Wedding Etiquette in the 1950s

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Student

As the calendar turns to June, we enter into the height of wedding season. The families of the soon to be bride and groom engage in a flurry of activity to ensure all the preparations are ready for the big day. Some of the cookbooks housed at The Texas Collection include recipes and menus specifically designed with weddings in mind. One of the most detailed descriptions of these preparations comes from a quirky cookbook published in the 1950s by the Charles W. Cook Auxiliary at Christ Episcopal Church in Laredo, Texas called Warm Welcome.

The cover page of Warm Welcome

The section entitled “Wedding Meals and Receptions” covered the expectations and etiquette for weddings, which provides an interesting glimpse into the norms for wedding receptions in the 1950s in Texas. The cookbook stressed the importance of the tasteful arrangement of delicious food and drink as the key to a successful wedding reception. Detailed rules existed regarding the order of the receiving line for a formal wedding: first the bride’s mother, then the groom’s mother, the bride, the groom, the maid of honor, and then the bridesmaids. Interestingly, the bride’s father did not stand in the receiving line but “greeted special guests and escorted old friends to the refreshment table.”

The rest of the section preceding the recipes explained the traditional food and beverages served at wedding receptions. No matter what time of day the reception was held, champagne remained the standard beverage served. Etiquette did allow for a fruit juice or gingerale punch as suitable substitutes, though. Every reception also featured a bride’s cake covered in beautiful white icing which could be topped with the same flowers used in the bridal bouquet.

A recipe for the traditional wedding cake, a dark fruit cake.

For weddings with larger budgets, the cookbook described another traditional element of the reception. Each guest received a piece of dark fruit cake in a small white box wrapped in a white satin ribbon. This cake was the designated wedding cake, as opposed to the white bride’s cake that we think of today. The mother of the bride saved a piece of the fruit cake for the bride and groom to eat on their first anniversary. Protocol allowed for the two cakes (bride’s cake and wedding cake) to be combined into a single cake with white cake making up the first two tiers and a layer of dark fruit cake at the top.

Sample menus for receptions at various times of day and levels of formality.

After the explanation of some of the etiquette and traditions surrounding wedding receptions, the cookbook provided specific menus for the various times of day a wedding reception might be held. With menus for early morning breakfast, stand-up breakfast, sit-down breakfast, buffet breakfast, breakfast served at high noon, luncheon, or supper, any bride and her family could plan the perfect reception. As you can see, cookbooks provided much more than simply recipes to the women who owned them, and helped them plan some of the most important events in the lives of their families.

Bibliography:

Charles W. Cook Auxiliary Christ Episcopal Church. Warm Welcome. Laredo, TX: 1950s?

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