Wedding Gifts

Weddings  are full of difficulties. I should know I have been the father of the bride  twice. It is a minefield for everyone. Take the issue of presents for example.  Today the wedding list might seem mercenary but it takes away some of the  nightmares associated with the unwanted duplication of presents – or should  that be the duplication of unwanted presents?
Of course it is one of the few times in your life when you can give someone a  present of tea towels and a plastic toilet brush and get away with it but other  than that it is pressure not pleasure.
Back in 1900 things were much more  complicated if you were a local celeb. Not only did the wedding list appear  afterwards it was also published in the paper.
What a nightmare! Everyone could see how mean you had been.
It was just like a celebrity magazine. You could study the list closely and see  what stuff you betters considered essential for a comfortable lifestyle. You  could gossip about it for days down at the workhouse I shouldn’t wonder.
I have been looking at the marriage of  Olive Jones and Richard Richards at St. Mary’s in Aberavon in October 1900. It  is where Richard Lewis (or Dick Penderyn) is buried, as told in Volume One of Stories in Welsh Stone. They certainly  had a much better time of things than poor old Dick. Their lives contained many  more things than he ever saw.
The marriage is reported in all its glory and everything they received is  detailed in four columns of The  Cambrian’s densely packed newsprint.
Never mind the bride’s travelling dress of  “Automobile cloth, trimmed with handsome lace and velvet and hat to  correspond.” Never mind the empire gowns of Japanese silk. Never mind the  “brilliantly decorated” Public Hall in Aberavon where they had their  celebratory bash. Let’s look at the presents.
Gosh they had a lot of stuff.
The bride’s family provided the bedroom  furniture and a cheque. The grooms family kitted out the dining room and also  handed over a cheque. This is the sort of approach my daughters would  appreciate.
But after that they seemed to get an awful lot of cutlery, including several  “fish carvers in a case.” Now as far as I am concerned, if my fish needs  carving the waiter is taking it back, but perhaps their teeth were made of  sterner stuff in those days.  You also  ask yourself, how many fish carvers does a couple need? We seem to have managed  for 37 years together without one but then perhaps we are odd.
It is clear that no middle class household could be expected to manage without  a  sardine dish. This happy couple were  truly blessed; they had two.
They received a  huge amount of  silver.  Nut crackers, claret jugs, sugar  basin, toast racks ,knife rests, butter dish, bread platter, serviette rings,  picture frames. I am sure they could dine together in their new dining room in the  light of only one candle and all its reflective glory – in a silver candlestick  of course.
There are bed spreads, vases. Mrs Richards from Hirwaun gave an egg stand. If  she was a relative then it was a pretty poor present. Dr Ivor H. Davies from  Porth, clearly a man with certain expectations, handed over a silver dinner  gong. Someone else gave them a silver-mounted crocodile purse which I suppose  the happy couple were willing to share.
Miss Pentland of London gave them a “volume of Kipling”, which I assume was a  book, rather than a generous collection of cakes. But who knows?
Miss E. Walsh handed over a pickle fork. Now if she was a child everyone would  have smiled and patted her gently on the head. However, if she was the rich  maiden aunt then they would all have muttered together in a corner about what a  mean old bag she was, before smiling sweetly and fighting to fetch her  another glass of sherry.
Mr T. Lloyd in Africa sent some grape scissors and Mr. T. Evans from America  sent a handkerchief but before you start to tut too loudly, perhaps the postage  was a bit too steep for anything more substantial.
It is a fascinating piece, a real window  into another time and another lifestyle. I am sure it cannot have been much fun  for the reporter who had to catalogue all this   household stuff but I am very grateful for the fact that he did so.
It is a huge list and you wonder if any of it has actually survived. Perhaps  there is an untouched epergne, stranded in a forgotten box in a loft somewhere.  It would be fantastic  if it was indeed  so. Perhaps I could borrow it. When I have found out what it is for.

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