Archiver > PACAMBRI > 2007-04 > 1176745817

Subject: [PACAMBRI] Weddings late 1800s and early 1900's: Regulations
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2007 13:50:17 -0400
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Dear Mary Ellen,
Although I don't usually admit it anymore, I do have several degrees in Home Economics, the last being a M Ed--however, since I had a previous M Ed in another area, I arranged to take only home economics courses since I already had the education courses. Most were in either the history of costume or various specialty sewing programs--like design and French draping.
My major project was one on wedding costumes of my g-grandmother, her siblings and her children's generation. The two piece brown costume was my g-grandmother's wedding costume--will have to look up the date--and I have others of her in-laws and siblings that are the same style. Women could not afford to buy a special wedding dress--not German emigrant women. There were other nationalities and social classes who could and did. So generally, if they could afford it, they got a "new" dress in whatever was the then current fashion. German emigrant fashions were very much behind the times of fashionable women in general, although not as much as you might expect after school became common and magazines available. These women could and did do very fine sewing. The weekly newspapers had patterns for sale in them, and showed the current fashions. Many emigrants learned to read English from these papers.
[I borrowed wedding photos from my grandmother and could have killed my aunt when she gave the photos to relatives of the subjects--before I could copy them....] I questioned my grandmother and other older women and this is where I got most of my information. [Also did a project on pregnancy styles, too.]
The top of the outfit was called a "waiste" and the name "shirtwaiste" dress later came from that style. The two piece was easier to keep clean. When women started to work they wore white "waistes" which were easier to bleach and keep clean. [At home most farm women wore loose wash able cotton "house dresses."] Sometimes the bottom of the "waiste" had a slip attached to keep it in the skirt. [I wore blouses or "waists" with attached slip in the 1940s.] Around 1890 to 1900, sometimes the exaggerated sleeves ["leg of mutton"] for a "waiste" contained three yards of fabric each. This was considered a practical [minus the exaggerated sleeves] outfit for a women factory worker or clerk or telephone writer.
Brown was "stylish" and "practical," so it was chosen. Only babies, children or young girls wore white or light colors. Dyes were mostly natural then--before the era of chemical dyes. "Rusty Black" meant that fabric didn't "take black dye well," and turned brown. Women [at least emigrant German women] made their own clothing--or had a dressmaker. They also sewed the men's suits--they had to be taken to pieces and washed and re-sewn to clean them--before dry cleaning--reason for the very simple styles. And remember Scarlett O'Hara "turning her gown?" Women did that. They turned sheets too, cutting them in the center where worn, and sewing the more unused edges together in the center. No one had money to spend unnecessarily or to waste.
Weddings were on week days--period. No Saturdays, even though in the summer that would be good, because it would be Sunday the next day. [I don't know if the Saturday was custom or law.] Sunday was mass and Catholics did not hold weddings or funerals on Sunday, or do anything Saturday that might interfere with a sane and sober Sabbath. The Germans were not strict Sabbath keepers--they cooked big meals and visited relatives mostly and caused much dissension with some of the more strict Protestants, who would not even heat a stove on Sunday.
Most of the wedding days were mid-week--Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, probably most convenient. These people were mostly farmers, who lived outside town, and you need to keep that in mind. "Town people" were sometimes different, depending on their profession and money. But no one had a concept of "weekends." They worked Saturday [at least half a day] and Sunday was for church and visiting family.
I am not sure just what happened if a wedding mass was scheduled and a funeral came up--funeral probably took preference, I would think. As I said, there were some extra priests around the parishes to help out. But the rule was one mass per day per priest except on Sundays [and holy days] when it was two per priest. But he had to, was required to, say that one mass. Also required to say his Brievery, which is a prayer book with special prayers the priest must say each day---Benedictines being a monastic order, that was an unbreakable rule even if they were in a parish. Monks were to say the prayers at certain times, too, which were somewhat relaxed in a parish.
The timing of these prayers in the monastic day and night might also have had something to do with scheduling church affairs, but I am not certain of this.
I am not really 100 % sure why the masses were so early, other than that everyone was up with the sun to milk the cows and start work. [If you don't know, cows get milked twice a day, at about a 12 hour interval, and if you are are late in the morning, then you have to be late in the evening, too, which causes problems.] Milking by hand took a lot of time, too. So the weddings would be early, probably earlier or just after morning chores, depending on how far away the church was. It could take time to ride/walk to a church. Children did this sort of work before they went to school--after 1839 the local districts had to establish school boards and taxes for local one room schools--before that, there was an illiterate generation in this area.
You also have to remember that it was cold and dark then--people couldn't afford the candles or oil lamps, and though there was plenty of wood, someone had to cut it to burn it. So people tended to live by the sun, and hours would vary by the season.
General farm pattern was for everyone up early, men to the barn [if enough men/boys] and women to the kitchen, then everyone eat a large meal the women prepared, then do other farm chores, depending on the season. Germans generally did not have the women in the fields in America except as extras at harvest [or if there were not sons]--women did the house and small animal and garden work and processed the milk. Earlier they would spin and weave and make cloth.
