Muriel’s Musings: Wedding Bells

Wedding Bells with “Vanity Fair”

It cannot have escaped your notice that ladies’ magazines are currently bursting with ideas in inspirational articles about weddings and marriage. The pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Woman’s Own are full of photographs and pages upon pages of advice. They are just the thing for early February days as young women sit wondering when it will be their turn to embark on the joyful state that is matrimony.

A Good Scottish Marriage

I, of course, married much later in life despite dear Mamma and Pappa’s desire to see the apple of their eye firmly established in a good Scottish marriage. My parents were not ones for “silly notions” about love; that was for the working classes who had nothing else. Pappa saw marriage as a business arrangement. As one of Scotland’s leading ironmongers with naval contracts and some award winning knobs and knockers in the art nouveau style, he longed for me to form an alliance with a foundry or a forge.

 A Dalliance

Apart from a girlish dalliance with Sooty Sandy, a blacksmith in the village where we had our rural retreat, it was not to be. I still feel a little thrill when I think of Sandy with his poker and bucket of whale oil hissing away as he toiled in that honest way we Westbourne School gels so adored. My Pappa would never have agreed to an alliance with anyone who actually got their hands dirty as was proved when I returned home late one night with handprints on my broderie anglaise chemise. To be frank my interest in metal work was in any case more at the retail end of things. Like so many Glasgow Girls I loved the arts and crafts movement and my mane of flowing red hair was said to have inspired many of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs.

Finding My Niche and Heart’s Desire

a youthful moi

I came out as I am aware many of you have and was finished off at some very expensive establishments. I was always something of a “thrawn girl”, strong willed and determined to have a career of my own. Men do not always like a woman with her own mind or indeed anyone else’s but theirs and I suppose I came across as haughty and independent.

In the end I found my niche in love of country and my secret wartime work in the S.O.E. as well as soft furnishings for which I had a natural aptitude. Fortune does favour the bold and of course not long after the last Unpleasantness I met Jasper which was like an earthquake. I did have a wartime romance, but they never managed to find him in that rubble and I rarely talk about it as Jasper finds it difficult to accept I once loved another. At least he does when he can be bothered to come out of his wretched Museum in a Shed.

Avec my beloved Jasper

We had a simply marvellous wedding with only a few hundred close friends, but it was not to be the sort of Princess Grace wedding of which  so many young girls dream. In one’s late forties tulle and lace make one look like the window dressing of a council house. Nevertheless as the press said I looked simply marvellous in that restrained, unaffected way that has become my understated self effacing trademark.


A late flowering has not meant that my advice on matters matrimonial has gone unsought. In fact I am regularly asked to contribute to magazines and radio with my experience of life, love and marriage and of course style and good taste. For, love and marriage are like everything else, matters of gracious living. Only recently I received a large number of letters and telephone calls from you dear readers and students on the road to a simply marvellous way of living and I thought in this grey but hopeful month that I would share some with you. As I always say if you share it comes back tenfold.

From My Postbag…

  • The Question of Fathers

Dear Muriel

I am considering asking my girl friend for her hand in marriage. Should I ask her father first?

Yours Sincerely

Gary of Grangemouth

Beauregard DuBois, Cousin Lulubelle’s father

Dear Gary,

In my day no man would think of popping the question before asking her father. There was always a shot gun by the front door. These days it is not strictly necessary, but manners suggest you should lose no time in asking him informally and expect some questions about your prospects. Fathers care very much about their daughters. Mothers are usually only too glad to see the back of them.


P.S. Is it necessary to be both Gary and from Grangemouth?

  • The Engagement Ring

Dear Muriel,

I intend to ask my girl friend of 8 years for her hand in marriage. Is it strictly necessary to have an engagement ring.

Barry, from Bothwell

Note the engagement ring

Dear Barry,

No, not strictly but she may be suspicious of your honourable intentions especially as Bothwell appears to be in a different time zone. If money is an issue perhaps you should rethink it all or ask your grandmother for help. Mine always had a few spare stones suitable for setting by a jeweller. The romantic but cheapskate gift of knotted string or flowers is a sure sign of a bounder and a virtue in danger.


Dear Muriel,

My fiancé wants me to go away to Portobello for the weekend. He earns little money and has given me an engagement ring of garden twine. It is so romantic and I know he respects me. Should I go?

Nell of Newhaven

Dear Nell,

Are you sure you are not just a big Nellie rather than Nell? Garden twine might be suggestive of upright Gladioli in the garden, but it is not something to base a future together on. I would not go to Portobello under any circumstances, except those authorised by a Minister of religion. After all Nell would you buy a book having already borrowed it from the library?


  • Press Announcements

Dear Muriel,

Is it necessary to announce one’s engagement in the press?

Unsure of Uddingston

Dear Unsure,

I can only assume you have not been to a very good school. In the part of Glasgow where everyone goes to a good school it goes without saying. If it is not in The Glasgow Herald then it has not happened.

Remember the announcement only appears on a Friday in “Social and Personal” or you might as well think about a change of identity and a life abroad. The announcement should be preceded by informing close relatives by letter, using a fountain pen; never write in biro – that is common.

All that is required are the facts, it is not necessary to make excuses about the brevity of the letter because you have so many to write. Of course they know that or you would be a no-body and live in Ayrshire. Send all letters by the same post or you will be written out of several aunts’ wills.


