Thursday, December 18, 2008

Weddings in Regency England

by Michele Ann Young


Writing romance, as I do, the end goal is of course 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 did not tend to be the huge affairs that we think of today, or that became more prevalent during the Victorian era. St Georges was the fashionable church for the ton during this time pictured here. What a magnificent venue. St George's celebrated approximately a thousand weddings a year during the regency era. That would have kept the pastor on his toes, I am sure.

Of course the big question is, did they wear white?

In the various groups I belong to 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 tended to be the color of choice for many.

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.

And this is a picture of the wedding dress itself from the London Museum. Rather different from the artists impression. he got the drapery at the front completely wrong. And it is definitely not white.


We 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

The English fashion journals are rather silent on wedding dresses during the Regency era, which likely means you wore a dress you owned or purchased for the occasion and probably wore again. There is a rare print in 'Ackermann's Repository'o 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 not veil. it wasn't until the 1820's that we begin to see all the hoopla about specially designed wedding dresses.

Well that is all I have room for today. Until next time Happy Rambles