May 31, 2011

{The Honey Month} Part Three: "Honeymoon Doubts"

[excerpt from the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Exposed the 'Princess Myth' for All Women]

The doubts that Diana had on the eve of her wedding only grew during her honeymoon. “What is clear now is that she barely knew her prospective bridegroom,” Tina Brown shared, nor the man who became her husband. And Charles did not know the complex nature of his bride; he had been charmed by a pretty girl who “professed great interest in everything he said and did, manifested great sympathy and understanding for the trials and tribulations of his life…and crucially, she made him laugh,” Penny Junor stated in Charles: Victim or Villian? “But it was all a sham,” the author concluded. The honeymoon Charles planned at his beloved Balmoral—when Diana had talked about her love of the country—began revealing her insincerities. Unfulfilled expectations can be one of the causes of upset; but unfulfilled expectations that were based on a fragile fantasy to begin with can lead to disaster.

“‘We will content ourselves by stating the simple fact that some honeymoons are failures.’” This prophetic line—as far as Diana and Charles were concerned—is from the early 1930s The Bride’s Book, or Young Housewife’s Compendium written by “two ladies of England.” It’s all about the proper dress, accessories, wedding etiquette, trousseau, and honeymoon protocol. With regard to the honeymoon, the ladies said that they were not going to “‘look upon the black side’ of this ‘institution’” and deemed that more honeymoons were successes than failures. (But how could they really be sure?)

Even if you know your fiancé well (even if you’ve lived together before marriage) the honeymoon “rite-of-passage” can reveal some surprises. For a woman preparing for her marriage, even with no pressures like Diana (no hint of an “arranged” marriage, or worldwide expectations of a “fairy-tale” marriage, or giving birth to the heir to the throne, or the blinding attention of the press) there is still a natural transition (and not always an easy one) for two people “getting to know each other” on a deeper level.

“The first years of marriage are about getting use to bumping into each other’s warts,” a long-married friend told me in the first months of my short marriage. She knew a bit about the subject after 25 years of marriage to her childhood sweetheart. And that was over 20 years ago and she recently shared that she’s still learning something new everyday!

Perhaps the key is to stay curious, flexible and open to discovery—and have a sense of humor about whatever you discover (about your partner or about yourself.) Looking back, what I didn’t do was find my own grounding and purpose, nor did I give my partner the room and encouragement to do the same.~

[Another excerpt from the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Exposed the 'Princess Myth' for All Women, will be posted soon from "The Honey Month" chapter.]

May 22, 2011

{The Honey Month} Part Two: "English Weddings"

[excerpt from the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Exposed the 'Princess Myth' for All Women]

And what about those English “wedding breakfasts”? Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 was at eleven in the morning and they returned to Buckingham Palace for a small reception scheduled for one o’clock, but still called, following tradition, “wedding breakfast.” The tradition started in the nineteenth century when “twelve noon continued to be the deadline for weddings performed in church without a special licence [sic],” historian Ann Monsarrat tells us, therefore the popularity of morning weddings followed by breakfast. (Plus it allowed the bride and groom “to set out on their fashionable wedding-trip at a reasonable hour.”)

For the more modern royal wedding in the spring of 2011, William and Kate had an early afternoon champagne reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace to follow their morning wedding. The reception for 650, including a receiving line where the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge greeted each guest, took place in 19 of the palace’s grand state rooms where 10,000 canapés prepared by the palace staff were served and, again with a bow to modern custom, featured two cakes!
(The wedding cake, or now sometimes called the “bride’s cake,” incorporating romantic botanical touches from the “language of flowers,” was an exquisite white sumptuous creation by designer Fiona Cairns with tiers that seemed to be floating in sugar plum delight! Then there was the childhood favorite of the prince, a chocolate biscuit “groom’s cake.”)

That evening, Prince Charles hosted a smaller dinner and dance for the newlyweds at the palace, another break from tradition, and the next morning, the couple surprised the world with an announcement about their honeymoon. Postponing their trip to a private island in the Seychelles for a couple of weeks so the prince could report to work the following Tuesday was another nod to modern couples and their lifestyles.
In casual clothes the morning after their wedding, the newlyweds were photographed leaving Buckingham Palace and boarding a royal helicopter to go spend a few quiet, private days close by.

The idea of honeymoons overall developed into a special time spent together to “get acquainted,” establish companionship, set up home together, and begin a family (so much for having time to develop a relationship!) Modern honeymoons have become more like a vacation “away” from the couple’s busy lives—an escape, perhaps to a beach resort—a time for play, food and sex (and not necessarily in that order.) The honeymoon is the transition time: When the trappings of the wedding pageant are complete and “real life” is about to begin.

The contemporary royal couple, William and Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor (Mr. and Mrs. Wales), combined many traditions and trends regarding their lifestyle and honeymoon plans. They lived together for several years, so already had an established relationship. They postponed their vacation style honeymoon to settle back in at home first and fulfill career responsibilities. And they had, if not a honey month, then a “honey ten days” at an exotic, private resort in the Indian Ocean.~

[Vintage Photographs courtesy of Atlanta History Center]

[Other excerpts from the "The Honey Month" chapter of the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, will be posted soon.]

May 16, 2011

{The Honey Month} Part One: "A Little Honeymoon History"

[excerpt from the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Exposed the 'Princess Myth' for All Women]

In the nineteenth century novel, Madame Bovary, the melancholy Emma Bovary daydreamed: “…these were, nevertheless, the most beautiful days of her life—the honeymoon days, as people called them. To be sure, their sweetness would be best enjoyed far off….”

