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The Wedding Party

Getting Hitched in the Roaring Twenties

Hi there- Bette Hardwick here from sometime in the 1920s. My best gal-pal is getting hitched and I thought I’d better brush up on all my wedding etiquette before her big day. And who better to go to than dear old Emily Post. Even my Ma listens to her advice when it comes to manners.

Weddings are complicated matters, so I’ve divided up my articles into Bridal Wear; Wedding Party; and The Wedding Day.

The Bride: (Book of Etiquette by Lillian Eichler, 1922)

To–day the keynote of the wedding gown is simplicity. The days of elaborate gowns with trains so heavy with the weight of precious jewels that eight girls had to carry them, is over. The sensible American bride knows that simplicity is more becoming to the solemn dignity of the occasion than extremely elaborate dress.

With styles constantly changing as they do, it would be of no value to offer any descriptions here. However, this little item, taken from the announcement of a fashionable wedding recently held, may offer some helpful suggestions: “The gown in which Miss ——— became the Countess ——— was of heavy white satin cut with an almost austere simplicity. The drapery of the skirt was marked with a garland of lilies and orange–blossoms. The tulle veil was bordered with old English point lace, an heirloom of the ——— family.”

From a study of the descriptions of other bridal gowns at recent important weddings, we find that satin is without doubt the favorite material. Crepe–de–chine and heavy white brocade are also used; and the bride may select whichever material she likes best, something soft and clinging unless she is inclined to be too slender, when  taffeta is more suitable. Undoubtedly, no matter what the style of the gown happens to be, it should boast a train; and a draped skirt is always a popular wedding mode. The length of the sleeves and skirt is entirely governed by the fashion of the moment.

White satin slippers and white gloves enhance the simple beauty of the wedding gown. Jewels are rarely worn, except, perhaps, one large gem—a gift of the groom…
Not so long ago, the veil was of tulle, and from the top of the bride’s head it fell over her shoulders, completely enveloping her to the very tips of her shoes. This all–enveloping veil is no longer considered good form. In its place, is the very charming veil that is gathered into a becoming, flower–trimmed crown at the back of her head, falling gracefully to the train of the dress, leaving the face entirely uncovered.

The veil is always of filmy material. Tulle is favored; and lace is particularly beautiful, especially if it is old lace that has been a long time in the bride’s family. However, tulle is preferable to imitation lace. Orange blossoms or tiny lilies–of–the–valley may be entwined around the crown of the head, a spray or two nestling in the fold of the veil…

The Groom: (the following excerpted from Emily Post)

If he does not already possess a well fitting morning coat (often called a cutaway) he must order one for his wedding. The frock coat is out of fashion at the moment. He must also have dark striped gray trousers. At many smart weddings, especially in the spring, a groom (also his best man) wears a white piqué high double-breasted waistcoat, because the more white that can be got into an otherwise sombre costume the more wedding-like it looks; conventionally he wears a black one to match his coat, like the ushers. The white edge to a black waistcoat is not, at present, very good form. As to his tie, he may choose an “Ascot” of black and white or gray patterned silk. Or he may wear a “four-in-hand” matching those selected for the ushers, of black silk with a narrow single, or broken white stripe at narrow or wide intervals. At one of the ultra smart weddings in New York last spring, after the London fashion, the groom and all the men of the wedding party wore bow ties of black silk with small white dots.

White buckskin gloves are the smartest, but gray suede are the most conventional. White kid is worn only in the evening. It is even becoming the fashion for ushers at small country weddings not to wear gloves at all! But at every wedding, great or small, city or country, etiquette demands that the groom, best man, and ushers, all wear high silk hats, and that the groom carry a walking stick.

Very particular grooms have the soles of their shoes blacked with “water-proof” shoe polish so that when they kneel, their shoes look dark and neat.

While most people understand that it is the brides family that pays for the wedding, the groom pays for the wedding trip or honeymoon. In order that the first days of their life together may be as perfect as possible, the groom must make preparations for the wedding trip long ahead of time, so that best accommodations can be reserved. If they are to stop first at a hotel in their own city, or one near by, he should go days or even weeks in advance and personally select the rooms. It is much better frankly to tell the proprietor, or room clerk, at the same time asking him to “keep the secret.” Everyone takes a friendly interest in a bridal couple, and the chances are that the proprietor will try to reserve the prettiest rooms in the house, and give the best service

The Best man:

No one is busier than the best man on the day of the wedding. His official position is a cross between trained nurse, valet, general manager and keeper.

