Give Yourself an Edwardian Wedding
You fancy yourself such an adventurous girl that you delve into the wonder and mystery of the past, not the future. Rather than peruse modern wedding magazines in grocery store lines, you hit your great-grandmother's trousseau for old books. You've made up your mind. You want an Edwardian wedding. The era speaks of grace, innovation, decadence, and danger all at once. You want your wedding to do the same, whether in autumn, winter, spring, or summer.
Here's how Quail Bell(e)s can give themselves an Edwardian wedding without jumping into a wormhole:
First, try to understand the atmosphere and mores of the era. The Edwardian period took place during the reign of the British king, Edward VII, from 1901 to 1910 (though some historians draw the cut-off at 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.) The Edwardian era immediately followed the tight-laced Victorian era—so you can bet some folks were itching for change.
With popular political campaigns involving socialism, labor rights, and women's suffrage, social mobility shed its fairy tale skin. Edwardians were well off; the middle class had more disposable income than ever before and what were once considered luxuries were swiftly becoming more widely available. All kinds of medical, technological, and generally scientific inventions flooded the marketplace—from the automobile to the phonograph to the telephone and more.
There's ample reason the Edwardian era was retroactively dubbed la Belle Époque. Things hadn't quite reached the “party hard” mentality of the Roaring Twenties, but many people did find the years before WWI to be happy, comfortable ones.
Of course, that's just a snippet of the whole picture. For the full oil painting, you better reach for your reading glasses. Snap to it and get studious. The Edwardians worshipped details, and if your wedding's going to come even close to that level of meticulousness, you can't skimp.
Flip through as many books and watch as many movies inspired by the time as possible. Start with “Titanic,” “Dean Spanley” and “A Little Princess” for kicks. If you can view photos and periodicals from the era you're even better off. Most university libraries have historical archives that far surpass anything available at your local library. Depending on your charm factor, you might find a way to wiggle into a backroom without a student I.D.
If you're currently a university student, well, you don't have much of an excuse. Befriend the librarian and go straight to primary source documents. You can't go wrong with a few issues of Punch (1841-1992, but stick to pre-WWI) or Gazette du Bon Ton (1912-1925, but also stick to pre-WWI). Also look into interlibrary loan, a service that allows you to borrow materials from other institutions within your school's academic network. Just because your school doesn't carry a book doesn't mean you can't find a way to get your hands on it.
Another option? Look up all the museums and galleries in and around your town. You might have relevant social history exhibits coming to a place near you. UK fledglings, for instance, should check out the Edwardian Postcard Project at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, while New Englanders should see the Museums of Burlington. There's usually something relevant at the Smithsonian National History Museum in Washington, D.C., the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library in Manhattan, and The Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, VA.
Regardless of where you live, there's always the Internet.
EdwardianPromenade.com, authored by Evangeline Holland, features quality writing, carefully curated photographs, and clean design. If you're hungering for photos and not much else, check out Roger Vaughan's personal collection of Victorian and Edwardian pictures at Cartes.FreeUk.com. Needless to say, Google and Tumblr can satisfy your desire for instant digital gratification, too. Hop onto EdwardianEra.Tumblr.com the second you finish reading this article.
The point of all this browsing is to get inspired. Mentally catalogue the colors, silhouettes, textures, and concepts you like best. Most of the wedding images you'll come across will be straight-forward altar shots of the bride and groom. Seeing such pictures over and over will help you decide how you want to appear on your wedding day and how you want to be documented.
On that note, ask yourself important questions about your wedding gown. Do you want an authentic Edwardian gown or a replica? (You can guess which one will be more affordable.) Do you want a fishtail train? Velvet? Beading? Hooks? An off-white satin dress with lace trim, short/elbow-length sleeves, and about an 80''-long train was period standard. Don't forget the orange-blossom wreath and tulle veil, either. As you begin shopping, you'll discover the full scope of factors you must consider before buying “the one.”
Deciding what your groom will wear should prove to be a far easier task. For British style, go with morning dress. That means a morning coat (shorter version of the frock coat), waistcoat, collared shirt, Oxford boots, long tie, and striped or checked trousers. For American style, go with a tux. If you really want to go out, add a top hat, umbrella, cane, pocket watch, gloves, or spats. The boutonniere should probably be an ivory gardenia.
Location is another huge factor in making your wedding feel as Edwardian as possible. British brides have no shortage of churches, museums, cottages, and manors perfect for the occasion. Brides in the Eastern United States can't complain, either. If you can't or don't want to wed in an Edwardian-specific location, just look for something built before 1920 for a similar vibe. A Georgian estate, for instance, might be precisely your taste. Take the Mont Clare Museum House in Baltimore, Maryland. It dates back to 1760, contains nearly 3,000 artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries, and sits just a few minutes from the city's famous Inner Harbor. Weddings often take place in Mont Clare's stable facility, which dates to 1910. At one time, the stable housed the Baltimore police department's horses.
If you want your Edwardian theme to extend to the food, remember that Edwardians pigged out and loved rich flavors. Think about serving at least one of the following: oyster patties, pineapple, shrimp, canard à la presse, sausages, bread pudding, liquorice, and custard. Your wedding cake should be big and ornate, with a topper that features clasping hands. One hand, with flowers decorating the wrist, represents the bride, while the other, with a sleeve, represents the groom. Any menus you print should be written in French, though you can help out your guests by including descriptions in English.
By the way, if you're going to type up a menu, invitation, or anything else for that matter, choose the right typography. It's a simple touch that makes the Edwardian wedding theme that much more cohesive. Do your research to ensure that all the fonts that appear in your written materials are historically accurate--or at least passable. Start downloading old-fashioned fonts for free at DaFont.com.
The more you browse, the more confident you'll become about how historically authentic you wish to make your wedding. Do you want guests to believe they've stepped back in time? Then you better look into antique car and buggy rentals, as well as bands who know how to rock like it's 1909. Or do you want guests to merely comment on how the wedding reminds them of the Edwardian era? Then Etsy.com accessories and wedding favors from Claire's will probably cut it.
While your budget matters, your imagination's more influential. You might surprise yourself as you learn where your priorities truly lie and by what you learn how to make. Whatever the case, don't give up on your dream of lunging into the past for some bridal glory.