August is the height of wedding season. The month appears to be exceptionally auspicious for marriage — something evidenced by the beautiful blazing sunshine and the hundreds of bridal parties taking place across the country. But is it the most favourable time to get married? And, what are the long-held beliefs attached to the preparations for this ceremony?
Detailed below is advice for the newly betrothed, taken from articles of the late 19th century. Following this comes a little ghost story that warns of wearing a certain piece of apparel when marrying for a second time.
Whilst there are fair women and brave men in this world there will continue to be weddings; and, as long as weddings are the fashion there will still be many persons on hand to suggest to a young bride just what she should do to avoid bad luck, and also what she must not do for the same reason.
Those who are ordinarily sensible about most things let all their superstitions notions creep into their ideas regarding the preparations for a wedding, and these whims are made the subject of discussion at as early a stage of the proceedings as when the young lady is considering what she prefers for an engagement ring.
She is told to refrain from choosing opals, as no one ever was known to have any happiness who owned one of them. In spite of this, however, dealers say that there is always a demand for rings set with this beautiful stone. Pearls, the superstitious say, are even worse, but eventually the little circle is purchased and the time for the wedding is discussed.
Then further complications arise as certain days are unfavourable and some months are to be shunned. May is said to be an especially unlucky month — why, no one can tell, but many a rhyme could be quoted to show that this notion has prevailed for many centuries.
August is also looked upon as a disastrous time in which to wed, and those who marry in Lent will “live to repent,” according to very old authority. Winter seems to be the favourite season for the wedding bells to chime in America. In Scotland the last day of the year is regarded with great favour, and should December 31st fall on Friday so much the better, as that is the favourite day of the week for weddings. Sunday weddings are common in England, and in the early history of America many couples were made one on that day, but recently such a thing is seldom heard of.
In Scandinavia, Thursday marriages are forbidden by the church, it being called the pagan’s day. After much consideration the day is decided upon, and brave indeed is the girl who will consent to change it, for that is sure to bring ill-luck which all the rice and old shoes in the country could not drive away. The time arrives, and with it much advice in regard to the colour which she shall wear and the manner of arraying herself. Probably no girl in her teens is ignorant of the rhyme which urges young brides to be careful to wear “something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue,” in order that she may live “happy ever after,” as the story books say.
Misfortune is sure to follow the bride who has a speck of green in her costume. She must never array herself in all her pretty robes until dressing for the ceremony. She must never read the marriage service quite through and she must not stand before the mirror one second after she is ready, no matter how pleasing the reflection of the happy face and graceful gown. The one who speaks first on entering the church will rule the house, so the wise once say, and in throwing the numerous articles of footwear after the departing couple, any of the guests may run after them, and the one who succeeds in picking one up first will be married next.
On her return from her wedding journey the bride must be careful not to step on the threshold of her home, but must be lifted across by her husband. If all these rules are followed carefully, and great care is taken before becoming engaged that the object of her admiration has a name which begins with another letter than her own, there does not seem to be any reason why everything should not prosper with a bride.
And woe betide a bride who chooses to wear a veil when her husband marries for a second time…
She came from the salted water
It was in the latter part of last year that my experience occurred. I had, of course, heard the usual number of ghost stories, but I was an unbeliever previously to the events which I am about to relate. On August 2nd, 1903, I married Mr. S., who, as you know, had been married once before. The wedding was a delightful affair and those who attended remarked as such. The sun was shining from a cloudless sky as I left the shady veranda, and went across to the marquee to give a finishing touch to the wedding breakfast, already laid there on a long table improvised for the occasion. Only the decorating part was left to me; and as I arranged such greenery and flowers as I had, the old saying kept running in my head: ‘Blessed is the bride the sun shines on.’ Surely the omen is true this once, for was there ever such a splendid fellow as John, or such a lucky woman as I.
My dress was plain white muslin, simply made, and I had not intended wearing a veil; but Mrs Green, my mother-in-law to be, said that as they seldom saw a wedding, and she did not feel that a bride should be held to the supposed belief that a veil should not be worn for a second marriage, I might as well do the thing in style while I was about it; so, to please her, I shrouded myself in a length of plain tulle that covered me almost from head to foot, and really the effect was rather good.
We moved into a large, old-fashioned house, built on the brow of a hill overlooking the estuary and surrounded with oak and fir trees of enormous size. It may be called a family seat, as it was inherited by my husband from his grandparents.
Sadly, my husband’s first wife met with a very tragic fate within sight of this house. She was a skilful boatwoman and very fond of rowing about on the water, sometimes allowing her boat to drift out with the tide and come back on the return tide. One day she drifted out on the tide and was carried further than usual away from land. Before the tide turned a violent thunder-storm arose and the wind blew a gale. The poor woman must have been drowned during this, for she never returned, and the small boat in which she had been was picked up days after over a hundred miles away by a trawler.
This terrible accident occurred eight years ago, and such a thing as her ghost returning was never dreamed of during these years. The old house had been elegantly refitted, and was the personification of home comfort, with its cheerful, old-style wood fires on the wide hearths.
The room which my husband and I occupied was on the second floor — a large corner room at the front of the house overlooking the estuary, the bright waters of which glimmered and silvered through the branches of the trees about the house, as one looked from our north windows.
We had retired on the first night of our occupancy rather late, and, being much wearied by the fatigues incumbent on me, as hostess, I soon fell asleep.
Suddenly I awoke with a start. I felt something cold on my face. I could scarcely breathe, as a deathlike feeling ran through me, and seemed to freeze my blood. It was most horrible. Opening my eyes I saw a woman – if such an object as looked upon could be said to have sex. She was exceedingly tall, and about her head hung long, wet streams of yellow hair. Her whole form was lurid with a kind of phosphorescence, and her eyes seemed to blaze with a greenish fire. About her form hung a long loose wrapper, which water seemed to drip from, each drop having a green sparkle as it fell; but, most horrible of all, I could see clear through her body.
The moon was shining in through the window, and she was between me and the moon, and, strangely enough, I could see all her bones inside of her body, which seemed to be less transparent than the flesh. So she seemed a skeleton with a pallor of flesh and clothing about her. Slowly with her horrible bony hands she stroked my warm flesh, and salt water seemed to drip from them as she did so. She literally felt me all over, and while she was doing so I lay spellbound without the power of speech or motion. Meanwhile John remained sound asleep.
At last, as she seemingly had satisfied her curiosity in regard to me, she quietly raised up the covers and got into the bed between us. Her cold, clammy form lay still for a while like a corpse. Then she spoke: “John !” at the same time taking his hand in hers. My husband awoke and only looked at her a second when, with a wild shriek, he leaped from the bed and found a match. Meanwhile I still lay there in the bed. So did the woman or ghost.
When the light was lit a loud crash was heard.
The ghost was gone in an instant. On looking around the whole sash was broken bodily out of the north window, the window toward the sound, and a weird, wailing wind came whistling into the room. The noise had aroused the house, and before long our guests and servants were in the room with us. On hearing the strange story they were greatly surprised. My husband recognised the ghost as that of his drowned wife.
Since that time the strange phantom has been seen in the same room a number of times. She has also been seen walking about the grounds always dressed in the same manner as I have described and looking the same.
Had I not seen this with my own eyes and had others present to witness it, I should never have believed so remarkable a freak of nature possible.
As I like this theme so much, I think I’ll continue with it throughout August:— so, brace yourselves, more tales of ghosts and weddings to follow…