presents and of the names, both of their eminent manufacturers and of their donors, fills columns, and affords invaluable opportunities for fine writing. The “members of the domestic household,” called sometimes by profane and illiterate people servants, contribute something difficult to carry, and impossible to pack.

It is interesting to know that the flowers were not the production of nature, but were expressly supplied for the occasion by the floral manufacturer; nor is the name of the pastry-cook wanting, who made the indigestible compound termed a “bride-cake.” A few years more, and we shall be told the incomes of the guests, their ages, and the construction of the ladies’ petticoats. It may be that publicity is thus ostentatiously given to the names of those who contribute towards the future menage of the happy couple, in order that the standard may be raised, and that the donor of a water-bottle may shrink from appearing in the same list with the donor of a diamond bracelet. That aim, however, has not yet been realized, and the list of objects is as varied, and as free from all connection with each other, as the words which make up a page of Johnson’s Dictionary.

The company is a medley one; sugar-basins and aneroids, an antique pair of bellows, the Zoological Gardens faithfully represented in ormolu, a musical-box, a sketch mounted as a fan, fifty travelling articles to make locomotion impossible, a basket of snowdrops, and nine addresses on vellum, congratulating the bridegroom on the examples he has to imitate and on the wisdom of his choice, quite unreadable from the magnificent flourishes with which the initial letters abound, and signed by the schoolmaster and schoolmistress in behalf of the scholars.

Were the bride and bridegroom endowed with ostrich-like digestions, they might find some use for these articles. As it is, they often prove the most unmitigated nuisance, a misery alike to him who gives and to him or her who receives. It occasionally happens that the announcement of an engagement, instead of recalling the fact that two people are perfectly certain of being happy for life, that the cares of this world are over for them, and that a beautiful account of their marriage will appear in the newspapers and enrich the literature of the country, only suggests the painful thought that a present must be given, and, in order to be given, must be bought.

To explain the grounds for this impression would be impossible; a slight relationship exists between the victim and one or other of the engaged pair, and the persons about to marry are going to live in London, possibly in a large house; it may be that the intending giver received at some former period a perfectly useless and now blackened object, too dirty to make its appearance again in the world of rubbish, and that he feels bound to reciprocate the attention. “Human nature,” says a great authoress, “is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person who either marries or dies is sure of being kindly spoken of.” Whatever may be the cause, the dilemma remains the same. Much mental agony is undergone, increasing as the interval before the marriage becomes shorter. Some prudent persons have a stock of objects always on hand, one of which they forward upon receipt of the intelligence; and thus they may have the good fortune to send the first of the fifteen inkstands which follow.

She who hesitates is lost; now helplessly bemoaning her condition, now peering uneasily into shop-windows, and finding that every thing costs seven pounds, when she is prepared to spend only four. Her sense of her unfortunate position daily grows in intensity, and she may next be seen sitting in a shop, with a choice selection in front of her, amongst which are a blotting-book covered with excrescences of brass like a portmanteau, a miniature helmet, two shepherdesses of modern Meissen, a silver-gilt machine for brushing away crumbs after breakfasting in bed, a gentleman in ormolu looking into a windwill about the same size as himself and of the same material, both containing cavities in their insides for matches, the discovery of which would occupy a lifetime. What a choice is here! The biggest fool of her acquaintance has just ordered the silver-gilt machine, which costs thirty pounds, so she takes the windwill with a sigh of relief, and sends it as a little object to remind her friend of the happy hours they have spent together.

Her friend sends in return a little note, assuring her that she will always value it, reflecting that it is a just requital for the ormolu porcupine stuffed with pins which she had presented on a previous occasion. But the donor and the windmill are not destined to lose sight of one another just yet.

It is bad enough to see the rubbish in the shop, but there is some excuse for the production of these costly and worthless trifles. What the dogs are in the East to the streets, the givers of modern wedding presents are to the trade, — the scavengers of refuse; what is too dirty, too useless, too ugly for other purposes, they absorb; but it is too hard to be called upon to look at it again when exposed to view in the drawing-room of the unfortunate girl whose future life is to be spent, or supposed to be spent, in its contemplation. There are entertainments of divers kinds and degrees of dullness; but the entertainment which is given for the display of the objects we have described is without an equal.