Usual "celebration" was the wedding breakfast, then back to work, with perhaps the nuptial couple leaving on a honeymoon. Farmers would have more freedom to go on a trip than a factory worker, depending on the season. Usually only the participants, perhaps the parents too, attended the nuptial mass and wedding. Or the mother was home preparing the breakfast. Depending on the time of the year or the social status, there might be more celebration. Certain women would specialize in preparing wedding breakfasts or dinners, if a family could afford them. I have heard of dances held at night--usually Friday--at the local Grove Dance Floor or parish hall, or wedding lunches or dinners. Not usual, though. A wedding was not a big social occasion with Catholic German emigrants. Honeymoon or "wedding trip" was usually a train trip to visit relatives. In one case in 1908, the entire wedding party and parents--after a 5:00 o'clock wedding at the Monastery in Carrolltown-!
-the entire party went to Atlantic City for a week--that family had money. The previous daughter had rented the trolley to take the wedding party from st. Benedict's Church in Carrolltown to the Brandon Hotel [the "in place" then] in Spangler for a reception.
As someone else mentioned, weddings had to be held before noon. Canon [or Church Law] required that. I don't know if it set the days of the week--I know that no Sunday weddings were allowed.
Marriages were required to be held in the bride's parish [unless Byzantine Catholic, when it is held in the groom's] and her pastor--ONLY-- could give permission for it to be elsewhere [like the Monastery at St. Benedicts in Carrrolltown or St. Vincent's] or for another priest to perform it. Most priests were reasonable, but some were tyrants.
If you come across a wedding performed 1] without the three weeks bans or 2] at another location, especially in Johnstown, Altoona or Cumberland, you can usually assume a pregnant bride. It could be an older couple, a second marriage, or close relatives of a priest, but usually a "shotgun affair." During the depression, "run away" marriages to approved churches in MD or VA were tolerated and arranged--the pastor gave permission--that was economic, and the rules were followed. [We had a discussion of special trains to MD and VA called the "Honeymoon Express?"}
The pastor was the boss in his parish--no escaping his rules. Parish boundaries were geographic and set by regulation--you couldn't "parish shop" then. If you didn't get along with your pastor, no sacraments or "Christian Burial" was possible, but that is another story.
I came across a case [in the papers] in which the couple had two sets of bans ["announcements" read from the pulpit on three Sundays/Holy days previous to a wedding, "announcing" that the couple was being married] and on the third week [in this case] the groom married someone else. I asked an elderly relative about it, and her comment was "He was engaged to X [actually this lady's aunt] and Y came up pregnant, so he married her instead." Imagine.....
Doubt he had much choice. The priests found out who the fathers were--I have never seen a "father unknown" in the church records. If the male and female were Catholics and marriageable, they married--no wiggle room. Of course, sometimes one or the other was married to someone else, or not a Catholic, or there was incest..... Sometimes the records say "did public penance," depending on the circumstances.
So, if your female ancestor belonged to Holy Family parish in Latrobe, she got married there unless there was some exceptional case. [If this is after 1885, you can check the marriage license to see where the marriage took place.] Before that, only the church records, or a possible newspaper article [prominent] or paid announcement [common] is likely to exist. Or, there might be a wedding invitation still in existence--they did sometimes have them. The local paper might publish that the "the bans were called" or say "The cards are out for the Smith-Jones wedding." [I assume "cards" meant wedding invitations.] With St. Vincent there in Latrobe [and it was a parish church as well as a monastery] that would be a possibility if she had monastery connections. If she belonged to St. Bartholomew in Wilmore, she got married there. That was the rule.
If a Roman Catholic girl married a Byzantine Catholic groom, the wedding was held in his church--they had a different Canon Law. Also the rule, no exceptions. That would not be a usual occurrence, as the Eastern European emigrant/miner Byzantines did not usually mix with the Roman Catholic Germans at this period. It was possible only because some of the local German churches "took in" the Byzantines before they established their own churches, and the Byzantines would then belong to both varieties of churches, but reserve the Byzantine church for sacraments.
There were very few marriages of non-Catholics and Catholics among these people. The usual would be for the non-Catholic to convert [one sometimes doubts the personal sincerity of the conversions, given what happened later in the marriage.] There would be no Catholic ceremony if the non-Catholic did not at least sign a pledge to allow the Catholic partner to attend mass and to raise the children Catholics. Without a Catholic ceremony, the couple was "living in sin," and that was a serious violation. The locals did not really practice shunning [like the Amish] but there was something close to that practice. [I have personally known parents to completely block out the existence of a child for violating the marriage laws. Honoring her mother's principles, one of my cousins left a brother out of the family tree entirely.]
A Catholic/non-Catholic ceremony was just a short exchange of vows in the rectory, not even the church, usually in the evening, with no celebration. Very hole-in-the-corner, and meant to be. No Nuptial Mass and No Nuptial Blessing, but it was a real sacramental marriage--binding. Usually no party/celebration, and often not even an announcement in the paper.
It was even more serious if a Catholic had a Protestant minister marry them--that mean excommunication from the Catholic church--very serious.
If there was great opposition to a marriage, the couple might "run away" and "attempt Civil Marriage," especially trying to get pregnant. Pregnancy usually settled the deal. That would usually get them a Catholic ceremony of sorts--also "public penance," depending on the priest. A non-marriage and a child usually meant the parents of the girl raised the child as their own, often pretending to be the parents. Sometimes the child would go with the woman if she later married, but there was a lot of pretense and concealment. [It is generally wise to question the exact parentage of a child born late in a marriage to a much older woman who has adult daughters.]
Close relationships [second cousins] were required to have a "dispensation," or permission from the Bishop. This might be difficult to obtain. So were dispensations for "mixed marriages." I don't know all the other reasons, but there was a complete set of Canon [religious] laws that applied. Some dispensations had to be obtained from Rome. A complicated subject.....

