First of all, welcome to the JQ’s new cyber-hangout! We love our site’s new design and hope you do too! Now to the topic of the day…tying the knot.
No, I’m not talking about a Regency man’s neck cloth, though there were so many different ways to wear a cravat, the topic probably deserves its own blog post! I’m talking about the “Parson’s mousetrap,” being “leg-shackled,” “riveted,” or becoming “tenants for life.” In other words, getting married during the Regency era, the time period in which Plaid Tidings is set.
There were three ways to go about it. The first and arguably most correct way was to have a fairly short engagement period, often less than a month, culminating in the “reading of the banns” on three consecutive Sundays prior to the wedding. The purpose of the banns was so that any legal impediment to the union might be brought to light before the couple said “I do.”
Church weddings were short affairs with relatively few people in attendance. Invitations were not typically sent to distant guests, though friends and family would be notified after the ceremony had taken place. In the Anglican Church, weddings had to be conducted between 8 AM and noon. No romantic candlelit evening ceremony for a conventional Regency bride.
The second way to wed was by special license. This was an expensive option since it had to be procured from the Archbishop of Canterbury at a cost of over 20 guineas! But it was the preferred method of the aristocracy because it meant they could dispense with the banns, have the wedding at home or wherever they chose, and at any time of the day. And in case you’re wondering, the legal age for marriage during the Regency was 21, but in 1823, it was lowered to 14 for men, 12 for ladies.
The third, and thoroughly scandalous way to wed was to elope to Gretna Green. Scotland still recognized the old “handfast” marriage, circumventing the need for the banns or a license. Any couple could declare their intent to be married before a witness (usually the blacksmith since his shop was at the crossroads of the town) and they were declared man and wife.
Then there’s the time-honored “shot-gun” wedding that takes place in Plaid Tidings because Alexander & Lucinda were caught in a compromising position…
Clarindon clapped a hand on Alexander’s shoulder and steered him to his place before the altar. “Face the facts, my friend. This is your last service to the Home Office. Your traveling days in Lord Liverpool’s service are done unless you mean to make your wife a widow to your career.”
“Not necessarily,” Alex whispered from the side of his mouth.
“What do you mean?” Clarindon turned to watch the MacOwen sisters precede the bride down the central aisle.
“Simply that annulments can be arranged,” Alex said.
“Yes, but in order to be granted one, you’d need to prove that a true marriage never took place. Rather hard to do since you’re only here now because you were within an ace of shagging the lass on a bearskin rug.”
“You think I can’t control myself?” Alex glared at Clarindon as the vicar ambled sleepily from the door that led to the sacristy. “I have a will of iron.”
“Tell that to the bearskin.”
The vicar shot the men a black frown that suggested if it were up to him, he’d happily cast the pair of them into the fiery pit. Never mind the scandal of a rushed wedding. The real crime was interrupting the vicar’s sleep.
Alex turned and faced the rear of the chapel.
Lucinda appeared, framed in the doorway at the rear of the chapel. She hesitated for a couple of heartbeats, then began to walk steadily toward him. The silk of her gown draped her form like water, conforming to her curves and spilling to the floor in pale pink folds. As she walked, her slippered toes peeped from under her hem, shyly disappearing again with each step.
The veil effectively obscured her features.
Alex wondered what she was thinking. Was she happy? Resigned? As confused by everything as he?
Guilt flogged him with long heavy stripes. She deserved so much more than to be leg-shackled to a man who had one foot out of the marriage before the vows were even said.
Lucinda stopped long enough for her sister to push back the veil to reveal her face. She leaned to kiss Aileen’s cheek, then turned and met Alex’s gaze.
The naked hope on her features rendered her vulnerable and soft and undeniably appealing. His chest ached. He wished someone would swoop in to snatch her up and carry her away. Someone should warn her not to face the world with such an open heart, not to risk herself on a man like him. He couldn’t love her as she deserved. He’d only bring her pain.
“About that iron will you were talking about,” Clarindon whispered. “Good luck, old son.”
4 ½ stars! “Marlowe has penned a wonderful tale, rich in romance and wit. Replete with memorable characters and a touch of Scottish legend, this well-written romance is both poignant and highly entertaining. Not to be missed by fans of Scottish Regency.” ~ Kathe Robin, RTBOOKReviews
They tell me it rained on my wedding day. I have no recollection of that. I was too focused on the man waiting for me at the altar. Do you have a wedding story you’d like to share—yours or someone else’s? Your comment will enter you in a random drawing for my Christmas novella My Lady Below Stairs! The winner will be announced on Sunday.