Neatly arranged upon the tables in symmetrical order lie these specimens of English taste, “several hundreds in number,” slips of paper being attached to them recording the names of the givers. Here the lady and the windmill meet once more, regretfully perhaps, for some kind friend announces that she only gave two pounds for the candlesticks opposite; another has picked up something for thirty shillings, which produces a sublime effect, and the name of the shop where similar objects can be procured is whispered in secret. There is a pleasing equality evinced in the display; her Grace and the housemaid think the same thing ” beautiful,” and probably spend the same amount of money upon the object of their admiration.

The custom of giving wedding presents, as it now exists, is a social tax which, though paid by every one, is only paid grudgingly and on compulsion. It represents neither affection nor interest, and is not productive of the smallest profit to any save the tradesmen whose wares are sold for the purpose. Its counterpart can only be found in the custom which existed a short time ago of giving leaving-books at Eton. The fashion was exactly analogous; little boys give them to big boys, to whom they always had been, and to whom they continued in after life, complete strangers, subscribing themselves their “sincere friends on their leaving Eton.” The head-master submitted to the custom at a smaller cost; wise in his generation, and being an elegant classic, he had published, or privately printed, a quarto edition of some Latin author, which, it is needless to say, nobody ever wanted, and no one ever bought. This peculiarly useless volume was exchanged for the sum of ten pounds, deposited in some corner of the room by the boy who was bidding good-by, whence it was generally supposed that the head-master ultimately took it. This pleasant mode of escaping the tax was, unfortunately, not open to those who paid for the leaving-books presented by their sons to their sincere friends, and who not unnaturally considered that the annual expenditure of fifteen or twenty pounds was hardly compensated by the possession of some scores of soiled copies bound in yellow calf.

What these books are to the library, wedding presents are to the ordinary furniture of a house. What is to be done with the windmill? Should the first opportunity be seized for getting rid of it, there is the risk that its donor will tenderly inquire after it. It cannot be given away after the lapse of six months; for its color is gone, and it looks as if it might have been present at Hilpah’s wedding to Shalum. The poor thing eventually finds a shelter and a home in some spare bedroom of a country house, where damp and dust hasten its decay. Sometimes it is destined to a harder fate. One swallow does not make a summer, and the gift of a wedding present does not insure the celebration of a marriage; the engagement may very possibly be broken off, and one of the consequences is the return of the windmill to its unhappy and original possessor, whose feelings on its re-appearance we forbear from commenting on.

If the State would include wedding presents among the assessed taxes, and fix a definite sum to be paid at the beginning of each year, great relief would be experienced; the government would, of course, realize a profit, and a large sum would still remain to be distributed as marriage portions. The present inequality would be remedied; for, as it is, those who never marry at all (and their number is daily increasing) receive no return for their original outlay; but on the institution of the tax this need no longer be the case. Single women, on attaining the age of forty-five, might, on condition of subscribing a declaration setting forth the extreme improbability of their marrying, and their aversion to that condition, receive the sum to which they would have been entitled on marriage. Widows, on the other hand, would get nothing under any circumstances, being exhorted to remain contented with the ormolu of the first marriage.

During the interval before the adoption of this plan we have but one remedy to propose. Surely the old shoes which are now so lavishly thrown away at the departure of the bride and bridegroom, are capable of conversion into some valuable substance; which cannot be predicated of wedding presents. Let, therefore, the next “groomsman ” set a bright example, and deserve well of society and the oppressed; as the carriage starts, let a shower of aneroids, barometers, bellows, candlesticks, vases, mosaics, and antiques, gracefully fall and flutter around it. Thus we feel sure that a “peculiar interest would be excited,” while the struggles of the crowd to possess objects which to their inexperienced eyes might seem capable of being exchanged for a shilling would give additional animation to the scene. The prevalence of this custom might be expected to modify to some extent the present fashion, the chief compensation for which must be found in the advantages which result from a study of the pages of the Court Journal.

Every Saturday 27 April 1872: p. 449-51

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil fears that she has nothing to add to these really excellent proposals, except to note that the shower might result in shards of broken Dresden china and glass in the streets. That would annoy the horses, but crossing-sweepers might be delighted with the added employment and tips.

It is a bore, but one may also exchange or sell the horrors.