Bright and early in the morning he hurries to the house of the groom, generally before the latter is up. Very likely they breakfast together; in any event, he takes the groom in charge precisely as might a guardian. He takes note of his patient’s general condition; if he is normal and “fit,” so much the better. If he is “up in the air” or “nervous” the best man must bring him to earth and jolly him along as best he can.

His first actual duty is that of packer and expressman; he must see that everything necessary for the journey is packed, and that the groom does not absent-mindedly put the furnishings of his room in his valise and leave his belongings hanging in the closet. He must see that the clothes the groom is to “wear away” are put into a special bag to be taken to the house of the bride (where he, as well as she, must change from wedding into traveling clothes). The best man becomes expressman if the first stage of the wedding journey is to be to a hotel in town. He puts all the groom’s luggage into his own car or a taxi, drives to the bride’s house, carries the bag with the groom’s traveling suit in it to the room set aside for his use—usually the dressing-room of the bride’s father or the bedroom of her brother. He then collects, according to prearrangement, the luggage of the bride and drives with the entire equipment of both bride and groom to the hotel where rooms have already been engaged, sees it all into the rooms, and makes sure that everything is as it should be. If he is very thoughtful, he may himself put flowers about the rooms. He also registers for the newly-weds, takes the room key, returns to the house of the groom, gives him the key and assures him that everything at the hotel is in readiness. This maneuver allows the young couple when they arrive to go quietly to their rooms without attracting the notice of any one, as would be the case if they arrived with baggage and were conspicuously shown the way by a bell-boy whose manner unmistakably proclaims “Bride and Groom!”

Or, if they are going at once by boat or train, the best man takes the baggage to the station, checks the large pieces, and fees a porter to see that the hand luggage is put in the proper stateroom or parlor car chairs. If they are going by automobile, he takes the luggage out to the garage and personally sees that it is bestowed in the car.

His next duty is that of valet. He must see that the groom is dressed and ready early, and plaster him up if he cuts himself shaving. If he is wise in his day he even provides a small bottle of adrenaline for just such an accident, so that plaster is unnecessary and that the groom may be whole. He may need to find his collar button or even to point out the “missing” clothes that are lying in full view. He must also be sure to ask for the wedding ring and the clergyman’s fee, and put them in his own waistcoat pocket. A very careful best man carries a duplicate ring, in case of one being lost during the ceremony.

With the bride’s and groom’s luggage properly bestowed, the ring and fee in his pocket, the groom’s traveling clothes at the bride’s house, the groom in complete wedding attire, and himself also ready, the best man has nothing further to do but be gentleman-in-waiting to the groom until it is time to escort him to the church, where he becomes chief of staff


The costumes of the bridesmaids, slippers, stockings, dresses, bouquets, gloves and hats, are selected by the bride, without considering or even consulting them as to their taste or preferences. The bridesmaids are always dressed exactly alike as to texture of materials and model of making, but sometimes their dresses differ in color. For instance, two of them may wear pale blue satin slips covered with blue chiffon and cream lace fichus, and cream-colored “picture” hats trimmed with orchids. The next two wear orchid dresses, cream fichus, and cream hats trimmed with pale blue hydrangeas. The maid of honor likewise wears the same model, but her dress is pink chiffon over pink satin and her cream hat is trimmed with both orchids and hydrangeas. The bouquets would all be alike of orchids and hydrangeas. Their gloves all alike of cream-colored suede, and their slippers, blue, orchid, and pink, with stockings to match. Usually the bridesmaids are all alike in color as well as outline, and the maid of honor exactly the same but in reverse colors. Supposing the bridesmaids to wear pink dresses with blue sashes and pink hats trimmed in blue, and their bouquets are of larkspur—the maid of honor wears the same dress in blue, with pink sash, blue hat trimmed with pink, and carries pink roses.

As a warning against the growing habit of artifice, it may not be out of place to quote one commentary made by a man of great distinction who, having seen nothing of the society of very young people for many years, “had to go” to the wedding of a niece. It was one of the biggest weddings of the spring season in New York. The flowers were wonderful, the bridesmaids were many and beautiful, the bride lovely. Afterwards the family talked long about the wedding, but the distinguished uncle said nothing. Finally, he was asked point blank: “Don’t you think the wedding was too lovely? Weren’t the bridesmaids beautiful?”

“No,” said the uncle, “I did not think it was lovely at all. Every one of the bridesmaids was so powdered and painted that there was not a sweet or fresh face among them—I can see a procession just like them any evening on the musical comedy stage! One expects make-up in a theater, but in the house of God it is shocking!”

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