I know some of this sounds unbelievable, but RELIGION was important then, and RELIGION was CULTURAL as well as SPIRITUAL. [Just think of some of the Muslim countries today.] If you ignore it, you will never understand the customs of your ancestors, no matter what their religion actually was. I can tell you the Catholic version because I know it, but there were the some sort of rules and customs in every denomination. And every denomination saw other religions as OUTSIDERS, no matter how ecumenical we are now.

I am sure some of you can add to this, give examples from your family history. Although some of you may think I am exaggerating, I stand by what I have said here, I can site examples to illustrate all of it. I am also sure there were exceptions, that not all parishes and priests were as I have described them.

----Original Message-----
To: ; ;
Sent: Mon, 16 Apr 2007 8:42 AM
Subject: Re: [PACAMBRI] Morning weddings early 1900's

Hi Marilyn, I have a few questions. This is a very interesting subject. Would the bride and groom get married in the bride's home town parish? If you were trying to ascertain what church they were married in, where
or what would you do? Also, my Great Grandmother was married in an elaborate brown two piece dress. The jacket matched the skirt and it was really beautiful. I had written to this list before to discuss the color and it
seems nobody really knew the answer as to why they would wear brown, but it was once very stylish. My G
Grandmother was married back in 1875. I have never been able to locate her newspaper announcement, but
it was probably in the Tribune or Latrobe Bulletin because she was from Latrobe. I always wondered what
kind of ceremony she had and reception. They both were Catholic, so as you pointed out they most likely got married early in the morning. Another thing was that they got married on a Wednesday and I have heard
from people that this was a common day for Catholic marriages. If they were married in Latrobe, it would have been Holy Family Church and if they were married in Wilmore, it would have been St. Bartholomew Church. Do you have any insight to the custom back then? Thanks, Mary Ellen

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