As for the loss of wedding gifts to the ladies who remain unmarried, this “bachelor-girl’s” father and friends were thoughtful enough to make up the deficit: 

One of the great bugbears of spinsterhood has been demolished by a Minnesota woman. Though she had had many suitors, of course, she was still unwedded at thirty, and one day, as she was sending off a gift to a girl friend who was about to be married, she bewailed the fact that the bachelor-girl never got wedding-presents or a trousseau. Her father promised that she herself should not be slighted in this respect, whether she married or not, and a few weeks ago, when she accepted the offer of a business position and decided to take up her bachelor residence in Chicago, the old gentleman was as good as his word. He gave her a handsome check to buy a complete outfit of clothes, from shoes to bonnets, and many of her friends took up the idea and gave her useful and ornamental articles for her bachelor apartment. And now it is announced — whether it be through the aid of her fine feathers or not is not stated — she is to marry the president of the company that employs her.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] March 21, 1898

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.


What to Do with Duplicate Wedding Gifts: 1895-1899

elizabeth-phillip-jewels--a wedding gifts 1947

Some of the wedding gifts for Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten, 1947 http://royalweddings.hellomagazine.com/prince-william-and-kate-middleton/galeria/20110203477/william-kate/wedding/gifts/1/


Trade in Duplicate Presents Is Growing Year by Year.


Interesting Incidents Related by the First Dealer.

Wife of a Millionaire Disposes of Three Costly Solid Silver Salad Bowls.

When buying a wedding gift, look well to it that you have not given that identical article to some other bride. The extent to which duplicate presents are made is something to be wondered at, but the extent to which they are got rid of would probably cause their donors to wonder still more. When the bride writes to you on delicately tinted, daintily scented paper that your gift to her was gloriously gorgeous and the thing of all things that she most longed for, don’t pat yourself on the back and compliment yourself on your rare powers of selection and excellent taste; don’t even believe a word that she says unless you have an affidavit that no other piece of silver, jewelry, bric-a-brac, or whatever it chances to be, was ever made like it anywhere in this world. For unless this is the case, before your missive reaches you your gift, which has cost you so much anxious thought, time, and maybe money, may have been exchanged or sold outright along with a dozen or more Just like it. This business of exchanging and selling duplicate wedding gifts is by no means new. It has been going on for almost a quarter of a century, but it is getting bigger and bigger every day. J. H. Johnston, who was the originator of the duplicate-wedding gift business, delights to talk about it when he can get his mind off of literature and art long enough to come down to anything so commonplace as swapping wedding presents.

“One learns a great deal about human nature in buying and exchanging wedding gifts,” he said, in response to a question, “and I see and hear many amusing things. How did I come to go in this business? Well, away back in 1876 one day an advertisement of a sale of misfit carpets caught my eyes ‘Misfit carpets,’ I said to myself, ‘misfit carpets. If misfit carpets, why not misfit wedding presents;’ and immediately I advertised that I would buy and exchange duplicate gifts. From the first the scheme took well.

“In buying and exchanging wedding presents one naturally hears very curious stories and a romance revealed in one minute might be drawn out into a volume by a skillful novelist.  Brides, as a general thing, have a great deal of sentiment about their wedding gifts, even if they get a great many of one kind. They rarely sell them outright for cold cash, but prefer to exchange them. The majority bring them to us soon after this wedding, though not a few have so much sentiment that they keep them for years before they can make up their minds to part with what has been graciously bestowed on them the day of all days in their life. In the course of a day it is not uncommon to buy and exchange barrels of silver and jewelry is also exchanged.

Fee in a Divorce Case.

“A short time ago I bought thirty dozen after-dinner coffee spoons from a bride who had kept back enough to supply her needs, and only last week at newly married woman from Detroit sold us eleven fine cut-glass bowls. I once bought three solid silver tea sets from a bride who had received six, and I also bought ten solid silver salad bowls from one person. As I said, most brides prefer to exchange their gifts rather than sell them. Occasionally we get hold of wedding presents, not always duplicates, that have cost their owners a distinct sacrifice. One day I received a letter from a lawyer, a well-known man down In William street, asking me to call at his office, as he wished to see me on business. . The next day I went down, and found him at his desk. He turned immediately to two office boys and said:

“’Edward, you and James bring in that trunk from the next room.'”

The. boys returned staggering under the weight of a tremendous trunk, and, taking a key from his pocket, the lawyer opened it and began taking out piece after piece of the most magnificent silverware.

