Wedding History Fact: 18th Century Marriage Customs

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Good Fortune and Good Luck

For good fortune, the bride of the late eighteenth-century must not sew the last stitch of her wedding dress until it was time to leave for the church (we hope she remembered to remove the needle); once on her way, she must not look in a mirror. Brides on the way to marriage were considered susceptible to evil spirits. As they walked, her bridesmaids, often dressed in a similar way so that such spirits could not distinguish them from each other, clustered around her protectively. It was good luck to see a chimney sweep or a black cat. Wednesday was the most propitious day for marriages; Fridays and Saturdays were bad. If snow fell on her wedding day, it would bring fertility and wealth.

On leaving her house, the bride would step over piles of broken dishes. The night before the wedding was the Polterabend, where friends and family would small all chipped crockery or glass for good luck and hurl them out the windows.

Dressing for the Day

The wedding procession was led by a fiddler and, on the wedding morning, the bride was sent a morgen-gabe–a morning gift–from her groom. She in turn sent him a shirt she had sewn for the wedding day, which he was to keep all his life.

The bride’s dress was often white, which stood for joy, not purity; she often wore a blue band at her hem, representing purity. Her veil was another way to hide her from the spirits until safely in her husband’s care. But the first one to buy anything after the marriage would dominate the relationship; brides sometimes arranged to buy a pin from a bridesmaid. (This was before you could place an order by cell phone while walking back up the aisle.)

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Painting : “A Rake’s Progress” by William Hogarth

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