February 11, 2009

Romance Febraury: Love and Marriage in the 19th Century

These days, couples 'date' – even if they're in fourth grade and only see each other in the lunchroom. In the 19th century couples courted, sparked, kept company, came to call or cavorted. When it turned serious, it became a courtship. In the early part of century, couples were given much more freedom than in the second half, when Victorian attitudes took over and women of genteel families had chaperons.

Still couples found ways to carry on. They'd meet at harvest celebrations, apple parings, go for walks, dinner and theater, attend lectures and even meet in their family's parlors. This private time often led to premarital sex, which led to 33% of all brides in New England being pregnant when they married in the early part of the century. As contraceptives improved and the staunch Victorian attitude moved through society, that statistic dropped to 10% by the 1850's.
Princess Charlotte's Dress

When courting became engagement, weddings soon followed. The familiar white wedding dress didn't become popular until after 1840, when Queen Victoria married in one. Prior to that, a bride wore her best dress, regardless of the color. This poem predicts the happiness of the marriage depending on the bride's dress color:

Married in White, you have chosen right,
Married in Blue, your love will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Brown, you will live in town,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink,
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back.

In the early 1800's most weddings took place in the bride's home, usually during the week, as opposed to the weekend. And they were small, family-type gatherings. However, by the end of the century, most weddings took place in a church.

The broom, in many African regions symbolized sweeping away evil spirits and beginning a new life with a clean slate. In the United States, slavery prevented couples from marrying legally and, so they 'jumped the broom' to seal their vows.

In the less populated West, couples would often set up household, then married whenever the circuit minister came through, which could be months or years away. Often time, children would be baptized at the same time.

Also common in the West were mail-order brides – women who came West to marry men they'd only met through ads and correspondence. Thousands of couples married this way. Sometimes, they'd marry as soon as they met, other times, they'd court a few months then marry. The success rate was most likely the same for mail-order brides as it was for typical marriages.

Thanks for stopping by my Romance Feburary blog. Be sure and leave a comment, WITH YOUR E-MAIL, to be eligible for one of my prizes: A $10 The Wild Rose Press gift certificate or a copy of my e-book SALVATION BRIDE.

Check out Skhye Moncrief's blog tomorrow for your next clue. http://blog.skhyemoncrief.com/

~Anna Kathryn


Judy said...

I really enjoyed the information. I had never heard about the traditions of the wedding gowns and where the white, for sure, came from.

Susan Macatee said...

Fascinating the way couples get together has changed over the years. And it's no wonder chaperons were so prevalent in the second half of the Victorian era. LOL.

Sally_Odgers said...

The couples that married and baptised their children at the same time remind me of the Colonial Australians, who often did the same thing! I was married in blue... Maybe I knew something?

Emma Lai said...

I was married in Pearl and my life with my husband has definitely been a whirl. Thanks for the great info!

housemouse88 said...

I truly enjoyed the information and especially the poem. It is strange to think that even then the pregnancy rate was just as shocking as it is now. Thanks for all the information. house_mouse88@yahoo.com

Paty Jager said...

Interesting information. I like writing about the west because you don't have to stay boxed in to all the "Victorian" rules and attitudes that were more prevalent in the East.

LuAnn said...

Great entry! I always look forward to reading your blog!

Jannine said...

What a fascinating overview of love and marriage in the 19th century. When you think of that time period, especially in the early years, you don't think of couples conceiving before marriage.

Kathy Otten said...

Thanks for sharing. I enoyed the little poem about the dresses.

Babyblue22 said...

WOW ANNA! definitely loved this post. I think it's cool to find out about all of the different ways the customs between man and woman changed over a century.
I also liked the poem, blue is my favorite color and when i get married i'll be wearing it, so hopefully thats a good sign.

kerribookwriter said...

Hey Anna!

Hmmm...well I got married in pearl and I certainly do live in a whirl. LOL More like a whirlwind! :-)

Loved the post today. Sometimes I think I would've loved to have lived "back in the day" but then again...what would we do without our blogs?


Eva S said...

Thanks for the interesting post!
I was married in blue, true after more than 30 years...


Jeanmarie Hamilton said...

Interesting post especially that so many women were pregnant before they married in the early 1800s.
My grandparents were married in her mother's home in west Texas in the early 1900s. There was a big party afterwards. The newly weds took a trip to Mexico City for their honeymoon. :-)

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I'm really glad so many of you liked the post. It's been a busy week and I was afraid it might be a little dry.

We always think that our ancestors were so 'innocent' when it came to sex, but obviously, they weren't.

Kerri, forget blogs, what would we do without running water? LOL.

Anna Kathryn

Eleyne said...

I love that beautiful wedding gown and the fun wedding trivia. The history of courtship and marriage is fun and fascinating, especially how it's changed over the years.


Debby said...

Great information. I learned some new things.


Skhye said...

Great post!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Congratulations to LuAnn and Eleyne, my drawing winners. LuAnn won the $10 TWRP gift certificate and Eleyne won a copy of Salvation Bride.

Once again, thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Anna Kathryn

J K Maze said...

Interesting facts, especially the percentage of pre-marriage pregnancies in the early 1800's. I'm especially interested in the west.

Joan K. Maze

Skhye said...

You know, based on the money a woman had to spend on a wedding dress, she might find herself in a pickle if she had to wear her everyday frock. No cash meant interesting jinx! Now where did you get this statistics? Some other readers here may want to backtrack on your research. ;)