“‘Some time ago.’ he said, ‘I had a client for whom I had to get a divorce from her husband. She had no money to pay me, but gave me some of her wedding presents, and here they are. I’ve kept them a long time, thinking that she might some day redeem them, but she never will, and I want to sell them to you.’

“A great many people have an idea that only poor people and those in moderate circumstances exchange or sell their duplicate wedding presents, and, indeed, that most of the sliver sold to dealers come from people who have to sell to relieve pressing wants. The great bulk of silver and the greatest number of duplicate gifts come from the wealthiest people.

“For instance, one day a carriage drove up to the door with the swellest of swell coachmen and footmen on the box. The footman jumped down, opened the door, and two magnificently dressed women got out and came in. One of them, after looking about a bit, asked the price of a little silver clock which I had bought in Amsterdam the last time I was there. I told her $35, and she said:

“‘All right; I’ll take that.’ Going along the case, she picked out half a dozen articles, saying that she would take them, and then she said: ‘By the way, won’t you send your porter out to my carriage and have him bring in some silver that is there?”

The porter returned with three of the handsomest solid silver salad bowls I’ve ever seen anywhere, and she asked me how much I would give her for them. I told her $150, and the difference between that and the cost of the things she had just purchased was $75. I had just made a deposit in the bank and didn’t have enough cash to give her, so I asked if she’d take a check. She said of course she would, and when I asked her name to make it out, imagine my surprise when she gave me the name of a forty millionaire banker. She caught my expression and laughingly said:

“I received nine big sliver salad bowls among my wedding presents. Don’t you think that six are enough?”

My answer was, ‘I certainly do, and I don’t blame you for turning them into goods such as you desire or cash, and what applies to her applies to every other bride.”

Erasure of Gift Marks.

“Are not these duplicate gifts frequently marked with the monogram or full name of the owner?” was asked.

“Yes, but we have a process of refinishing silver so that no vestige of engraving is visible.” visible.” was the reply. “Indeed, as I said, so many brides have so much sentiment about gilts that they store rather than sell or exchange them. After a while, however, they find that the storage costs so much that they make up their minds to part with what was once so dear, and so here they come with a lot of battered or abused silverware. We give them a fair cash valuation for it, or other articles, put their goods in order, and sell them–frequently for other brides. There is an epergne there which was made to order at one of the most fashionable houses in the city. It was given to a couple on their fiftieth anniversary and cost $650. It is a magnificent piece, and when put in order you would never know it. The next time it is sold the selling price will be $150. Why the owners disposed of it I cannot say. Possibly because they didn’t want the responsibility of caring for it and were not disposed to pay storage on it.”

The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 27 November 1898: p. 30

wedding gifts grand forks ND daily herald 27 Sept 1890 p 6


Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Duplicates, particularly in glassware and silver, were a perpetual problem for the newly-married. One invariably ended up with nine pitchers and no useful table-linen. This clerk understood the bridal frustration:


One Who Knows Tells Something of Their Purchase and Exchange. Practical Gifts Preferred by the Up-to-Date Bride

Duplicates and the Surprises That Bob Up When Mistakes Are Remedied.

“It would be a good thing if somebody would inaugurate the bridal fad of sending along with wedding invitations a printed list of articles most acceptable in the gift line. People somehow seem to imagine that only the gew-gaws of life appeal to a newly-wedded pair, and they make a mighty big mistake. The purchasers of a rare piece of Dresden would probably be as insulted as surprised if they could see it handed back a few days after the honeymoon in exchange for a novelty in coffee pots or a substantial whisk broom and holder.

This is what a salesman in a well-known bric-a-brac establishment said the other day after just completing an “exchange” with an interesting young couple who were lamenting together over half a dozen duplicates in Bohemian glass.

“Now that pair,” he continued, as they left the store, “must have sent out their wedding invitations just about the time we were having a bargain run on flower vases. There was, I remember, quite a rush for them at the time, for people are just snobbish enough to want to have our stamp on a box, no matter how trivial the article it contains.

“Those Bohemian glass vases were snatched up right and left. Six of them have found their way into the possession of that couple. They wanted to know how many of them they could exchange. The girl said, quite candidly, that they would never have enough flowers to fill half of the vases, and as for ornaments bouquet holders minus blooms were about as superfluous as bonbon baskets without any sweets.