The word honeymoon, in use since the sixteenth century, is a derivation of a much older term, honey-month, historian Ann Monsarrat tells us in And the Bride Wore White: The History of the White Wedding, describing the first weeks of the newlyweds life together at home (or at the home of friends or family) with the not so subtle intent and hope of ensuring offspring. The popularity of a honeymoon grew with the nobility in the eighteenth century as weddings became less boisterous events and the taste for “public beddings” diminished and for the first time, “a degree of seclusion was allowed the newly-weds.”

More well-to-do couples would usually drive away in their carriages the morning after the wedding festivities; “a few even went to one of their own houses entirely alone: a most startling idea.” This time was called “going away,” a more genteel expression than “honey-month”—considered “low-class words.” The society couple would get ready “to receive and return the calls of well-wishers, and any girl who had the entrée at court, was expected to be presented anew, as a married woman, within a few days of the wedding.”

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Monsarrat continued, “London brides were at home to friends the day after the wedding. Later, when ‘going away’ became popular, the visiting became more spread out…paying return visits could take weeks.” The historian tells us that in America, the bride and groom including both sets of parents “all kept open house the day after the wedding.”

“Going away” became the “bridal tour” for the aristocracy in the nineteenth century; for the English, the fashionable thing to do was a Continental tour; for others, including well-to-do Americans later in the century, it was to go abroad on the luxury liner of the day, to visit the cities and sites in vogue at the time, and perhaps, like the other classes on their honeymoon, to get to know each other better. (Although Americans were a little slow to embrace honeymoons, the wedding celebrations for the wealthy went for a week or longer at home.) Honeymoon destinations were known and publicized until the twentieth century (except for royalty), when the honeymoon locale became as big of a secret as the bride’s dress. ~

[Other excerpts from the "The Honey Month" chapter (including notes from the recent royal wedding) of the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, will be posted soon.]

May 10, 2011

{Did You Know?} No. 4: "The Origin of the Words Bride & Groom"

[Did You Know? is a series of posts highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship. To read other Did You Know? posts, click on the Labels list below.]

Did you know that the words “bride” and “groom” come from ancient goddess legends? Brighid or Brigit, the Celtic goddess of healing and the arts, according Kathy Jones in her book The Ancient British Goddess, is also known as Bride in its Gaelic form—“the maiden goddess of springtime”—and its pet version of Bridie.

Or as wiccaweb.UK explains: Brigit, one of the Triple Goddesses, “is in her maiden aspect as the Celtic Goddess Bride.” The story goes that “the young god approaches Bride with desire. Through their union new life will come into being. Bride is symbolically a horse goddess and her consort, the young god, is depicted as her groom, lavishly attending her. The ‘bride and her groom’ will soon consummate their union, in their forthcoming ‘marriage.’”

Lady Diana Spencer was called by some as the “return of the goddess bride” on her wedding day. In my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, I explain how this “princess bride” became the “goddess queen” and how Catherine, the new Duchess of Cambridge, is perhaps Diana's greatest royal legacy. ~

[To read other Did You Know? posts in this series, click on “Did You Know?” in the Labels list below. Another one coming soon....]

May 6, 2011

{Set the World on Fire}

[This is a reprint of the message delivered by The Right Reverend Richard Chartres, the Lord Bishop of London, at the wedding on 29 April, 2011 of Prince William and Kate Middleton.]

"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."

So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day this is. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many people are fearful for the future of today's world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one - this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.

William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each other.

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. People can dream of such a thing but that hope should not be fulfilled without a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

You have both made your decision today - "I will" - and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely the power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform so long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:

"Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon, Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon."

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today will do everything in their power to support and uphold you in your new life. I pray that God will bless you in the way of life you have chosen. That way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:

    God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

~The Right Reverend Richard Chartres, 132nd Bishop of London

[Photograph: The bride and groom repeating marriage vows with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey.]

May 2, 2011

{Did You Know?} No. 3: "A Sprig of Myrtle & Royal Brides"

[This continues the Did You Know? additions highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship.]

Did you know that all royal British brides (or brides who have married British royalty) since Queen Victoria's wedding have included a sprig of the folkloric shrub myrtle? And not just a sprig from any ole myrtle bush, but from the "royal myrtles" at Fulham Palace gardens in London. There are four famous bushes at the east end of the palace, facing the gardens, that grew from cuttings, as the story goes, from Victoria's own bouquet! And all royal bouquets of British brides since -- including the lovely Kate's -- have included a sprig or two of the royal myrtles.

We all love the mystery around weddings and I was amazed that as much media attention on the recent royal wedding, that Kate Middleton had been able to keep so many things secret! Although the style of her bridal bouquet or the type and color of flowers included were a mystery until she emerged from that glistening vintage Rolls-Royce, what was a given beforehand was that it would contain a sprig or two of the legendary royal myrtles!

The fragrant Myrtus communis  -- with its petite waxy green leaves and delicate creamy white "eye lash" blossoms -- has a mythological history. The tender perennial is associated with both the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Roman goddess Venus -- the goddesses of love, beauty and laughter. Through the ages, this legendary botanical has symbolized love and desire, marriage and fidelity, good luck and abundance. 

ps: You can read more about the "royal myrtles" in a reprint of an article I wrote, "The Legend of the Royal Myrtles" ...posted on a blog page here! ~

[Another post in the Did You Know? series will appear soon! You can find past additions highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship by clicking on "Did You Know?" in the Labels list below.]