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 entrĂ©e 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.]

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