“Oh yes, we have some funny experiences in bridal present exchanges. It’s amusing at times to see how surprised a customer is when she finds she can’t exchange her ten-dollar knickknack for some article that runs up into the fifties.

“If two women are together when they discover the price of some gift which they have very much over-estimated they draw off and begin a whispered, “Well, did you ever? I never would have believed he could have been so mean.’ “Twelve dollars and a half, and he’s able to pay a hundred. I shan’t forget it.’ And so on.

“The other day a progressive young woman brought in an article that had been purchased here, something I believe in silver and glass for the dressing table, and wanted to exchange it for a sterling silver corkscrew.

“Nine times out of ten an exchange supplements something practical for a purely decorative affair. People don’t buy wedding presents with much discretion. I could give them points. I know, for experience with duplicates and exchanges has taught me not a little wisdom in that line. But they want to make a lot of show for their money or they want something altogether unique and between the struggle for quantity and a desire for originality, the practical, acceptable things in stock are entirely overlooked until the recipient of so much decorative riff-raff comes in and effects an exchange for something more necessary to every-day living.”

Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 8 June 1895: p. 11

For other posts on the subject, such as some gift-exchange contretemps, how quiet weddings are a blunder if one wishes a well-laden gift table, and wedding gifts as a source of worry for the conscientious guest. As for the wedding gifts received by then-Princess Elizabeth, in the photo at the head of the post, one imagines that the bride did not worry about receiving duplicate diamond tiaras.

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.

How She Exchanged a Wedding Gift: 1896

fancy tray 1850sw


That Things Are Not Always What They Seem Evidenced in This Case.

The season of weddings taxes the ingenuity, no less than the purses, of fashionable devotees. The deceptions to which many of the so-called upper crust resort to discharge social obligations are almost incredible to old fogies not in the swim. It has long been the accepted custom of brides who receive many duplicate presents to exchange the same at the stores where they were purchased. When the articles have not been marked or defaced in any manner merchants, as a rule, are very willing to make satisfactory exchanges.

A volume might be written on the revelations that this custom has often brought about. It has been the unguessed cause of more than one social sensation. Less than a year ago a fashionable bride of Gotham received a gorgeously showy gift in repoussé silver from an old school girl friend, daughter of a multi-millionaire. The present was displayed in a beautiful box bearing the stamp of a famous house, and attracted unusual attention from the guests.

Several months after the wedding the bride, in an unlucky moment, took this apparently gorgeous gift, together with others, to exchange for articles for which she had more immediate need. When the selections she made were delivered at her residence she was surprised to find the repoussé silver.

A note from the firm stated that the silver had not been purchased at their store. It was plated goods. They added, however, that they had detected the trade mark of a firm in the Bowery. If madam desired they would furnish the address. A visit to the Bowery jeweler confirmed this assertion and the indignant bride bided her time.

In a short time the giver of the spurious silver was wedded. The most striking gift she received was a familiar box, in which reposed the unlucky piece of repoussé silver. It bore no name; it was not exhibited. No comment was ever made by either party. To all outward appearance the social intimacy is unruffled.

Eau Claire [WI] Leader 6 June 1896: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil was curious about where the young lady got a box from that “famous house.”  Possibly it came about in this manner. Mrs Daffodil fancies that it would not have been difficult to persuade a clerk to part with such a box for a consideration:

It is, of course, a well recognized practice in most of the big silver shops in this city to allow brides to exchange unmarked wedding presents that they don’t want for things that they do,” said a man employed in one of these places to a New York Sun man; “but a new wrinkle was worked on me not long ago. A bride came here with a cab load of our boxes which had held wedding presents and asked us to exchange them for silver ware. She said that she kept all of her silver in a safe constructed for it, and that the boxes were useless to her. These boxes were worth all the way from 50 cents up to $5 and $6, and we took them back at a reduced price and made the exchange. Such gifts as spoons and forks are frequently duplicated, and we are perfectly willing to take them back, if they are not marked, and give something else in exchange. The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, Volume 38, 1899: p. 7

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.


Renting a Bridal Veil: An Embarrassment at a Fashionable Wedding : 1910

Wedding veils of 1910

Wedding veils of 1910


An Incident of a Fashionable Wedding In New York.

Not long ago one of the wealthiest “charge customers” of a well-known department store in New York purchased a $500 wedding veil for her daughter, which was charged to her account and duly delivered. The wedding was a large one and celebrated at high noon in one of the downtown churches.

