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Marriage Advice From The 60s: The Engagement

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Wedding Eqituette by Margot LawrenceWhile looking around a car boot sale the other weekend I looked at a box full of books and saw the title “Wedding Etiquette” on the spine of one of them. I took it out to have a look (and see where I went wrong) and was most amused to see the cover pictured right.

As you can probably tell by the photo, it was written in the 1960’s by Margot Lawrence so I wondered how out of date the advice contain within would be…

It’s actually been a very entertaining read and quite eye-opening in terms of the different attitudes to relationships and marriage from then to now. The youngsters today can learn a lot from literature like this – divorce rates are a hell of a lot higher now than then, as are the numbers of people living alone.

I’ll write a few posts on different pieces of advice that the irrepressible Ms Lawrence offers in her 1963 masterpiece so that you too may learn the lessons I now have. Firstly I’ll talk about the engagement itself.

On the subject of courtship she has this to say:

“Nowadays most young people require little guidance as to the formalities of courtship – indeed, such formalities hardly exist. An acquaintance develops into friendship, affection to love, and eventually the moment comes when they decide that they will get married… Most young people take the view, and even their elders would probably agree, that courtship is entirely their own affair.”

The trouble is, in these days of iPod’s, broadband, speed-dating, binge drinking and one-night stands, courtship is something that just doesn’t seem to happen and isn’t taken seriously any more. For shame. Getting to know your potential life partner is something you should take time and care over – not get shacked up with them within a month of meeting them in a sleazy nightclub when you went back to their place!

As for engagement:

“The first requirement of etiquette comes even before the engagement is formally announced, and that is, the customary interview between the father or guardian of the girl, and the young man she hopes to marry… At the interview, he should be prepared to state frankly his position and prospects; say enough to show that he has given some thought to how he can look after a wife and, later, a family; perhaps satisfy his prospective in-laws as to his own family background, education and general standing; and altogether show that he is a fit person to be entrusted with the girl as his wife.”

All too often marriage is impulsively rushed into without due consideration and fore-though which down the line can lead to problems. Hey, I’m as guilty as the next guy! I proposed on a whim in New Zealand without thinking it through – who’d have thought I’d eventually have to actually get married! 😉 But to have to justify what makes you fit to marry your partner, even to yourself, can be quite enlightening. The thought that it’s not some right you automatically have assigned to you by default might make you try a bit harder.

Apparently, when announcing an engagement (italics are hers not mine):

“The name of the bride’s mother must appear in the announcement, even if she is divorced and re-married. To omit it is only possible if there has been some kind of open scandal about her.”

Makes me wonder where Ms Lawrence learned that particular lesson from!

Another particularly poignant section discusses the Broken Engagement which is “an embarrassing ordeal for both parties”. Interestingly the book goes into details suggesting that the girl should return the engagement ring, but the most useful advice is about letters:

“The disposal of letters sometimes presents a problem. To return them may seem an unnecessarily dramatic gesture, but to retain them is usually unwise unless actual legal questions are likely to arise. Probably the most commonsense course is simply to burn them.”

I can see there’s no going back when you get on the wrong side of Ms Lawrence!

I’ll finish by quoting the section on the behaviour of the engaged couple – youngsters these days lack any of the respect, manners and self-control described here:

“Engaged people should be wary of adopting a too-proprietary air towards one another in public or of showing demonstrations of affection that may embarrass others. At the same time they must each make the happiness and welfare of the other their first consideration.

“It is a real breach of good manners for either to go out alone with, or partnered by, a member of the opposite sex. There is no harm in, say, an engaged girl whose fiancee is unavoidably absent, going to a club party or dance with a group of young people, but she should not go if it is the kind of group where the men and girls are formally paired off in partners.”

I’m guessing Ms Lawrence doesn’t believe that men and women can be “just friends”. Or maybe she was just bitter she never got invited to those sorts of parties!

So there, that’s your engagement sorted – next you can just get married right? Wrong! Ms Lawrence has a lot more advice to give. To be continued…

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

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