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The Marriage in St. James Chapel, Windsor, March 10th, 1863by Robert Dudley

The Marriage in St. James Chapel, Windsor, March 10th, 1863by Robert Dudley

Last month, My Fiancé and I secured a venue for our wedding ceremony and reception. Finally, one of the biggest obstacles is cleared. The venue dictates so much. The guest list, the color scheme, the sound quality, and actually the type of dress; which I some-what ignored. Our wedding theme is British Victorian meets Spanish Glamour. Up until we found the venue, I was quite afraid the Spanish side would not be represented well, since the vast majority of things we plan to incorporate are of the British Victorian side. Given the dearth of Queen Anne or Chateau style architecture in Arizona large enough to accommodate an indoor ceremony for 200 guests, to say nothing of the staff needed for an event, I was quite shocked at my ridiculous oversight. I really hoped for those Queen Annes, but once I began to stress over the lack of Spanish representation, I wanted to kick myself for my stupidity. Arizona has a massive amount of Spanish inspired venues! I take that back, depending on what part of Arizona one is examining, Arizona has a massive amount of Mexican inspired venues. It is far too commonplace here to make much of an impression on me. So when we found something more European in flavor, we were thrilled. In actuality, the architecture of our chosen site is Tuscan, another popular architectural style here in Arizona, it had so much of the European feel to it and less Mediterranean, we wrote it off as Spanish (from Spain, as oppose to Mexican . . . from Mexico). Having fallen in love with Madrid years ago, the elements and accents of our wedding venue are passably Spanish. Moreover, the majority of the guest list is not all that well verse in Art and architecture, nor do they care. So “Spanish” it is! All British Victorian elements will be brought in.

Historically, weddings were held differently. There were not any off-site wedding venues until fairly recently due to the Wedding Machine/Business blowing-up in Western Society. The ceremonies were always held at the local church and the receptions were always held at the home (usually the bride’s, since it was tradition to get married in the bride’s home town).

Of course, then, as in now, there are no absolutes in Weddings.  Occasionally, people were married outdoors, depending on the weather, preference, and if the officiant would allow it. For whatever reason, the ceremony could be held in the home with the hearth taking place of the alter. This happened more in stately homes of the wealthy who could accommodate more than just a handful of people in front of the fireplace. However, the ceremony itself was always religious and “best” held on in a house of worship or on holy ground. Likewise, the throwing of the rice was done upon leaving the church to go to the reception site and thus the get-away transportation was decorated.

There were other reasons not to get married in a church. If either party was previously married (not divorce, but widowed, was the most common reason for remarriages at the time) it ought to be held elsewhere. In other words, if the bride was impure she was not allowed to marry in a house of worship. How could one tell, other than taking the bride’s word for it? Well, some institutions double checked this fact on their own terms. Once the white wedding gown became a symbol of purity, it too, was denied to impure brides. Presently, one does not need to be married at a church. It could be for religious reasons. If each party is of a different religion, it might unduly favor one religion over the other. Some couples do not practice a religion. On the other hand, in modern times some churches allow non religious couples marry in their house of worship. While certain camps might claim it is proof of religious tolerance, others say it is for monetary reasons. Regardless of the cause, it is now a viable option.

For anyone with less than a million dollars in the bank, the reception could spilled out into the neighborhood or held in the village green to accommodate the amount of people. Sometimes, one or both of the gatherings was held at the groom’s residence or town .For the upper class, having the reception at home was no real bother. Some families had various residences to choose from. The royalty had numerous estates. In the case of the monarchy, the wedding was held in the country of the individual of the higher rank. For example, our Dear Queen Victoria, could not possibly marry her beloved Albert in Germany, even if she wanted to. I believe the idea of the wedding venue as we know it today, caught on because of the guests were loathe to travel great distances from the parish church to the reception site, it was also harder for the couple to control in some ways. A wedding venue was one stop shopping where not everything had to be rented a la carte and brought in.

As with everything, the reception was both a way for the brides family to show off and the first event the married couple hosts, with conflicting results. How one throws a wedding is often very telling of the couple and their families. Is the wedding small? They might be a very practical group or even introverts. Is the wedding big? Perhaps, they have saved up and willing to spend just for the occasion or have a large social group? Every detail is a reflection on the priorities and their personalities. The Victorians never forgot that.

Back to the 21st century, yes, we picked a wedding venue. A modern choice. Well, see how this dictates our other decision