Tuesday, 9 October 2012

2 October, 1897 - 'An Afternoon Wedding' by Mary Pocock - Part 1

Part one: general notes and a very detailed suggested table-setting for an average middle- to upper-middle-class wedding party at home. Part two with recipes to follow.
Since it has become the fashion to be married in the afternoon, a "breakfast" is seldom given. Twenty years ago the so-called wedding breakfast was the rule, though it then was really a luncheon, being generally served between one and half past one, and frequently commencing with clear soup. I remember about that time a wedding at the Grosvenor Hotel, at which, besides clear soup, two hot entrees were handed. I never saw tea or coffee at a wedding breakfast, but longer ago than that, both of these used to be on table at weddings. Breakfast was then usually at noon, sometimes even earlier. Of course, if the newly married pair were going any distance, it was necessary to leave much earlier in the day than it is now; express trains did not run fifty years ago at the present rate of speed. It was not possible to start for a long journey after afternoon tea with the expectation of ariving at one's destination in time for dinner! The quickness of locomotion I think has had a great deal to do with the change to the more comfortable and convenient arrangement of afternoon weddings, which were made possible by the alteration of the law which fomerly obliged people to be married before noon.

A wedding reception now is much the same in most respects as an ordinary afternoon party. The drawing-room is usually reserved for the display of presents, which are placed with the donors' cards (usually sent with gifts) on them. If there are many presents, they are placed on tables round the room, jewellery, and small articles of value, being put in glass cases. At wedding crushes in town it is necessary to have a detective in the house, for it is impossible that the bride's family should know all the bridegroom's friends, consequently strangers can go in with little risk of detection, and many thefts have been perpetrated in that way. It is only necessary for a well-dressed person to present himself at the door to gain admission to the house.

On the return from church, the bride and bridegroom go to the drawing-oom where the guests follow, and offer their congratulations. After, the newly married pair go into the tea room, followed by as many of the guests as can find room. The bride cuts, or, if she cannot cut, she sticks the knife in the cake. The remainder of the guests come in for refreshments, as there is space made for them by others leaving or returning to the drawing-room.

The refreshments are usually in the dining room; if a very large party, special arrangements must be made. A long narrow table shoujld be provided and would be placed back, only allowing room for the waiters or waitresses (the latter are generally preferred, and really seem more in place pouring out tea) between it and the wall. On the narrow table a white cloth is used that reaches within eight or nine inches of the ground, Milk and cream jugs and sugar basins are arranged along the front of the table, the tea and coffee pots, urns, cups and saucers, are arranged along the back of the table conveniently placed for the attendants to fill the cups, leaving the guests to help themselves to sugar ande cream. The cake occupies the centre of the table, the remainder being covered with flowers, light refreshments, fruit, etc., with piles of small plates, fruit knives and forks, spoons and glasses for wine and lemonade.  Ices are usually served; these the servants hand from the back of the table, the ice-pails being placed on the ground out of sight. Sometimes Neapolitan ices are liked; being in papers ready to serve, they are rather convenient.

In this article I wish to speak more especially of the arrangements for a moderate-sized reception in a moderate-sized home, than of a crush-party; of one where the whole could be carried out by the servants, with little or no help, except the assistance at the tea table of one or two of the daughters of the house or other relatives of the family.

In this case one would use the ordinary dining table, leaving it very nearly in the middle of the room, just a little more space on the door side. PUt a rather large cloth on, as the effect of the cloth hanging well down is better when no one is to sit at the table. If the table is square-cornered, fold the corners of the cloth round at each end of the table as so to leave it to hang straight and flat all round the table and fasten each edge with a pin.

A white embroidered centre - I have seen some lovely ones lately - white flowers and green leaves embroidered in silks on very fine white linen, or white china silk or crepe may be used for the centre of the table; if soft silk of crepe is used it is placed loosely on the table and pushed up into puffs; around the edge of it place a long trail of smilax or some asparagus fern. Stand the wedding cake in the centre of the table. This is more elegant decorated with natural flowers than with chalky ornaments and artificial flowers.

Place four medium height glasses to form a square enclosing cake, then two high glasses near each end of the table. All the glasses must be filled with white flowers; then attach the four glasses at each end of the table with eight tails of smilax hung in festoons between them. If needed a strand of the very finest wire may be used to support the green trails.

Should the table be very long, it may be necessary to use two more glasses of flowers halfway down each end of the table to carry out the idea, or one higher glass in the centre of each half; then the droops would meet halfway down each end of the table and make a sort of canopy. It would be very pretty if the smilax could be festooned from the flowers on the cake; but it is not practicable, as they would have to be removed when the cake was cut, and at once spoil the appearance of the table. With the glasses of flowers, which should be very lightly filled, nothing more will be required in the way of ornament except a few loose flowers or ferns to lie on the silk or a few specimen glasses, depending on the size of the table. The tea service and cups would be placed at one end of the table, the coffee at the other; wine and lemonade glasses on the sideboard. It has been the fashion to serve iced coffee, but it is not usual now, but iced lemonade is liked.

The refreshments consist of sandwiches, for which it is an advantage to have small labels; they can be made in the shape of little flags and fastened on to the white-headed pins, or the names smply written on tiny white and silver cards; patties, brown and white bread-and-butter, small moulds of various kinds, biscuits, cakes of allkinds, fruits and sweetmeats.

The twisted wire-plate handles are most useful and also very ornamental when trimmed, as they shoujld be, with white satin ribbon twisted round and a bow at the top, and one at each side. THe wires will fit any plate and convert it into a basket, which is easily handed about. They only cost a few pence each.

Those who are lucky enough to have silver baskets, use the larger ones for fruit or cakes, the little ones for sweetmeats.

To be continued.

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