Welcome back to our writing pals, D. E. Ireland. This time we’re here to celebrate Get Me to the Grave on Time, the third book in their series featuring Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins as amateur sleuths.As you can imagine, they had to do plenty of research for this mystery built around a series of Edwardian weddings.
Meanwhile, our month of being Thankful for Our Readers continues with D. E. giving away an ebook of their book to one lucky commenter below.
Take it away, D.E.!
EDWARDIAN WEDDING TRADITIONS
While posting personal news on Facebook has replaced announcements in the newspapers, it was different in the Edwardian era. A proper lady expected to see her name in print only three times during her life: a birth announcement, an article detailing her marriage, and a death notice. Anything else was considered to be in bad taste. But as we learn in D.E. Ireland’s latest Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins mystery, Get Me to the Grave On Time, murder at a wedding is even worse.
The D.E. Ireland team did extensive research on wedding customs in England and learned some surprising things about how nuptials differed a century ago. One example is the breach of promise common law tort, which allowed jilted brides to bring suit against their erstwhile grooms. Breach of promise lawsuits reached their height in the 19th century when about 100 men were sued annually by their former fiancées. Known as the “Bride’s Revenge’, breach of promise suits not only humiliated the man, but helped the bride recover any monies already spent on wedding preparations. Working or middle class women, who may have given up employment right before the aborted wedding, used the lawsuit to recover lost wages.
Bringing a breach of promise suit fell out of favor in Britain and the U.S. in the 1930s. This coincided with the rise of the diamond engagement ring. Although brides had long received engagement rings, many of them in the past did not contain diamonds. However starting in the 1930s, brides began to expect an expensive diamond ring. Unlike today, the bride often kept this ring if her fiancé decided to call off the engagement. A diamond engagement ring thus became a jeweled version of the breach of promise law.
For those couples who did tie the knot, they may have paid heed to this little poem about choosing which day to marry.
Marry on Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all,
Thursday for crosses,
Friday for losses, and
Saturday for no luck at all.
In Edwardian times, canonical hours dictated weddings should take place between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Otherwise, a special license needed to be obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury; it cost 30₤. The couple also published ‘banns’ in their local parish over the course of three weeks to let everyone know they were soon to be wed. This was required so as to inform anyone who might wish to lodge an objection against the upcoming marriage. June was the most popular month for weddings, with April, September and October coming in afterward. May was considered unlucky. And a bride would never ‘marry in Lent, you’ll live to repent.’
A church wedding was usually followed by a breakfast held either at the bride’s home or at a restaurant. The bride’s family could also hire a caterer to provide breakfast, afternoon refreshments, or supper. Depending on the bridal budget, a wedding breakfast menu might include salmon or a lobster salad, lamb cutlets or beef croquettes, crème pots and truffles, sandwiches and pastries, plus champagne. One traditional wedding fruitcake recipe called for forty eggs, three and a half pounds of butter, four pounds of brown sugar, one pound of almonds, three pounds each of orange and lemon peel, five pounds of flour, and a bottle of brandy!
After the breakfast, the cake would be sliced, placed in white boxes, and tied with ribbon. If the family could not afford the cost of 25₤ for the cake, cutting, and boxing – for an extra 5₤, the couple’s initials were stamped on the front – the cake was baked at home, presumably by the bride’s mother and/or sisters.
Since Eliza is a fashionista, she’s eager to see what each bride wears at the four weddings in the book. After Queen Victoria began the tradition of wearing white for her wedding, English brides quickly followed suit. Tulle veils flowed from a wreath of orange blossoms, which symbolized purity; roses, lilies or other seasonal flowers made up the bouquet. The bride’s attendants numbered from half a dozen to only one, depending on the couple’s social status. All brides, even today, have heard the first part of this saying – ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ – but in Edwardian England, they added ‘a lucky sixpence in your shoe.’ And Eliza makes sure her cousin Jack’s fiancée Sybil has this sixpence, since it symbolizes future wealth.
Brides wore their wedding dress at formal occasions for six months after the ceremony. Edwardian wedding gowns never displayed a bare neck or décolletage, and short or elbow length sleeves required gloves to cover the arms. The left glove included a removable ‘ring finger’ to allow the groom to place the wedding ring on his bride’s hand. Widows never wore white, but instead donned wedding gowns in muted colors such as pale blue, mauve, lavender. Widows also wore hats rather than veils. The twice widowed Duchess of Carbrey, who is the first bride to walk down the aisle in Get Me to the Grave On Time, is decked out in her Scottish family’s tartan colors.
Brides prepared for their married life by purchasing an elaborate trousseau which included furs, fans, parasols, hand-sewn French lingerie, gowns, gloves, an evening wrap, driving cloak, and much more. Since Eliza is acting as bridesmaid at two of the weddings in the book, she’s excited to be wearing new bridal clothes of her own. Of course, her suitor Freddy Eynsford Hill won’t be happy until he sees Eliza in an actual wedding gown. However, Eliza is determined to remain single, at least for the foreseeable future. And in this latest book, she and Higgins find they’re in agreement on one thing. The best part of weddings is that delicious cake.
D.E. Ireland is the pseudonym of long time friends and award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. In 2013 they decided to collaborate on a unique series based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which inspired the classic musical My Fair Lady. At work on Book Four of their Agatha nominated series, they also pursue separate writing careers. Currently both of them write cozy mysteries for Kensington under their respective new pen names: Sharon Farrow and Meg Macy. Sharon’s Berry Basket series debuted in October 2016, and Meg’s Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear series will be released in May 2017. The two Michigan authors have patient husbands, brilliant daughters, and share a love of tea, books, and history. Follow D.E. Ireland on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website: www.deireland.com