Because of the early hour for weddings, the reception was traditionally a breakfast. It was an English custom to have a Noon ceremony with the breakfast thirty minutes later at the bride's home. There, the couple received the guests and accepted congratulations.
A special and elaborately decorated corner was reserved in the bride's home for receiving her guests. The parents congratulated the couple first, then stood nearby. In early Victorian times, the maid of honor (or first bridesmaid) stood near the bride to assist her. Bridesmaids stood to the left and right of the couple, while ushers guided the guests. Etiquette dictated that guests address the bride first, unless they were only acquainted with the groom, in which case they congratulated the groom and were then introduced to the bride. The bride was never congratulated, as it was implied that the honor was conferred upon her in marrying the groom.
Guests were served standing, although the bridal party was served seated. If the house was large enough, or the weather nice enough, tables could be set up for the guests. There was no entertainment at the wedding, unless it was a lavish evening affair, at which time there was dancing. It was understood that the guests needed no entertainment, as they the honor came in attending the wedding itself.
In early Victorian times, there were usually three wedding cakes--one elaborate cake, and two smaller ones for the bride and groom. The cake was cut and boxed and given to guests as they left. Traditionally the wedding cake was a dark, rich fruitcake with ornate white frostings of scrolls, orange blossoms, etc.. The bride and groom's cakes were not as elaborate. Hers was white cake, his dark. It was cut into as many pieces as there were attendants and often favors were baked inside for luck. Each charm had its own meaning.
The ring for marriage within a year;
The penny for wealth, my dear;
The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born;
The button for sweethearts all forlorn.
This tradition died away with the century, as the bridesmaids did not wish to soil their gloves looking for the favor. The cake the bride cut was not eaten, rather it was packed away for the 25th wedding anniversary!
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