Friday, June 25, 2010

Guest Blogger Ann Lethbridge on Regency Weddings

In a romance, the end goal is of course a happily ever after, and possibly a wedding. We have all seen that wonderful scene in the Colin Firth Pride and Predjudice of the villagers throwing petals and the groom throwing coins, so I thought I would talk a little bit about weddings during the period.

Weddings during the Regency did not tend to be the huge affairs that we think of today, or that became more prevalent during the Victorian era, but they were important nonetheless.

St George’s was the fashionable church for the ton during this time, pictured here, but a little later than Regency. What a magnificent venue. St George's celebrated approximately a thousand weddings a year during our period. That would have kept the pastor on his toes, I am sure. I visited St Georges in London ealier this month only to discover it was closed for renovations.

One big question is, did brides wear white?

In the various groups to which I belong, we hear over and over again that brides did not wear white. But I think what we really mean is that white was not considered "the right thing" or mandatory. A colored dress did not signify lack of chasteness, it was simply a personal preference. That said, it seems that white was the color of choice for many as can be seen from the following examples.

This is a picture of Princess Charlotte returning from her marriage to Prince Leopold in 1816 -- the wedding of the regency era, For her wedding she chose to wear a silver lamé dress over white silk, trimmed with silver lace.

We also know that Jane Austen's niece Anna, who married Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814, wore "a dress of fine white muslin, and over it a soft silk shawl, white shot with primrose, with embossed white-satin flowers, and very handsome fringe, and on her head a small cap to match, trimmed with lace.

When Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother) wed the fashionable American beauty Elizabeth Patterson on Christmas Eve 1803 the bride wore a dress of thin white muslin and lace

In my experience, English fashion journals are rather silent on wedding dresses during the Regency era, and often brides of all levels of society wore a dress they already owned or purchased for the occasion and probably wore again.

This is a rare print from 'Ackermann's Repository' for June 1816 of a wedding dress in white satin with an overdress in striped gauze and trimmed with Brussels lace. It was to be worn with pearl jewelry, white satin slippers and white kid gloves but notice, there is no veil. It wasn't until the 1820's that we begin to see all the hoopla about specially designed wedding dresses.

Another thing that plagues writers is the issue of banns and licenses. Banns had to be called in both parish churches of the couple. They had to be read by the vicar on three consecutive Sundays before the wedding. There were two types of licenses. A standard license if couples did not want banns called or to wait for the
fortnight, they could apply to the local bishop or his representative for a standard license. This only eliminated the need for banns. The couple still had to marry in parish church between 8 and noon. There was a seven day wait. A special license obtained only from the office of the archbishop of Canterbury at Doctor's commons in London. One had to swear to the truth of the information and pay five pounds . This allowed the couple to marry anywhere and at any hour a clergyman could be found to officiate.

Ann Lethbridge writes Regency Historical for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Her current release entitled Captured for the Captain’s Pleasure is out this month (June) in the UK and you can still find copies of her North American Release for May 2010, Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress in stores and on line.

As an army brat growing up in Britain Ann spent many happy hours visiting historical sites of every era of history, but when she found Jane Austen she knew which time period she wanted to write about.


Unknown said...

Dear Lesley-Ann, thanks so much for inviting me to visit you today. I'd be happy to answer questions about weddings, publishing, or anything else your readers would like to throw at me -- if I can.

Anita Mae Draper said...

This is so interesting. I'm working on a blog series about weddings thru history and what has changed. Perchance I can link to this? 


Unknown said...

Anita, of course you can. Please also mention my blog in your acknowledgment of the source, where I have all kinds of interesting stuff about the regency. I would be happy to add you to my links if you contact me through my website.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Delighted to have you here, Ann! Thank you for visiting with such an informative post. And what a lovely wedding gown from the Repository of Arts...

Shannon said...

I have little more to add than simply the words 'beautiful dresses'... *sighs wistfully*

Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed, Shannon.

Luis Rodriguez said...

Now which St George's is this? I know of at least two in London - Hanover Square and Bloomsbury.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

This would be St. George's Hanover Square the parish church of Mayfair, home of the beau monde. Thanks for your interest!

Unknown said...

Thanks Lesley-Ann for answering that, Of course, I should have made the location clear. So thanks to Luis for asking the question so it can be added to the post.