Where a wedding is celebrated in the usual forms, cards of invitation are issued at least a week before-hand. The hour selected is usually eight o'clock, P.M. Wedding cake, wines, and other refreshments, are prepared by the bride and her friends for the occasion. The bride is usually dressed in pure white; she wears a white veil, and her head is crowned with a wreath of white flowers, usually artificial; and orange blossoms are preferred. She should wear no ornaments but such as her intended husband or father may present her for the occasion; certainly no gift, if any such are retained, of any former suitor.
The bridesmaids are generally younger than the bride, and should be dressed in white, but more simply than the bride. The bridegroom must be in full dress; that is, he must wear a black or blue dress coat, which, if he pleases, may be faced with white satin; a white vest, black pantaloons, and dress boots or pumps, with black silk stocking, white kid gloves, and a white cravat.
Duties of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. - The bridegroom is attended by on or two groomsmen, who should be dressed in a similar manner. It is the duty of the bridesmaids to assist in dressing the bride, and making the necessary preparations for the guests. The chief groomsman engages the clergyman or magistrate, and upon his arrival introduces him to the bride and bridegroom, and the friends of the parties.
Treatment of guests. - The invited guests, upon their arrival, are received as at other parties, and after visiting the dressing-rooms and arranging their toilets, they proceed to the room where the ceremony is to be performed. In some cases the marriage ceremony is performed before the arrival of the guests.
The ceremony. - When the hour for the ceremony has arrived, and all things are ready, the wedding party, consisting of the bride and bridegroom, with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, walk into the room, arm in arm; the groomsmen attending the bridesmaids, preceding the bride and bridegroom, and take their positions at the head of the room, which is usually the end furthest from the entrance; the bride standing facing the assembly on the right of the bridegroom, the bridesmaids taking their position at her right, and the groomsmen at the left of the bridegroom.
The principal groomsman now formally introduces the clergyman or magistrate to the bride and bridegroom, and he proceeds to perform the marriage ceremony; if a ring is to be used, the bridegroom procures a plain gold one previously, taking some means to have it of the proper size.
After congratulations and festivities. - As soon as the ceremony is over, and the bridegroom has kissed the bride, the clergyman or magistrate shakes hands with the bride, saluting her by her newly-acquired name, as Mrs. _____, and wishes them joy, prosperity, and happiness; the groomsmen and bridesmaids then do the same; then the principal groomsman brings to them the other persons in the room, commencing with the parents and relatives of the parties, the bride's relations having precedence, and ladies being accompanied by gentlemen.
In this manner all present are expected to make their salutations and congratulations to the newly-married couple, and then to their parents and friends. If the wedding ceremony has taken place before the arrival of the guests, they are received near the door, having, of course, first visited the dressing-rooms; they are then introduced in the same manner.
The groomsman takes occasion, before the clergyman or magistrate leaves, to privately thank him for his attendance, at the same time placing in his hand the marriage fee, which is wrapped up nicely in paper, and if more than the legal sum, as is usually the case where the parties are wealthy, it is usually in gold. The bridegroom, of course, takes an early opportunity to reimburse his groomsman for necessary expenses.
Sending cards. - When a wedding takes place in a family, the cards of the newly-married pair are sent round to all their acquaintances to apprise them of the event. The cards are send out by the bridegroom to his acquaintances, and by the parents of the bride to theirs. In some instances, the cards have been united by silken or silver cords; but this mode has not been adopted by people of fashion.
To those who leave cards at the residence of the newly-married couple during their absence in the "honeymoon," cards are sent to inform them of their return.
When cards are left for married people who reside with their parents or relatives, their names should be written on the cards left for them, to preclude mistakes. If persons without parents are married, they should send cards to their acquaintances.
Source: Thornwell, Emily. The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility. (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1857), 104-108.