The Victorian Era was during Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901 in Britain. During that period social class heavily influenced the people of Britain. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “aestheticism is defined as a doctrine that the principles of beauty are basic to other and especially moral principles.” Taking all this into account, the people during the Victorian Era relied on aesthetics to dictate how they should live their lives. Specifically, the process of marriage had conventions that were deemed important and impacted one’s social status. The whole idea of marriage was important, the way one would become acquainted had rules, and the engagement was carried out a particular way that revolved around certain properties that were followed by all the people.
The idea of marriage during the Victorian Era was very important to both the females and males. Women, usually between the ages of 18 and 23, looked for husbands of the same or higher social status. If one was to marry someone of lower social status that would be considered marrying beneath oneself. “Because many marriages were considered a business deal, few started with love” (Victorian Days). Once married, both parties would gain something, although the females also had to make sacrifices. Males would gain the property and possession of everything his wife owned, while the female could not even write herself a will. In return however, the female gained financial stability from her man and social status. Although marriage was a big ideal in the Victorian Era, there were characteristics that each marriage partner must have in order to be considered a potential match.
Men would meet potential wives at social gatherings or be introduced to by friends. The lower class had opportunities to socialize at Sunday service or holiday balls while the upper class held social events throughout the season. According to Hoppe, “People of lesser rank were always introduced to people of higher rank, and then only if the higher-ranking person had given his/her permission.” If women were not wealthy they would need to have housewife skills such as: weaving, cooking, and cleaning. Men looked for a woman who had those traits or if they were wealthy made sure that they were innocent, meaning no sexual contact before marriage. Women looked for a man that could satisfy their material needs, offer them safety, and had a good standing between their fellow male peers. “She was completely dependent upon him and subject to him” (The Degradation of Married Women in the Victorian Era). If everything checked out, the male would go forward and propose to the woman.
Women could reject the proposal, but if the standards were met then she would accept. After agreeing to be wed they would inform their families. “Permission for asking for the daughter’s hand in marriage had to be granted by bride’s father, although the gentleman could wait until he had his bride’s consent before asking” (Hoppe). With the father’s blessing, the bride would then write to her friends while her mother wrote to the elders of the family. The mother would then have a dinner to introduce the fiancé to his bride’s family. After that, the wife was finally introduced to the groom’s family. The engagement was finalized with a ring that could be a simple band or embedded with an exquisite stone, depending on the groom’s finances. During the ceremony itself, the groom would walk with the bride’s mother and the bride with her father. After the ceremony the bride’s parents would speak to her first, followed by the groom’s parents, and then her friends. The newly weds would then ride off in a carriage home and would celebrate with breakfast or supper.
Though the process of marriage was long and tedious it was beneficial for both parties and played an important role in the aestheticism of the Victorian Era. Marriage was something that was expected of everyone and had a concrete formula. There were specifics that must be met between the two marriage partners. The marriage was looked mostly as a business deal, but eventually the bond between the couple deepened and there was not an absence of love.
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