So goeth my resolve to run nothing else about Jane Austen OR weddings for a calendar year – Ed.
This post was brought to you by @raquinsey.
LETTER THE FIRST
To my bosom companion,
The date approaches when I enter into the matrimonial state. Soon I am to be united in perpetuity with a widower who possesses both a middling income and modest grounds. Time, it would seem, is our greatest benefactor; a mere few years ago, when I thought the title “Mistress of Pemberley” within my grasp, I might have scoffed at such an outcome. And yet, compared to the social penury of spinsterhood that then appeared to be my lot, my felicity today knows no bounds. And my purse strings are consequently quite loosened! Indeed, I am giving both my brother Charles’ and my intended husband’s incomes a most vigorous turn about the county’s shops as I prepare for the long-awaited day.
To that end, I do propose (propose! ha!) dictates for my honored guests. I assure you that if you adhere to the below you will pass the most diverting week-end you have spent in many a year. I speak now not only as the bride-to-be, but as the premier figure in the entire ‘shire for everything proper, accomplished and genteel.
1. The gown you choose must be of the first-grade muslin, not an imitation. Therefore betake yourself to a milliner as soon as possible. Let its pale folds be so soft that I can cradle it between thumb and forefinger with nary a scratch to my skin.
2. Every female guest is to wear two petticoats, not including her chemise. You may find yourself overly warm, or a little faint, but you will also be decorously attired, which you must agree is well-worth the discomfort I’m sure.
3. On the subject of petticoats, perhaps a reminder of may be of use: no more than one and a half inch of ankle ought to be shown by any lady in attendance at the church.
4. I will be requesting from each of you a verification of your parentage and your family estate’s before I allow you to sit in the first three rows. No one whose father kept a shop, or who resides in Cheapside, can be allowed in that section, adjacent as it is to the hallowed glories of both God and my wedding-gown.
5. Please do inform your ladies’ maids to expect a labor-intensive visit. Leisure hours and fraternizing with manservants are simply not to be borne. Furthermore both they and you should avoid showing any abominable sort of conceited independence, country-town indifference to decorum, or personal liberty of any manner that would bring shame upon my union.
6. The ceremony commences at exactly ten minutes after one o’clock, and not a moment sooner. Tardiness shall result in being barred entrance, and your forfeiting of the privilege of being introduced to likely dance and conversation partners by my sister, Mrs. Hurst.
7. Be sure to fasten your stays as tightly as possible. Essentially: if your maid does not place one boot upon your shin and exert all her God-given effort upon the laces until both your and her faces are equally crimson, you will need to admonish her, for she fails at her most essential task.
8. Arrive in a barouche, or at the very least a respectable vehicle. Your man may not drive a plain gig or a dog cart to the front if you wish to be admitted– in cases such as these, please have him arrive at the rear entrance. And for heaven’s sake, let the eccentric new Mrs. Darcy’s habits not bleed beyond her own peculiar self. Allow me to elucidate: No walking, and no mud.
9. I aim for harmony of hue and composition. Thus I will frown upon an outer-garment, reticule or tilted parasol that is not in the white or green range, as those are my chosen colours for the day. And do avoid wrinkles, as they are disagreeable.
10. Eschew all shabbiness in your bonnet. And if you wear a cap, assure me that there are two ruffles on its brim. One single ruffle is very plain, I think. But do not, as a certain Mrs. Bennet does, overcompensate for plainness of breeding with prodigiousness of ribbons weighing down your brow.
11. Now, how am I to be sure you are in compliance? Aha, my cleverness outdoes itself. At least a fortnight before the grand occasion, find a bosom friend with some ladylike artistic skill. Ask her to compose a hasty sketch of your chosen attire, paying careful attention to the hem, the fullness of the skirt, the tightness of the stays, and the lack of wrinkles. Send this rendering to me in the post, with alacrity, so that I may see your full preparedness. Thus I shall sleep easier as the date grows nigh.
I imagine this seems not overly burdensome for such an esteemed guest.
Yours, most devotedly,
LETTER THE SECOND
A few addenda to my correspondence of late: rather than an inch and a half of ankle please confine yourself to an inch if you may. Naturally, now Charles reprimands me, saying that I request enough petticoats to clothe an entire militia! Indeed he teases me most mercilessly, calling me a “bride-Bonaparte.” Brothers can be cruel.
N.B, if you have already spent your allowance on a new petticoat, you have proven yourself a most devoted friend, and I shall dote upon on you and be sure you get an excellently-placed pew for the ceremony. That is, unless your father kept a shop. Some rules must never be broken.
(Note: All credit for accuracy goes to https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/author/janeaustensworld/ while all fault for mistakes and anachronisms must go to the author.)
Sarah Marian Seltzer is a writer in New York City. Find her being an obstinate, headstrong girl on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer.