Our Austen Variations theme for June is weddings! Since I’ve been having so much fun posting “Tuesday Trivia” on our Facebook page lately, I thought I’d kick the month off with some Regency-era English wedding trivia followed by a short P&P wedding scene.
Did you know that…
- Until the late 1880’s, weddings by law had to take place in either the bride’s or groom’s parish church during “canonical hours” (between 8am and noon). Exceptions were made by “special license” however, for those who could afford to purchase one.
- Weddings were usually simple affairs, with a limited guest list and no elaborate decoration or dress. Many women and men of modest means were simply married in their “best clothes.”
- After the wedding, the party adjourned somewhere for the “wedding breakfast,” which would have included the era’s version of a wedding cake – similar to a fruitcake with icing.
- If a couple wished to avoid the rules imposed by the Church of England (or their parents’ refusal of consent), they could elope to Scotland, to Gretna Green – the village just across the border – where marriage laws were much more lax. There, they could simply declare before any witness their desire to be married, and it was done. But elopement was severely frowned upon, as a bad start to marriage and an embarrassment to the families involved.
- Frequently, the bride’s sister or closest female friend accompanied the couple on their honeymoon!
Have you noticed that, for all the courtship and romance in Austen’s novels, she never actually gives us a wedding scene? That’s right; we never see her characters at the altar in the original books. We are therefore obliged to use our imaginations. But that’s what we Austen Variations authors do all the time! As an example, here’s one version of the implied double wedding scene from Pride and Prejudice (which I originally wrote for the P&P200 Project). The twist is it’s from Caroline Bingley’s point of view. Not a happy day for her!
Caroline’s Reflections at the Wedding
“How thrilling!” a woman in the pew behind said in hushed excitement. “A double wedding!”
Caroline Bingley rolled her eyes heavenward and leant closer to her sister. “Double disaster, more like,” she whispered. Although she had no choice but to attend this farce, she did not have to make believe she liked it.
Her brother’s choice of bride was truly a disaster. He might have married a girl form one of the best families, someone who would have enhanced the prestige of the Bingley name… and perhaps added to the family’s fortune as well. What had they all been working for, after all, if not to raise themselves to where nobody would ever remember their humble origins again? Louisa had done her part, at great person sacrifice. But Charles! He was this minute throwing his one chance away on a nobody, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Caroline could not bear to watch her brother disgracing himself, but she did hazard a glance in Mr. Darcy’s direction… and a sigh. Were there any justice in the world, she would have been the one standing up beside him now, the one he was regarding so tenderly, the one to whom he plighted his highly covetable troth. It was unaccountable – and patently unfair – that after all her efforts, all her attentiveness, he should also prefer a Miss Bennet! It was not to be borne!
Had Darcy determined to marry Miss de Bourgh over herself, she might have understood, for then she would have been beaten by the undeniable claims of a noble bloodline and a superior fortune. But what did Miss Eliza Bennet have to boast of… except for those notorious “fine eyes”?
It was indeed a harsh blow, and one that was not to be recovered from anytime soon.
Remember, you can find this and a lot more P&P “missing scenes” (including more about the wedding!) in Pride and Prejudice: Behind the Scenes, written by your very own Austen Variations authors, who contribute all profits from the book to Jane Austen charities!
I was also remembering the wedding scenes I’ve written for my own novels, and I think my favorite has to be the one from The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, for the poignant circumstances and especially for how long the bride and groom have been kept waiting. Finally, though, it’s happening. They reach the part of the ceremony where the officiant asks if anybody objects, and the bride hears only blessed…
Silence. All impediments had at last been removed. No more objections to spoil our contentment. No more raging tyrants of war to keep us apart. No more want of money to deprive us of the essentials of married life. We were finally free of these hindrances…
There’s more, of course, but I don’t want to give too much away, such as who the bride and groom are!
So, were you married in June? Do you have a romantic or funny story to tell from your own wedding or one you attended? I’ve never been to a double wedding before. Have you?