Weddings during the chivalrous Elizabethan age originated the various traditions we observe today, such as the exchange of vows and wedding bands, the handing down of the garter, and the wedding cake. The idea of the wedding procession was also developed during this period, as well as the custom of adorning the bride with blossom wreaths, with love-knot ornamented bouquets to boot.
It was as if this era was particularly enjoyed more by ordinary people than the royalty, and weddings were undoubtedly a highlighted occasion in any season.
The bridal gowns leaned heavily on either of two trends: luxuriously heavy fabrics accented with seams and lace in gilded, slightly metallic shades – or pristine, rather billowy gowns with extended sleeves, aged lace accents and bows, adorned with an array of minute buttons.
The bride either sported a plunging neckline, or is smothered in petticoats and corsets. Every woman who was in fashion with the era wore her hair long and loose, often flowing with curls down to the waist.
The role of herbs in an Elizabethan wedding is probably its most distinctive characteristic. The Elizabethans revered herbs much like the Victorians adored flowers, spinning around them secretive meanings, to the point of creating myths.
The allure of the herb essences made them a prominent element of all weddings, where anything from the bridal headdress to the table centerpiece were accented to evoke the infusion of these potent essences.
Thyme, parsley, marjoram, lavender, chive, sage, and sage were among the few popular herbs which were used to deck wedding pathways and overrun gardens. These are also commonly laid out in bundles, depending on their quality in terms of scent and color.
For the ceremony, the bridesmaids would carry small herbal bouquets affectionately called as ‘tussie-mussies,’ which were posies of sweet-scented herbs tied into little bundles. Each bridesmaid bundle would be different from the rest, and the combined scent and appearance of all of them in procession evoked a very soothing sensation. The usual themes in such weddings were imitative of the tapestry of the era, and included hues of soft gold, sage greens, wispy pinks, and yellowy creams.
The bridal bouquet was a ‘pomander,’ which was normally twice the size of the bridesmaids’ bundles. The purpose of this flower ball is to scent the air surrounding the bride as she walks down the aisle.
Marjoram, sage, thistles, and dainty blossoms in yellow or purple hues were the commonly-used accents to such. The bundle is held together with a ribbon or gauze, and it is not unusual to see the bouquet adorning the newlywed’s house, often hanging from indoor railings and knobs.
Don’t forget the crucial elements when recreating a wedding inspired by the Elizabethan era; the full gowns in rich color hues, the long, flowing hair which is parted in the middle, the generous use of herbs in bridal couture and wedding decorations, and the muted color scheme. Stay faithful to these few basics and you’ll be able to pull off a wedding which is memorable for years to come.