It happened that one of the girls from a department store went out for luncheon at this hour and, seeing a fashionable wedding in full swing, slipped into the church with the crowd and into one of the back pews. After the ceremony was over she hurried back to her place behind the counter, too busy with her special sales to even think about it.

The next morning, however, when she read an account of the “magnificent wedding in  ___ church and a detailed of the wonderful veil worn by the bride, valued at $500,” she laughingly told her numerous friends in that department that she “had been one of the honored guests and had seen that $500 veil with her own eyes.” Just at this thrilling point of her story one of the floor men stepped up to her and said: “You are wanted at the manager’s office, Miss B.”

As she entered the office, to her perfect amazement, she beheld the identical bridal veil just under discussion.

“Miss B., can you tell me if you ever saw this veil before?” asked the manager.

“Yes, sir; I saw it yesterday.”

“Where did you see it?”

She took from her pocket the clipping from the morning newspaper with the account of the great wedding, the costly veil and a picture of the bride. Laying it upon the desk, she said: “This is a picture of the veil.”

“How did you happen to be at this wedding instead of in your place here in the store?”

“It was my luncheon hour, and I went to the wedding instead of to lunch.”

The manager smiled.

“Can you positively identify this veil as the one you saw yesterday?”

Miss B. took it up in her hands and, unfolding it, ran her fingers through the mesh and into the tiny folds where the orange blossoms were caught, then with some difficulty picked out three little pieces of rice and handed them to the manager.

She went back to her counter, and the “charge customer,” whose accounts number in the thousands each year, was rendered a bill for $300 for “the use of a bridal veil worn by her daughter.”

A check for the $300 was immediately sent, and the wealthy “charge customer” still continues to charge. Chicago Record-Herald.

Evening News [San Jose, CA] 30 April 1910: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Hiring all the old-money trappings of a wedding was commonplace among the nouveau riche. One could hire gifts of silver and crystal (marked with affectionate cards from “Uncle”), jewels, “family” lace, and even an enormous cheque, to be prominently displayed on the gifts table and then returned. Even odder was the hiring of a professional father of the bride:

An Odd Business

A London firm which rents wedding gowns to brides also furnishes a “father” to give the bride away when the marriage takes place too far away from home to admit of parents and relatives being present. This professional father, as he might be appropriately called, is an ex-major in the army and a member of a fine old family, but he is poor and willingly gives away a bride for a small money consideration. He is said to look like a model father, with snowy hair and a kind and lovable expression. Sometimes he is called upon to manage a wedding breakfast, and he is said to be a charming speaker. Surely this is one of the oddest professions of advanced days. The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 5 September 1897: p.12


Scheme Resorted To By London’s Pretentious Aristocracy.

[Pearson’s Weekly.]

“One of the latest things in economy is the hiring instead of buying of wedding presents,” said a London silversmith and jeweler, in the course of a conversation with a reporter. It started in a small way two years ago and has steadily developed until now, when it may be considered quite a recognized thing.

“Of course it originated in the common desire to make a big show before friends for which there is no better opportunity than a wedding. We send out a surprising quantity of goods to be exhibited as presents; indeed, we turn over more money in this way than we do in the ordinary course of business with wedding gifts, although we do perhaps as much in that line as any firm in London.

“Who hires the presents? Oh, the bride’s parents, generally speaking; occasionally the bride herself does it, and we have lent wedding presents up to the value of £16,000 and to some of the best families in England, too.

“We have a big set of dinner knives and forks, in a handsome case, which was originally priced at £45. In the last two years we have made over £90 by letting this out on hire and still have it almost as good as new, so we have no occasion to grumble with this remarkable scheme.

“I need not tell you that we protect ourselves thoroughly. We insure every article before it is lent and require to be paid the full value of the article, for the time being, and in the event of its being lost or unreturned, this money is forfeited.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 7 August 1897: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a precious heirloom lace wedding veil whose sale led to much happiness for a couple.

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.


Quiet Weddings are Blunders: 1907

bride & groom


Young Parties Contemplating Matrimony Are Advised to Make a Splurge for the Happy Event.

Church Marriage on Large Scale Said to Be Good Investment and the Just Due of the Bride

One of the greatest economic blunders in the life of any young couple is the “quiet wedding.” During recent years especially the custom of having simple, almost private ceremonies has increased greatly, proving more than anything else the necessity of a course in domestic science for men about to commit matrimony.

