Jane Austen’s novels, perennially popular with readers, all end with romantic weddings. Best-selling novelist Julie Klassen describes nuptial traditions during the beloved author’s life and times.
Winter white weddings can be beautiful affairs, and that season is also when many brides-to-be start planning summer and fall nuptials, taking notes and gathering ideas from bridal fairs, family traditions, and even the most recent royal marriage ceremony. Perhaps the customs of Regency England will offer some inspiration as well.
Reading the Banns
Before the union could take place, the local clergyman would announce on three consecutive Sundays a couple’s intention to marry, in an effort to deter wrongful weddings. Imagine a shy young lady’s self-conscious delight to hear her name paired with her beloved’s in the presence of her neighbors.
A bride might wear white—it was a popular color for formal gowns then anyway—but white was not the universal choice until later in the Victorian period. Many brides wore their “best dress,” or a new gown intended to be worn again, often in a dark, practical color like black or gray. Wealthier brides were more likely to wear white or other light colors like yellow or pale blue. White symbolized luxury and youth then, rather than purity, as it does today. Handmade lace was expensive, so not every bride could afford a veil—those were more commonly added to a bonnet or cap than worn on their own.
With This Ring
A simple gold wedding ring was traditional for the bride, though not for the groom. How romantic to hear one’s beloved vow, “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow …”
Regency weddings were not packed-house affairs but were usually relatively quiet and limited to close friends and family. The traditional service—which begins, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God …”—remains familiar because it has been adapted by many denominations.
Marriage ceremonies were required to be held in the morning. This led to the custom of wedding breakfasts, like today’s brunches. A buffet in the bride’s home featured a variety of food, as well as a rich “bride cake”—a dense fruitcake decorated with sugar icing and flowers or ribbon.
While decorating the church was not common, a Regency bride often wore flowers in her hair or held a small bouquet, perhaps from her own garden or a local hothouse.
About The Bride of Ivy Green
While some traditions have changed over time, attending a marriage ceremony would have been a joyous affair then as it is now. In my newest release, The Bride of Ivy Green, villagers find themselves invited to two such memorable weddings—one they anticipated, and one that takes them by surprise.
About The Author
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Before becoming an award-winning author, she worked in publishing for many years. To date, she has written thirteen novels set in Regency England. Julie enjoys reading, connecting with readers, and traveling to England for research. She and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Visit her website at julieklassen.com or on the social media platforms below.