State Historic Site

Trail End

Rosa-Maye Kendrick Harmon's wedding table (Kendrick Collection, TESHS)

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site

August 1996 - December 1996

The American Wedding

Courtship & Marriage Rituals, 1889-1929

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Introduction

WHETHER SHE WAS a politician's daughter who fell in love with a dashing Army officer or the upstairs maid who found her beau through the classifieds, all turn-of-the-century brides had two things in common: customs and etiquette.

From the middle of the nineteenth century through the early decades of the twentieth, most aspects of life in America were controlled by the peculiarities of Victorian Society – a society based on the practice of extreme politeness combined with a rigid Puritanesque morality that found threatening overtones in everything from bare ankles to spicy food.

Marriage was no exception. From the courtship to the proposal, the wedding to the reception, the honeymoon to the new home – there was a "proper" way to do everything. If the rules weren't followed, social disgrace could be the result.

"Finally comes the bride on her father's arm; her long white satin train covered with lace-edged tulle spread spotless as a field of lilies in bloom"

Frances Parkinson Keyes describing Rosa-Maye Kendrick's wedding, 1927

Rosa-Maye Kendrick Harmon (Moeller-Edwards Collection, TESHS)