Such a blunder, at the beginning of a married career, argues that the young man, at least, does not understand social economics as applied to the married state. The saddest part of the “quiet wedding” fad is that the bride and groom almost invariably make the same statement. “We couldn’t afford a big wedding.”
Nothing in the whole range of domestic science is more absurd or false. As a matter of face, no young couple can afford not to have a big wedding. Financially a big wedding is one of the best investments a young couple can make. Socially it is a long step towards prominence, commercially it is simple retaliation. The false training of young people has led to what they call “the sensible wedding” –which means that they call a minister quietly to their home, repeat the vows, and settle down to a life of semi-retirement.

Quiet Wedding Poor Investment.

Primarily such a wedding is wrong because it robs the girl who has become a wife of the one great white day in her life. For the sake of a false economic idea she foregoes the triumph that comes to most women but once in a lifetime. If the wedding cost what they think it costs they could afford it, and it would be a good investment, for during all the years of monotonous existence that she must lead afterwards she will have that day to look back upon as the white day of her career.

But, form the viewpoint of the house husband—the man who must manage the household and finance it—the quiet wedding is an even more serious mistake. I have studied the question most carefully and have decided that a big wedding pays at least 100 per cent in actual intrinsic value on the investment. The bigger the wedding and the larger the original investment the greater the returns. Yet it is the man who insists on the quiet wedding—and urges the necessity for strict economy as his objection to it.

The average “quiet wedding” costs the groom about $175, as follows;

Engagement ring: $100; wedding ring: $8; carriage, etc.: $25; minister: $10; refreshments, etc., and flowers: $30.

Church Event Costs Little More

The average “big church wedding” costs much more. The following figures are taken from one groom’s account, and it is about the average:

Engagement ring: $100; wedding ring, $10; carriages: $45; flowers, orange blossoms, decorations, etc.: $60; minister: $25; bride’s gift: $100; gifts for best man and ushers: $30; farewell bachelor dinner: $60

The bride’s expenses were as follows:

Two farewell receptions: $60; luncheons, etc.: $125; wedding breakfast and reception: $250; gifts: $165; extra for dress: $200.

It will be noticed that most of the items are ones necessary even in small weddings. The bride’s estimate of the extra cost on the trousseau because the affair was to be a church one is fair. It would see, on the face of the figures, that a big church wedding is merely a costly pageant for the sake of gratifying social ambitions or the bride’s vanity. Most young couples who claim to be “sensible” look upon the matter in exactly that same manner—and they do not count the receipts at all.

The reason I chose this young couple as an example was that both after the honeymoon mourned the “useless expense,” and sat together and talked of what they could have done with the money. They furnished me with figures showing the enormous cost of the ceremony. Thereupon we got at a basis of calculation. We went over the figures and I ascertained that we could simply cut of the bride’s expense list, for she confessed that her father paid all the bills. Also, while he settled the bills, he did not deduct one cent from the check he gave her as a gift. Therefore, instead of being loser, she was gainer to the extent of $200 worth of extra dresses, and society was in her debt to the extent of over %00 in entertainment and gifts which, at some time, it would repay. The groom’s gift went to his bride, so was an even proposition. The groom’s attendants already had repaid him for his entertainment.

Practically, then, they were gainers instead of losers on the face of the first returns. But beyond that this is what they received:

Cash and checks, $1,860; house and lot, $5,200; jewelry, china and silver: $1,400; rugs, bric-a-brac etc.: $800; cash from sale of duplicates: $214.

In going over this list the bride and groom agreed that if they had planned a quiet wedding her father would not have “come down so handsomely.” He gave $1,000 because he knew people would ask, whereas if he had been giving at a quiet affair his limit would have been $500. The richness of the other gifts was due largely to the fact that it was a big wedding. Indeed, the value of the gifts to couples that get married is directly I proportion to the elaborateness of the ceremony. That is a fixed rule.

There is another element to be considered, and that is that in time to come the young couples must repay to other wedding parties part of the gifts. But they would have had that to do under any circumstance, and, furthermore, they will be in better circumstances to afford to give to others than they would be to buy for themselves now.

Presents May Pay Expenses.

