by USA Today Bestselling Author Kristin Holt
As readers of sweet romance set in the American Old West, we’re familiar with weddings in this favored setting. We know all about home weddings, preachers or justices of the peace, and recording important dates (like marriages) in the family Bible. Have you noticed that wedding anniversaries are seldom mentioned in historical romance fiction? (Or is this sense of something [accurate] missing bothering only me?)
Wedding anniversary to-do’s were HUGE in the nineteenth century United States. Couples everywhere celebrated their wedding anniversaries in a variety of ways and means, inviting friends and family to celebrate—and in some cases, when a party wasn’t held, the guests held the party for the guests of honor—Surprise! (Can you even imagine?)
Do you recall something about a paper wedding, a tin wedding, and a golden wedding? Victorian-Americans took that stuff seriously. Though vintage sources disagree (and they knew it), they generally held to a generally held “ten years equals tin wedding” and “fifty years equals golden wedding.” To learn much more about these additional weddings, and all the to-do about them, don’t miss out on my post about Victorian-American Wedding Anniversaries in general... it’s also live today!
Other than find themselves (un-)pleasantly surprised with a surprise party thrown in their own home, what did folks do to acknowledge the anniversary of their marriage?
|The Topeka Daily Capital of Topeka, Kansas on November 11, 1888.|
The couple often threw their own anniversary party, inviting friends, family, the husband’s business associates, neighbors and the like. Festivities were often held in their home, involving music and food. Newspaper notices about such social gatherings typically listed the number of years celebrated by the couple, the names of guests in attendance, and in many cases, gifts given by various friends enumerated.
But such was quality etiquette regarding wedding anniversaries.
When not enjoying music (such as a musicale), dancing, or supping at the dining room table, wedding anniversary party guests were often treated to other performances (phrenology, for example), or in the case of Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Houghton, were treated to the new game Newcastle, and many winners took home lovely prizes.
The size of a man’s bank account (and perhaps the size of his circle of friends) dictated the extravagance and expense of a wedding anniversary party. New York City newspapers mention parties held at home by couples married from one to sixty years, with the same type of gatherings and celebrations as their western counterparts.
Some celebrations held in ritzy neighborhoods of San Francisco cost far more than a working man could earn in half his lifetime. Descriptions of opulence make me wonder how the happy groom could continue to afford his own party year after year after year. Maybe once one hit the teens (thirteen years of marital bliss, fourteen, fifteen) they needn’t host a get-together until the big numbers, say, like their Silver Wedding.
This next example of a humble Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary Party speaks of posterity gathering and marking the Golden Wedding of their parents and grandparents.
Sometimes Wedding Anniversary Parties were more commemorative and delightful to the aging bride and groom than anything else. Can’t you see the smiles upon the faces of elderly Mr. and Mrs. Mather? Who said sleigh rides were entertainment for the young?
Golden Wedding Anniversaries were rare in Victorian America, as a normal and expected lifespan of men and women were strikingly shorter then than now. Considering the Mather’s sleighing on their sixtieth wedding anniversary, in their early 80s, was something remarkable and special... and not only because they were still together. Folks were considered “old” if they reached fifty... and that was a BIG if.
Notice this next couple were doubly-blessed. Not only did they celebrate fifty years of marital bliss, but they outlived virtually all of their contemporaries.
This last Victorian-American Wedding Anniversary Party notice from an 1896 newspaper reminds us all that food and drink in the late Victorian era, despite Victorian refrigerators and plenty of ice, food poisoning still happened.
Sometimes, people live a shockingly long time. And sometimes, marriage seems to agree with those old codgers. A newspaper syndicate shared the surprising story of Joaquin Marreiro (age 103) and his wife (97) (Cabaceiras City, Brazil), married eighty years. “Of the twenty-three children born to this aged pair fourteen still survive. One hundred and twenty-six grandchildren and ninety-seven great-grandchildren will attend the wedding anniversary.” [Source: The Bloomfield Vindicator of Bloomfield, Missouri on February 26, 1881.]
You're invited to browse my many blog articles about life and love in the Victorian American West~
and on my own website: KristinHolt.com/articles:
You're also invited to scroll down and reply!
What do you think of these vintage newspaper articles about Wedding Anniversary Parties held in the 19th century U.S.A.?
Did anything within this article surprise you?
Thanks so much for reading!
Copyright © 2020 Kristin Holt LC