Hello! Let me introduce myself. I’m A.K. Madison, author of three (so far) works of Jane Austen fanfiction. I’m very honored to be part of this blog!
For my first post, I am excited to announce that we’ve received a Visitation. No, really! A Visitation from the Past. It’s none other than the Reverend William Collins, rector of Hunsford Parish, great admirer of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and recent bridegroom. His wife, Charlotte Collins (nee Lucas) is the dear friend of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, about whom the less said is better at this point. If you’ll pardon me, I need to approach the Time Wrinkler, which makes this amazing feat of traveling through the years possible. I’ll return in just a moment with our honored guest.
It grows very dark, and an unearthly banging and clatter is heard somewhere off to our right. A woman’s voice is heard saying, “WHAT WAS THAT? Mr. Collins? This way, if you please, MR. COLLINS!”
The light returns, and we discern A.K. Madison (that’s me) seated opposite a rather prune-faced gentleman wearing a dark suit, dark waistcoat, dark hosiery and shoes, and a snowy-white cravat.
A.M. Greetings to all of our Gentle Readers out there in Bloglandia, or wherever you are. My guest today needs no introduction to the dedicated Jane Austen fan. He’s well known for—well for the many things for which he is well known. Most importantly, he was the first to volunteer to use our new Time Wrinkler, a device which will enable us to travel back and forth between the Regency and this modern day. Without further ado, may I present the Reverend William Collins, Rector of Hunsford Parish and valued character in everybody’s favorite Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Collins.
W.C. (snorts). Thank you, Miss—er Mrs.—er Mzzzz Madison. I hope I pronounced your honorific correctly, dear lady.
A.M. nods graciously.
W.C. I am here to speak with you and all of the Gentle Readers on a most vital subject; further, as a newlywed myself, it will be very near and dear to my heart. I refer to the subject of weddings in general and wedding vows in particular.
Let me start by saying that our dear king (long may he reign) and our august Parliament have in their great wisdom set the law so that just about everyone who gets married in England is married in the Church of England. This includes both Christian and non-Christian believers.
The marriage service is the same everywhere in the country. It is included in our dear Book of Common Prayer published in 1662. Before that . . .
A.M. (can hardly restrain herself from interrupting). Oh, yes, Mr. Collins. Please do give us the skinny on “Buxom and bonnie in bed and at board.” Did it really say that? I mean before. (She gives Mr. Collins’ sleeve a shake before collecting herself.
W.C. Ah, yes. Well, it is true, and yes the bride was expected to promise to be buxom and bonnie in bed and at board—board meaning the dining-table. But you have to realize that both those words have changed over the years. Originally, “buxom” meant “obedient,” rather than, er, rather than plump. And “bonnie” meant “well behaved” rather than “pretty.” So the bride was promising to behave herself wherever she happened to be—until death did them part, of course. It was thought that “obey” covered both words rather nicely, and so it was chosen instead.
A.M. (snickers quietly but recovers herself).
W.C. My goodness, you moderns have your minds in the gutter, don’t you? So before you go any further, let me dispose of “with my body I thee worship.” The word “worship” in that case means “honor.” That is the sum of it. The husband is promising to give the wife the honor that is due her as his wife. No snickering needed. Good gracious! We have the good grace to leave such talk behind closed doors where it belongs.
I have deviated from my subject matter!! I want to devote some attention to the so-called “writing of their own vows.” No, no, no! It is not done, and I must admonish you that any marriage including such vows would probably not be legal or binding. The vows come straight from the book. There is one exception, and that is that Quakers are permitted to say their own vows. They have a history of getting them right, however, which is why they are allowed to do it.
A.M. Ah yes, the Quakers.
W.C. As for the rest of the marriage service aside from the legalities, there are a few things I should like to point out. Firstly, weddings in this day and age seem to have a procession with musicians, bridesmaids, page boys, whatever one could wish. This was not often the case back in my time. The bride, her witness, and her father would gather in some convenient place and the groom and his witness would wait with the clergyman at the front of the church. The bride’s party would then simply enter without fanfare.
I should also like to point out that there are two beautiful and suitable psalms—numbers 128 and 67—which can be played by village instruments or sung by the congregation. Very few churches had suitable organs.
As for obedience, Mzzz Madison, there can be no argument. The female partner in the marriage gave her solemn promise to love, cherish, and obey her husband. Even our bold and charming Miss Elizabeth Bennet will not escape making that vow when she shortly weds the illustrious Mr. Darcy.
As for suitable apparel, the wearing of bridal white had not yet taken hold as a fashion. Many brides simply wore their best Sunday dress, or if a new one could be afforded, it then became the best.
In short, wedding customs depicted by modern authors seem to owe more to practices customary among royalty and nobility in my time. Brides and bridegrooms came from all classes.
An unearthly clatter emerges from the area behind the discussion. The house lights slowly dim.
A.M. Ah, I detect the Time Wrinkler has begun to warm up even without our intervention, Mr. Collins. Perhaps we should settle you into it. I would like to thank you very much for agreeing to brave the Time Wrinkler, and I hope we may welcome you back in the near future.
Please convey my warmest regards to your lovely bride, and my sincere respects to Lady Catherine.
Mr. Collins has graciously left us with a link to an authentic version of the marriage service in use at the time Our Favorite Author was penning her works of genius. It is still an option in the Church of England for brides and grooms today: https://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/occasion/marriage.html
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