Weddings always bring etiquette to my mind--all those rules about whose (bride's? or grooms?) responsibility this or that is and whether you are "supposed" to do this or that thing. I observe the everyday rules of etiquette most of the time, like writing thank you notes and telling someone "so nice to meet you," but weddings, well they bring out the Emily Post, don't they?
About 20 years ago I was doing library duty at my son's elementary school and I ran across the Emily Post book,"Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage" from 1941. As I whiled away time between checking books out for kids, I read through it. It was so fascinating that I took it home to read and, finally, I just had to buy it. The librarian recognized that it had little use in her school's little library, and she let me purchase it and so now it is mine. Since that time I found another copy at a garage sale and snapped it up, so intrigued was I. So, now I have TWO!
The rule structure is amazing, and it became clear to me as I read through it that Emily's "rule book" was so intricate that none of us "commoners" who were not born into the system could ever "pass." A "faux pas" was bound to happen if you were not born and bred into society. Breeding will, after all, tell!
As I got ready for the shower, I wondered what Emily had to say about this tradition of "showering" a bride-to-be with gifts. I reached for the antiquated etiquette book, half expecting to find that showers are held only by "common" people. I was pleased to see that 1941 Emily not only approves of the shower tradition for new brides, but has several interesting suggestions for throwing one. Er, uhm, for "hosting" one (how vulgar to use the term "throw" when speaking of a social occasion!)
Emily points out, as well, the difference between gift giving for wedding as opposed to gifts for showers: Weddings gifts are sent directly from the shop where the gifts are purchased, not hand-carried, don't you know? Shower gifts, on the other hand, are given personally, either upon arrival or sent ahead for presentation at the shower.
Let me give you one of Emily's suggestions for a delightful bridal shower:
...the most effective way of giving the presents is to have them all sent to the hostess several days beforehand. She leaves the packages wrapped as they are, but puts each in a uniform 'gift wrapping' so that the whole stack of packages shall be attractively alike.
See how much more attractive the "matching" pile is than that dreary mishmash of wrapping paper?
Now, let me understand this...I would re-wrap already-wrapped gifts so that the packages are alike but as you unwrap, the original wrapping paper appears to then also be torn off??? I'm thinking I simply don't have the time for this (I'm sure these women relied on staff to do this), and Emily certainly was not "green!"
Emily also suggests a type of treasure hunt (think scavenger hunt, although I am almost certain Emily would not approve of this term!) The bride-to-be is given clues with each succeeding gift and finds them hidden all over the house. What fun! If you live in the Biltmore mansion. In my home, however, I just don't have the hiding places to make this fun game a reality!
Here is a picture of my maid greeting my shower guests:
Ha! If only...Emily's caption to this photo says,
A GEM OF A HOUSE. It may be no size at all, but its details are perfect, and its bell is answered promptly by a trim maid with a low voice, a quiet courteous manner.
Ah, well, we girls made do without a maid ("low voice" or not), and had a great time. And hauling the Emily Post book back out has me, once again, obsessed with this glimpse into "society" of nearly seventy years ago.
In the next few days, I will post a quiz to see how well you readers can score on Emily's requirements for "best taste," as she puts it. And, from your entries and comments, we will choose one to win your very own copy--my spare!!
See you next time! C