Weddings have always been a big deal in the South, so you have to know Southern Mothers are reading everything they can get their hands on about the Royal Wedding…You see, we crown our daughters for everything known to man. It’s that royalty thing, I guess…
- Weddings are supposed to be the one day of the year that a lady feels like Queen for a Day.
- We hope the groom feels like he’s getting the deal of a lifetime.
- The bride’s daddy hopes this fellow has at least a few irons in the fire and gainful employment to support his daughter in the style she deserves- Daddy’s gonna take it as a personal insult if he’s given permission to a man who turns out to be a deadbeat.
- We hope the bride will swoon whenever she sees her groom- the perfect gentleman- okay, we also hope she’ll feel for lifetime, like Jane seeing Tarzan-or at the very least Buster Crabbe!
- By the wedding day, the mother of the bride, hopefully will have satisfied herself, barring a criminal background check- that the young man has a sufficient pedigree to marry into the family. That his people go back at least three generations right here in Alabama! We must have a decent write up in the paper after all!
When the engagement is settled- the planning and partying begins….lest anyone think this is fun- let me disabuse you of that notion. A few days into the engagement – which should be a reasonable amount of time not years…(long engagements make daddy think the groom is shiftless, aimless or the groom doesn’t have honorable intentions)…and there’s the other reason, rarely stated- the longer this engagement goes on? The more the wedding is going to cost! Little bitty homemade bird seed bags for throwing turns into a flock of released doves, a small afternoon reception at the church turns into an all out champagne filled country club event… you get the picture. At any rate- just a few days after the engagement…there are only two people still excited about this wedding – the mother of the bride and the bride! Ultimately, no one is excited except the Bride. Everybody has started worrying about the money…money, money, money…that’s all Daddy, the bridesmaids (who have issues as well) and the groom secretly worries about the money- ok, not so secret. How much is this wedding going to cost anyway? And how many parties did you say?
There’s the formal engagement party- the registering for gifts, the formal teas, the sip and sees, the informal showers, the bridesmaids’ luncheon, the after rehearsal party and just when you’d think everyone has suffered enough- there’s the actual wedding, the reception and the honeymoon, by then everyone is sayin’ -‘I thought we’d never get that wedding over with!’ And then there’s the thank you notes but let’s not give ourselves a headache over that one just yet!
In between all of this – there are the clothes to wear to all of these events! The bride has the added burden of not only-
- a wedding dress, dresses for teas, showers, sip and sees and luncheons-
- the Bride also had to have a trousseau,
- a peignoir set for her wedding night,
- honeymoon wardrobe and oh yes!
- The Going Away Outfit!
I have not read one word about the royal bride’s going away outfit! Why would any bride in her right mind give up an excuse to have another outfit? Are Going Away Outfits out of style? Surely not! If there’s no Going Away Outfit to round out the write up in the paper… ‘The Bride and Groom have planned a honeymoon to Chattanooga.. ( Atlanta, New Orleans or Jekyl Island). The bride wore a worsted wool suit that matched her bridesmaids dresses, the groom wore… after their honeymoon, the happy couple plans to make their home in…’ Do you see what I’m talking about? With no Going Away Outfit, there isn’t a decent way to end the write-up in the newspaper! Whatever happened to good write-ups anyway?
The Going Away Outfit was usually a suit or a nice dress with a corsage or handheld nosegay as they rushed to the getaway car, waving and smiling for the camera. Not only was the Going Away Outfit a fitting way to leave after the wedding…after all, the wedding dress had to be boxed up- ready to send to Berthon’s Blue Ribbon Cleaners and preserved for future generations.
The Going Away Outfit was symbolic- it represented a change of status for the bride. Recently, a few friends were discussing this subject and we were dismayed to think these Going Away Outfits could possibly be outdated. My own was a wool suit the same color of the Tropicana Roses in the center of my wedding bouquet and my bridesmaids bouquets too. It was a double breasted number with tortoise shell buttons, I had well made brown leather pumps which would come in handy to wear to church, weddings or even funerals later. One friend said her going away outfit was a brown striped church dress- which her sister borrowed a few months later as her own going away outfit. The rules for the Going Away Outfit were few-
- It should be well made- befitting of her status as a married woman,
- it should have a reasonably high neck- no low cut skimpy trashiness allowed!
- The suit or dress should be knee length, not hiked up, with slits or a suggestively short skirt, ahem…
- We’re not talking overtly matronly but let’s face it- when Queen for a Day is over- you’re headed into Matron of Honor territory, darling!
One friend was finishing up her senior year at Auburn University where she was majoring in fashion design, she made her own going away outfit! This was no easy task! She was taking a tailoring class, she had to design her own flat patterns with measurements taken from a ‘make your own dressform’ which entailed wrapping the body in gauze and flour starch, carefully removing it and mounting it on a stand. She decided to make a linen dress- a sheath dress cut on the bias in what else but Camellia Pink? and a matching Camellia Pink Boucle Coat with lining to perfectly match.
She married in mid March, so she wouldn’t graduate before her wedding- now, really can you imagine, planning a wedding and making the outfit and all of the rest of it? A dear friend and member of the wedding party, found the perfect two tone leather shoes to match at Kessler’s in downtown Birmingham. Ultimately, she had an orchid corsage and matching handbag to boot! She blushingly recalls that her wedding night peignoir set was white- okay, what other color would it be? So was mine! High neck, lace insertion- literally the whole nine yards…but I’m getting off on a tangent. Another friend married close to Valentine’s Day so her Going Away Outfit was American Beauty Red, she’s been married 35 years and still has her Going Away Outfit- okay…not the skirt but the jacket! The other smiling bride wore a medium green linen suit, while her new husband was decked out in striped shirt and casual pants! Now, why, may you ask was this Going Away Outfit considered necessary?
The bride has been trussed up in her wedding gown…endured photographs, the receiving line, the reception- perhaps the toasts, the cutting of the cake, the first dance and made the rounds to meet and greet the guests.
Imagine it, if you will… she discreetly withdraws from the wedding party- her wedding dress is carefully removed, folded away in it’s box or bagged…she changes into her Going Away Outfit… has a sweet moment with her handsome groom- hair is rearranged and makeup refreshed before she steps out of her bandbox- tosses her bouquet- hugs her mother, he hugs his…
Amid showers of rice, flower petals or birdseed, the bride is squired by her groom to the waiting car, like the dainty and delightful confection that she is- the car door closes with a solid satisfying thud.
A box of wedding cake, cheese straws and toasted pecans is handed through the window. The happy couple smiles for one last photograph. Etiquette dictates the guests should stay until the couple leaves for their honeymoon… Sighs are heard among the crowd… ‘I thought they’d never leave!’
I sort of hate it that Going Away Outfits have Gone with the Wind… Here’s the importance of it- presumably, when the bride reappears in her Going Away Outfit, it represents her new status as a married lady, outfitted and ready to take on her new responsibilities- in her home, her workplace and her community. I think it was a sweet tradition and I still maintain- a wonderful way for the bride’s parents to make sure their daughter is prepared for the new important occasions in her life. Let’s face it, for the bride- an opportunity to get an extra nice outfit! Oh me, going down memory lane is fun!
Love y’all, Camellia
*A huge thank you to the Southern Brides who agreed to share their photos! All photographs were edited by me- they are the sole property of the community of Camellia’s Cottage and should never be used without permission. Can’t resist sharing one more…. No bride or the families can ever do it alone! There’s a whole community of folks behind the scenes- helping make it all possible- and that never goes out of style!
*Buster Crabbe was the original actor who played Tarzan, just in case you’re still wondering.