Monday, June 7, 2010

While haunting garage sales a few years ago, I came across a 1955 edition of The Bride’s Book of Etiquette and purchased it on the spot, thinking that there would be some kitschy, old-fashioned hilarity regarding the rules and regulations of putting on a mid-century wedding. Turns out that most of the old guidelines still apply, although today’s bride has the luxury of more freedom of choice where attire, bridesmaid’s duties, what to register for and location are concerned.

In the front of this book is written in cursive, “Mrs. Helen Langford, mother of the bride”. As I leafed through the musty pages, several hand-written “to-do” lists fluttered out, presumably not seen since the 1950s. Helen had studied this book and made lists of that which was of most importance on her daughter’s wedding day. I smiled to think of Helen arriving at the wedding rehearsal, book in hand, ready to direct bridesmaid traffic, answer questions about who gets the front pews and which side the corsages are pinned on (all of which are underlined in the book).

Regarding the processional, Helen underlined in blue pen, highlighted in yellow crayon, dog-eared the page and put a paperclip at the top to denote this sentence:
“It is always correct to have the mother of the bride escorted to her pew a minute before the ceremony begins.”
In the margin she wrote, “Ask Tad to not wear that cologne.”
That cologne. I can only imagine what Tad was splashing on in those days, but whatever it was, Helen was going to make absolutely certain that he was not going to wear it THAT day.

The next chapter that was marked, underlined and paper clipped contained the following statements:
“The Bride’s mother is the official hostess for her daughter’s wedding, the diplomat without portfolio for her family. She is the hub around which all wedding festivities revolve.
Once the type of wedding is determined, the Bride’s mother should conform to the conventions of dress indicated, but, more than this, she will aim to look her very best. Her poise and her grace set the mood for the whole wedding.”

Gulp. Really?

Suddenly I am expected to be a diplomatic hub in pantyhose, officially hostessing the entire event! I suppose I had an inkling of this somewhere in the back of my mind, but here it is in published print. This tid-bit of information obviously struck a chord with Helen as well because in the margin she wrote in a heavy hand, “Call Louise!!!”

Since five decades have passed, I cannot call Louise, so I will have to be satisfied with searching the Internet for ways to look my very best.
My dream of wearing pajama pants, men’s wool socks and a caftan to my daughter’s wedding is dying a slow and laborious death.

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