In contrast with this is another couple of my acquaintance. They decided that a big church wedding was useless expense, so they went to a minister’s house and were married. They both figured that her father, having been saved the expense of a big wedding, would donate that much to them. He didn’t. In fact he gave a measly little $250 check—and they knew it would have been at last $500 if it had been a big function, where somebody would be likely to ask what the birdie’s father gave. Nobody else gave anything. They were forced to buy rugs, china, silver, bric-a-brac and such things. They got no linen showers, or tin showers, or kitchen showers, or any showers at all. They paid out in actual cash $740 for furnishing modestly a little home that they bought on the installment plan, whereas if they had splurged and had a $1,500 wedding, they would have received all these things besides many others, and much more cash.

The wise young man, who has studied the economies of matrimony, when the plans for the wedding are being laid, will insist upon having as expensive a wedding as he can afford. He will realize that all weddings are in the nature of commercial ventures and that both he and his wife owe it to themselves to force the couple circle of their friends to “pony up.” Probably each has been making wedding gifts at least twice a year for eight or ten years. Every one to whom they have given will respond when they are married. Furthermore, all their old friends will donate, some for the pleasure of giving and some because they think they must.

Realize Well on Old Man’s Outlay.

The bride and groom themselves bear the minor part of the expense of a big wedding. The bride’s father, of course, gets the bulk of the burden, but he bears it willingly. He is a man of business, and he realizes that he can afford to pay $1,500 in “splurging” on the wedding of a daughter who is costing him at least hundreds of dollars a year for gowns and other expenses. He will not kick. He will raise the limit if necessary.

It will be seen therefore, that the difference in actual expense to the contracting parties falls wholly on the groom, and that his expenses are not greatly increased, no matter what kind of a wedding it is to be. Furthermore, the investment yields, in actual cash, at least double the outlay.

From a social standpoint the big wedding is advisable, for any bride and groom start in life at the niche of society in which they are married. They are newcomers and society has no basis of classifying them except the importance of the wedding. The young man, also, must not overlook the fact that a big wedding gives him a standing in the commercial world. He may be a $1,500 clerk, but he increases in importance in the eyes of his employer simply because he has been the secondary figure in a big society event. The boss may not care for society, and probably knows nothing about it, but he likes to have a young man around who has shown by the fact that he had a big church wedding, that either he or his wife amounts to something in a social way.

The Seattle [WA] Daily Times 11 April 1907: p. 24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: An astonishingly blunt piece on the tit-for-tat nature of the wedding exchange. Mrs Daffodil understands that in certain cultures it is considered appropriate to help pay for the wedding entertainment by a gift of cash, either in an envelope inserted in a beribboned box, fastened to the bride’s gown, or placed in a jewelled tree. But that is a straightforward and well-defined transaction, not the sordid calculation of how much Crate & Barrel a guest “owes” the happy couple for their investment in a signature cocktail, grilled organic salmon with locally sourced green beans, and an Ice-Cream Sundae Station.

Mrs Daffodil remembers the happy days of silver fish slices, handsome cheques, and diamond tiaras from Garrard’s, all displayed on immaculate damask-draped tables with no thought at all of getting one’s money’s worth in cake and champagne at the wedding breakfast.

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.

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

Tears for Wedding Pearls: 1912

wedding pearls


Miss Pearl Turner Had Placed Gems in Envelope for Safe Keeping.

Miss Pearl Alice Turner’s happiness in becoming the bride of William Daughtrey Drew yesterday was marred only by the loss of two of her most valued wedding presents, a beautiful crescent sunburst, the gift of the groom, and a brooch, presented to her by her parents.

After the wedding ceremony, Miss Turning placed the jewels in an envelope, which she placed on the table, intending to leave it there for only a moment. During the excitement attendant upon the wedding one of the guests [and rather an officious one!] picked up the envelope and, not being aware of its contents, threw it in the fire. The mistake was discovered a short time later, but when the jewels were rescued from the fire only the gold framework was left.

It was stated yesterday that an effort was to be made to replace the jewels if duplicates could be found. They were valued at about $250. Macon [GA] Telegraph 23 January 1912: p. 9 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Pearls mean tears,” was a common saying and some considered it unlucky for a bride to wear pearls on her wedding day, even one named for the gemstone. One wonders if this couple’s married life, with its inauspicious beginning, bore out that proverb? Pearls are also the birthstone for June. 

Please see a previous post on Queen Victoria’s costly pearl error.