The Victorian era spanned the years 1837 to 1901. It was named for Queen Victoria, the English monarch who reigned during that period. Etiquette and tradition were extremely important aspects of Victorian society; they were thought to be essential in maintaining the status quo. A 19th century Victorian wedding involved many customs and traditions.
A 19th-century groom traditionally asked his potential bride's father for her hand in marriage. The father of the bride often held a dinner -- if permission was granted and the bride accepted -- to announce the couple's engagement. The couple wrote letters to friends and relatives to announce their betrothal. The bride and groom were not allowed to spend time together during the engagement without a chaperon.
Victorian wedding ceremonies were often held between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. The bride chose the date of the wedding, according to tradition, because superstitions existed regarding the best and worst months and days to marry; these dates and times were often expressed in the form of rhymes. The 19th-century wedding ceremony normally took place in a church, but was sometimes held at home.
A wedding breakfast was often held as a Victorian wedding reception; this was due to the early hour at which the ceremony was held. The bride stood in a special corner where she greeted the guests. All guests greeted the bride first, unless they were not acquainted. The wedding cake was served at the reception. It was customary for the bride to cut the cake alone, and to save a piece that represented fidelity.
The bride traditionally took a female companion with her on the honeymoon. The best man was the only person who knew where the bride and groom were going; he took the couple's luggage to the train station, or loaded it in a vehicle. The groom carried the bride over the threshold of the couple's new house. It was viewed as a bad omen for the marriage if the bride stumbled.