There may be only one thing I love more than Jane Austen, and that is a WEDDING! More often than I would care to admit, I like to imagine what the weddings of certain Jane Austen characters were like and what they would be like today. Every year I even do a "Bennet Sister Weddings" campaign on Instagram, where my followers get to vote on modern wedding dresses, cakes and venues for the Bennet Sisters. So, without further ado, I present: Weddings of the Regency Era!
Most of us have heard that it was Queen Victoria that started the White Wedding Dress trend with her marriage to Prince Albert. While researching regency weddings, I discovered that this isn't necessarily true. Many brides in the regency era did wear a white dress to their wedding. However, this is probably because most dresses in the regency era were a shade of white. (To find out more about fashion in the regency era, read my blog about it here.) Most regency brides were not wealthy enough to have a special dress made for their wedding, so they wore the nicest dress they had in their closet. Regardless of if the dress was new or not, the regency bride would wear her wedding dress again after her wedding, until it was worn out.
Wedding Dress Accessories
Did the regency bride wear a veil? No. Veils were popular in France during this era, they didn't become common in English weddings until the Victorian era. The regency bride would have worn flowers in her hair, or a hat or bonnet of some kind. Wedding shoes were often saved after the wedding, in the same way brides save their wedding dresses today.
If a couple wanted to be wed in a location that wasn't their local church, they would have had to acquire a "special License". Special Licenses were expensive; around 5 pounds! In fact, in Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet says "Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! 'Tis as good as a Lord! And a special licence! You must and shall be married by a special licence!" upon hearing about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's engagement.
Before a regency couple could wed, The Banns had to be read out loud for three consecutive Sundays in a row. The Banns was an announcement of the couple's marriage (at the church where they were to be wed) followed by the question: "If anyone knows a reason why these two should not be wed, ye are to declare it". (I paraphrased here, the exact verbiage would be different based on location) After at least three weeks of The Banns being read, a couple could wed!
The regency wedding ceremony took place in the morning between 8am and Noon. Only immediate family and very close friends would attend and actually witness the ceremony. Typically, only local family and friends would have attended so there would be no need to send an invite, however long-distance guests would have been invited by a personal letter, and not the mass send out invite that were familiar with now. Anyone who wasn't invited to the wedding that wanted to see the couple would have stood outside the church and waited for the newlyweds to come out through the front doors.
Are you or someone you know getting married soon? Check out the Jane Austen Wedding Greeting card – HausofBennet
Regency wedding ceremonies were in the morning, so the "reception" was actually a wedding breakfast. Wedding ceremonies were small and intimate, but the wedding breakfast would have more people in attendance. The wedding breakfast would have eggs, ham, rolls, etc. and would sometimes have drinking chocolate!!!
Did they have wedding cakes?
They did have wedding cakes! They weren't as elaborate as the wedding cakes we see today. The resembled the modern-day fruitcake, and if the regency couple were wealthy, they would have icing. We can only assume that Mrs. Bennet would have icing on the cakes at the Darcy's and Bingley's wedding.
The Most Important part of a regency wedding...The Announcement.
Socially, the most important part of a regency wedding was the announcement in the newspaper. How a marriage was announced in the paper indicated how the couple, and family of said couple was seen by society. Remember how upset Mrs. Bennet was in Pride and Prejudice about how Mr. Wickham and Lydia's announcement wasn't "put in as it ought to be". Jane Austen even joked in one of her letters that she had heard a friend of hers had gotten married, but because it wasn't in the paper a woman was "may as well be single if the wedding is not to be in print."
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