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Cathy Maxwell | Wedding Envy! A Look at Regency Period Wedding Customs

October 1, 2014

Cathy MaxwellTHE GROOM SAYS YESHow lucky the parents of the Regency period were! Weddings back then were not the productions they are today, and as a parent who has gone through three weddings for her three children, I’m jealous.

Now that my Brides of Wishmore series—THE BRIDE SAYS NO, THE BRIDE SAYS MAYBE, and the just released THE GROOM SAYS YES—are on the shelves, I confess I didn’t even focus on fancy marriage ceremonies because the Regency wedding was so low key. Since in so many other respects the Regency was a brilliant, over the top age, this seems a bit odd to me. The wedding ceremony was strictly for family members. Or even just the couple and witnesses. Brides would wear their best but the wedding dress, as we know it, is a Victorian creation. Sometimes, the bride and groom would walk right out the door and take up the reins of their life with little fanfare.

What is the same? A ring to seal one’s vows has been around since ancient times although usually it was a gift from the groom to his bride. The vows themselves, taken from the Book of Common Prayer, are almost identical to the formal vows couples make today.

Also, during the Regency, an important wedding would be followed by a “wedding breakfast “where guests would be invited. However, the term breakfast is deceiving. The marriage ceremony had to take place before noon, so the “breakfast” might be at 2 p.m. and it certainly wasn’t eggs and bacon but all the good foods guests enjoy.

The other matter that is still the same is the wedding night. A marriage isn’t properly recognized until it is consummated. It was true then and it is true today. A marriage could always be annulled until that moment of joining. “Two shall become one.” (Don’t think I haven’t played with that angle a time or two. It is too delicious to ignore!)

Of course, Scotland was different. A man and a woman had only to say vows in front of each other in front of witnesses and they were married. That is one of the reasons why couples would elope to Scotland. It was easier to marry. No questions asked. Gretna Green was right across the border between Scotland and England and a smithy was always available to marry a couple in front of his anvil or a “clergyman” ready to say the proper words at any hour of the day or night. Of course, the Scottish upper class wanted to do things proper, but everyone would skate the rules if it suited their purposes.

I set The Brides of Wishmore in Scotland. I wanted the freedom of that country, but every society has expectations. For example, Sabrina, the heroine of THE GROOM SAYS YES, is the magistrate’s daughter. She is a spinster and expected to fill all the charitable roles that married women don’t have time to perform. She believes her life is neat and tidy until that one day she learns just how boring and complacent her world has become. That is also the day a stranger stumbles into her life, and nothing after that will ever be the same. Not even her opinion of herself.

To read an excerpt of Cathy Maxwell’s THE GROOM SAYS YES, please go to her website. Don’t forget, she loves to hear from readers.

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