State Historic Site

Trail End

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2009 - December 2009

Wedding Belles & Beaux

Sixty Years of Wedding Costumes & Customs, 1869-1929

Kooi-Reynolds wedding, circa 1926 (Moeller-Edwards Collection, TESHS)

The Groom


"Will anyone forget the bride?" 


Writing for Delineator Magazine in May 1929, author Francis Parkinson Keyes asked the above question in regards to the Cumming-Kendrick wedding. The simple answer was “No!” No one forgot Diana! The wedding revolved around her, and countless words were written to describe Diana, her dress, her veil, her honeymoon, her … her everything!

The real question was: "Will Anyone Remember the Groom?" In truth, the member of the wedding party most likely to be forgotten – or at least neglected by the press – was the groom. Once he popped the question, there was little left for him to do but show up on time and in the proper attire. When John and Eula Kendrick were married in 1891, his attire was the only thing about John upon which the newspapers commented, saying: “The groom wore the conventional black.”



FORMAL MEN'S WEAR

Formal men’s wear has remained pretty much the same throughout the years: black suits, white shirts, and ties. The main changes were in the details: jackets with or without “tails” (long extensions on the back), black tie or white, gray-striped trousers or black, and so forth. During World War One, many men married in their service uniforms rather than tuxedos. Military officers, such as Hubert Harmon, also wore their dress uniforms at their weddings.

According to Emily Post, each groom had to make sure he looked and acted his part appropriately. In 1922 she specified what the proper groom should wear to his wedding:

If he does not already possess a well fitting morning coat, he must order one. He must also have dark striped gray trousers. As to his tie, he may choose an “Ascot” of black and white or gray patterned silk. Or he may wear a “four-in-hand” … But at every wedding, great or small, city or country, etiquette demands that the groom, best man, and ushers, all wear high silk hats, and that the groom carry a walking stick.

While he didn’t carry a walking stick at his 1929 wedding, Manville Kendrick conformed to the requirements of etiquette in every other respect, including the high silk hat. Not only did custom demand he do so, his father absolutely insisted that he get a "cut-away suit with something in the way of modest striped trousers," not only for the wedding but for events far in the future, when the proper attire was mandatory. As John Kendrick wrote in December 1928:

A suit of that kind does not change in style materially over a long period of time ... and we do not wear such a suit very frequently. You wear that kind of a suit, ordinarily, on very important occasions and under such conditions you cannot afford to take any chances in the quality and the fit of your wearing apparel. You know as well as I do that I have no vanity in the matter of dress save and excepting that the man who can afford it should never be less than properly attired.


A HUSBAND WHO WILL "WEAR WELL"


In The Washington Post article about his wedding – one that contained hundreds of words describing dresses (not just those worn by the bride and her attendants, but the two mothers as well), decorations and a long list of guests – Manville was allotted a mere ten words: “The bridegroom is a graduate of Exeter and Harvard Universities.” Fortunately, his friends were more elaborate in their praise of the prospective groom, as shown in this 1929 letter from childhood companion Harry Henderson:

Dear Bud – While your wife is floating airily around the picture moulding after knowing that I think she’s a peach, I might add that she rates heavy felicitations, for she has acquired a husband and companion that will “wear well” – a tribute that cannot be proffered promiscuously – and it fully eclipses the old expressions of “one of nature’s noblemen,” “the rat’s rubbers,” “a prince among men” and other expressions that mean so little.

Manville Kendrick (left) & groomsmen, 1929 (Kendrick Collection, TESHS)