In Old New York

Wooing and Wedding,
page 12 of 12

On Long Island the gayety at the home of the bride’s parents was often followed on the succeeding day by “open house” at the house of the groom’s parents, when the wedding-party, bridesmaids and all, helped to keep up the life of the wedding-day. An old letter says of weddings in the city of New York:—

“The Gentlemen’s Parents keep Open house just in the same manner as the Bride’s Parents. The Gentlemen go from the Bridegroom’s house to drink Punch with and give Joy to his Father. The Bride’s visitors go in the same manner from the Bride’s to her mother’s to pay their compliments to her. There is so much driving about at these times that in our narrow streets there is some danger. The Wedding-house resembles a bee-hive. Company perpetually flying in and out.”

All this was in vogue by the middle of the last century. There was no leaving home by bride and groom just when every one wanted them,—no tiresome, tedious wedding-journey; all cheerfully enjoyed the presence of the bride, and partook of the gayety the wedding brought. In the country, up the Hudson and on Long Island, it was lengthened out by a bride-visiting, — an entertaining of the bridal party from day to day by various hospitable friends and relations for many miles around; and this bride-visiting was usually made on horseback.

Let us picture a bride-visiting in springtime on Long Island, where, as Hendrick Hudson said, “the land was pleasant with grass and flowers and goodly trees as ever seen, and very sweet smells came therefrom.” The fair bride, with her happy husband; the gayly dressed bridesmaids, in silken petticoats, and high-heeled scarlet shoes, with rolled and powdered hair dressed with feathers and gauze, riding a-pillion behind the groom’s young friends, in satin knee-breeches, and gay coats and cocked hats, —all the accompanying young folk in the picturesque and gallant dress of the times, and gay with laughter and happy voices, — a sight pretty to see in the village streets, or, fairer still, in the country lanes, where the woods were purely starred and gleaming with the radiant dogwood; or roads where fence-lines were “white with blossoming cherry-trees as if touched with lightest snow;” or where pink apple-blossoms flushed the fields and dooryards; or, sweeter far, where the flickering shadows fell through a bridal arch of the pale green feathery foliage of the abundant flowering locust-trees, whose beautiful hanging racemes of exquisite pink-flushed blossoms cast abroad a sensuous perfume like orange blossoms, which fitted the warmth, the glowing sunlight, the fair bride, the beginning of a new life; — let us picture in our minds this June bride-visiting; we have not its like to-day in quaintness, simplicity, and beauty.


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