June 11, 2013

The Etiquette of Engagements and Weddings - a parody

The following in an excerpt from Donald Ogden Stewart's 1922 etiquette book, Perfect Behavior, A Guide for Ladies and Gentlemen in All Social Crises.  It was supposed to be a parody of etiquette books of the era.  Stewart was a member of the Algonquin Round Table and would eventually win an Academy Award for screenwriting for The Philadelphia Story.





The Bride-to-Be

Before the public announcement of the engagement it is customary for the bride-to-be to write personal letters to all other young men to whom she happens to be engaged at the time. These notes should be kindly, sympathetic and tactful. The same note can be written to all, provided there is no chance of their comparing notes. The following is suggested:

"Dear Bob--

 Bob, I want you to be the very first to know that I am engaged to Richard Roe. I want you to like him, Bob, because he is a fine fellow and I would rather have you like him than any one I know. I feel that he and I shall be very happy together, and I want you to be the first to know about it. Your friendship will always remain one of the brightest things in my life, Bob, but, of course, I probably won't be able to go to the Aiken dance with you now. Please don't tell anybody about it yet. I shall never forget the happy times you and I had together, Bob, and will you please return those silly letters of mine. I am sending you yours."

...Selecting the Bridal Party 

As soon as the engagement has been announced it is the duty of the prospective bride to select a maid-of-honor and eight or ten bridesmaids, while the groom must choose his best man and ushers. In making these selections it should be carefully borne in mind that no wedding party is complete without the following:

1 bridesmaid who danced twice with the Prince of Wales.
2 Bridesmaids who never danced more than once with anybody. 1 bridesmaid who doesn't "Pet."
1 bridesmaid who was expelled from Miss Spence's.
1 bridesmaid who talks "Southern."
1 bridesmaid who met Douglas Fairbanks once.
1 bridesmaid who rowed on the crew at Wellesley.
1 usher who doesn't drink anything.
9 ushers who drink anything.

In some localities, following the announcement, it is customary for the bride's friends, to give for her a number of "showers." These are for the purpose of providing her with various necessities for her wedded household life. These affairs should be informal and only her dearest or wealthiest friends should be invited. A clever bride will generally arrange secretly for several of these "showers" by promising a certain percentage (usually 15% of the gross up to $500.00 and 25% bonus on all over that amount) to the friend who gives the party. Some of the more customary "showers" of common household articles for the new bride are toothpaste, milk of magnesia, screen doors, copies of Service's poems, Cape Cod lighters, pictures of "Age of Innocence" and back numbers of the "Atlantic Monthly."

Invitations and Wedding Presents

The proper time to send out invitations to a wedding is between two and three weeks before the day set for the ceremony, although the out-of-town invitations should be mailed in plenty of time to allow the recipient to purchase and forward a suitable present. As the gifts are received, a check mark should be placed after the name of the donor, together with a short description of the present and an estimate as to its probable cost. This list is to be used later, at the wedding reception, in determining the manner in which the bride is to greet the various guests. It has been found helpful by many brides to devise some sort of memory system whereby certain names immediately suggest certain responses, thus:

"Mr. Snodgrass--copy of 'Highways and Byways in Old France'"--c. $6.50--"how do you do, Mr. Snodgrass, have you met my mother?"

"Mr. Brackett--Solid silver candlesticks--$68.50"--"hello, Bob, you old peach. How about a kiss?"

The real festivities of a wedding start about three days before the ceremony, with the arrival of the "wedding party," in which party the most responsible position is that of best man. Let us suppose that you are to be the best man at the Roe-Doe nuptials. What are your duties?

In the first place, you must prepare yourself for the wedding by a course of training extending for over a month or more prior to the actual event. It should be your aim to work yourself into such a condition that you can go for three nights without sleep, talk for hours to the most impossibly stupid of young women, and consume an unending amount of alcohol. You are then prepared for the bachelor dinner, the bridal dinner, the bridesmaids, the wedding, and the wedding reception.

...The Bachelor Dinner and After 

That evening the groom gives for the best man and the ushers what is known as a "bachelor dinner." It is his farewell to his men friends as he passes out of the state of bachelorhood. The formal passing out generally occurs toward the end of the dinner, and is a quaint ceremony participated in by most of those present.

It is customary for the best man to wake up about noon of the following day. You will not have the slightest idea as to where you are or how you got there. You will be wearing your dress trousers, your stiff or pleated bosom dress shirt, black socks and pumps, and the coat of your pajamas. In one hand you will be clutching a chrysanthemum. After a few minutes there will come a low moan from the next bed. That is usually the groom, also in evening dress with the exception that he has tried to put on the trousers of your pajamas over his dress trousers. You then say, "What happened?" to which he replies, "Oh, Judas." You wait several minutes. In the next room you hear the sound of a shower bath and some one whistling. The bath stops; the whistling continues. The door then opens and there enters one of the ushers. He is the usher who always "feels great" the next day after the bachelor dinner. He says to you, "Well, boys, you look all in." You do not reply. He continues, "Gosh, I feel fine." You make no response. He then begins to chuckle, "I don't suppose you remember," he says, "what you said to the bride's mother when I brought you home last night." You sit quickly up in bed. "What did I say?" you ask. "Was I tight?" "Were you tight?" he replies, still chuckling. "Don't you remember what you said? And don't you remember trying to get the bride's father to slide down the banisters with you? Were you tight--Oh, my gosh!" He then exits, chuckling. Statistics of several important life insurance companies show that that type of man generally dies a violent death before the age of thirty.

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