Training for a Victorian Marriage | Victorian Weddings

image of Victorian woman teaching sewing to young Victorian womanIt’s June again and Miss Meredith Sweetpea is preparing for two weddings in her own family. As she looks at her niece and nephew who are each getting married, she ruminates on how little training we receive nowadays for marriage. We are supposed to meet “the one,” fall in love, hold a big wedding and live happily ever after.

In Victorian times more attention was paid to preparing women for marriage.

Victorian women were trained from the time they were little girls to become a “proper” wife.  They learned skills like needlework, painting, French, singing, dancing, and music.  These were the skills an eligible young lady was supposed to have. She was also taught the proper etiquette of young ladies, especially important once they started interacting with young men. She was also expected to possess feminine qualities and be innocent of worldly ways.

Victorian women would also learn the expected skills of a wife: cooking, washing, raising children, sewing and weaving, unless she was from a wealthy family, in which case she would learn how to manage a household staff.

This was all done not to catch a man, but to catch the right man, because if she did not measure up to the male expectations of a proper woman, she would end up spouseless.

Surprisingly, in those days, the more educated a woman was, the less likely it was she would marry. If she was a teacher her marriage potential was especially bleak because she had limited opportunities to associate with men. And if she did not marry, it was expected that she would dedicate her life to charitable endeavors.

image of Victorial bridal formal portraitMen also had to meet Victorian expectations in order to get a wife.

Men also had their own preparations to make for marriage.  They were expected to impress the women (and often their fathers) by being an upstanding citizen, industrious, unselfish, not poor, pious patient and affectionate. Men were often 10 years older than their brides, as they were expected to go out into the world and establish themselves before taking a wife. After all, Victorian women were “unable to provide for themselves.”

Men had the added pressure of continual scrutiny from their male peers. A Victorian man’s success and respectability were constantly monitored.

Maybe we should prepare ourselves to be good spouses today.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea’s own grandmother taught her the basic skills she said were needed for life: crocheting, cooking, sewing, music, and an appreciation for domestic tranquility.

What if we, today, dedicated ourselves to being good spouses, and were raised with those skills?  Would the divorce rate be lower? Would marriages be happier? Instead of a “me, me, me” society, perhaps we would be better at developing domestic skills and what we could give to our spouses to make a better life for all.

What are your thoughts?

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