Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Victoria and Albert and 19th Century American Wedding Traditions


Victoria and Albert

No single event did more to influence the future course of wedding traditions in America than did the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on February 10, 1840.

White as the color of a wedding gown did not become a popular option until after the marriage of Queen Victoria. Victoria wore a white gown that incorporated lace which had a special sentimental value to the young bride.  The Royal wedding portrait was widely published, and many new brides opted for a similar dress. The tradition continues today in the form of the white wedding, though prior to the Victorian era, a young bride was married in any color except black (the color of mourning) or red (which was connected with prostitutes).

Various theories for the meaning of Queen Victoria’s color choice have been put forward, from her appreciation of color symbolism, white representing purity of heart and the innocence of childhood, to conspiracy theories that link the monarch with schemes to promote lace sales.  It was only later that a white wedding gown came to be regarded as a symbol virginity that should only be worn by a virgin bride.

The adoption of the white wedding cake was also a product of Victoria’s wedding. There was a great deal of cake at Buckingham Palace in February 1840.  Queen Victoria's wedding cake weighed three hundred pounds and measured nine feet across and fourteen inches high and was adorned with roses. An ice sculpture of Britannia surrounded by cupids capped the cake. White wedding cake or bride's cake did not become widespread in the United States until the 1860's. Prior to this, cakes served at wedding receptions were a dark and spicy concoction. The more refined cake was created with the introduction of finely ground white flour and the manufacture of baking powder and baking soda. The heavier “fruitcake” was relegated to being the “groom's cake.”

The wedding cake was cut and boxed and given to guests as they left. Often favors were baked inside for luck. Each charm had its own meaning.  In 2016, a piece of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake was sold by Christie’s auction house for about $2,500.  It appeared dry.

The Civil War Wedding, an entertaining look at the customs and superstitions of weddings during the Civil War era.

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