  • Who Pays for the Wedding?

Dear Muriel,

Who pays for the wedding?

Iain of Inchinnan

Dear Iain,

You sound like a tightwad, but for your information the bride’s family pay for the wedding. After all you will be paying not only for the rest of your life but for the honeymoon and the house and the house furnishings. Believe me.

Off to the golf club – a rare moment to myself

Jasper (as Muriel has left the typewriter for a gin and it)

  • Looking Back

Dear Muriel

Iain again.

When my intended comes up the aisle should I look back?

Dear Iain,

I really do worry about you. Are you some religion other than Presbyterian? Certainly not. This is a wedding, not Hollywood or the Episcopalians.


  • Wedding Gifts

Dear Muriel,

I am marrying above my station there are several things I worry about. I am thinking about giving my fiancée a string of pearls as a wedding present is this appropriate?

Also some of my rough diamond friends are suggesting cash is the best present or a gift that can easily be exchanged. Please advise.

Dave of Dennistoun

Dear Dave,

Firstly does Dennistoun have a station and secondly I feel somewhat apprehensive at anyone marrying a Dave. Do you perchance play in a skiffle group?

Now let us get back to basics.

While your idea of a gift of pearls is to be commended and suggest us to think your intended is chaste, I am afraid the answer is no. Pearls from a fiancé or husband are considered an ill omen as they traditionally represent tears, especially if the string breaks which they are apt to do. A young woman either inherits pearls or is given pearls by her father or godparents usually as a 21st birthday present. Sometimes they are, if they are particularly good pearls, given one at a time from first birthday onwards so that on reaching maturity one has a reasonable string to wear at one’s swan-like neck.

A word or two about wedding presents – wedding presents are only sent once an invitation is received and then sent a few days later. Presents for the Bridegroom are sent to his address, but shown with the Bride’s at her home on the Wedding Day. This is not America, a shower is something one has at Corporation swimming baths. All presents are acknowledged on receipt.

It is in very bad taste to exchange any gift even if you hate it – you should see my carved horn peanut dish, not that you ever will. I wouldn’t put it out if you paid me. The exception is where duplicate gifts are received and the sender has suggested in such a case an exchange should be sought. This does, however, suggest friends of unoriginal thought. I am sure your rough diamonds are most imaginative. Do they dress like Edwardians, ride scooters and use Brylcreem?

Having a list in a department store is the height of grasping vulgarity. One should, however, have a personal list to show to friends should they ask. Gifts of money are only given by family or very old friends of the family. You should not give gifts of table linen, or intimate gifts of bed sheets or pure wool Witney blankets – that is for relatives.

Oh Dave, how I can see your Wedding day in my mind’s eye particularly after the meal with the band as your by now rather merry rough diamonds engage with the Bride’s mother in an over enthusiastic Orcadian Strip the Willow.

I wish you the best of luck


  • Where to Wed

Dear Muriel,

What do you think about Registry Office marriages?

Name and address supplied

a wee lie down

Dear Name and address supplied,

No wonder. When I received your letter, I had to have two Askit Pooders, a wee Dubonnet and a lie down.

Well it is legal, but lacks romance and warmth.

Are you on the run or from Edinburgh?


  • Wedding Attire for the Older Woman

Dear Muriel,

I am a wealthy widow of some years who has just accepted a proposal of marriage from a handsome rough diamond who has a scooter, plays in a skiffle band and has a friend called Dave. He has made me feel like a woman again, especially when we went to Portobello for the weekend.

We plan to marry in Church as my fiancé is thinking of becoming a minister. What should I wear?

Patience Pentland-Firth  (Lady)

One of Patience’s weddings

Dear Patience,

Somehow I thought it was you. Shouldn’t you be busy preparing for Wagner at the Classic Country House Concerts, not running around on the back of a scooter?

To answer your question – as a widow several times over you may marry in any colour you wish. Your head should be covered (remember St Paul’s teachings) with a small hat. A veil is for first marriages and for those who should have stayed at home. Figured netting is acceptable.

Flowers may be worn on the costume but are not carried

As a widow bride of several times over, you should not carry a bouquet although you may wear flowers on your costume. You should be attended by a friend and yes I am happy so to do, provided it does not clash with a soup and sandwich lunch. Bridesmaids are not required as you are certainly no maid. A widow bride does not remove her first wedding ring (or rings) until the morning of the second marriage. In your case it might be as well to have a jeweller with cutters standing by and I am sure you will be able to reverse the current decline in gold reserves at the Bank of England.

I trust this is helpful, see you at the Rural on Wednesday.

  • The Best Man

Dear Muriel

I am writing to you in between the rehearsals for the Crew Show where I play Marlene Dietrich. I am about to be married to a very nice girl in Southampton, my home port and I have a very theatrical friend who I would like to be my best man. Do you think this is acceptable?

Chief Steward Mike, S. S Arcadia

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your letter. I see you are all at sea!

Wedding receptions can be rather stilted and become somewhat tedious so a very theatrical best man might well be a good idea. On the other hand the most important thing about a best man is that he is calm, cool and collected when he needs to be. Things do go wrong. He needs to be in control and of course has to make a speech. His speech should be “very light and very gay”.

I am wondering Mike if you are entering this marriage “unadvisedly” or “wantonly” as the Vicar will say. Remember one day you will have to stay ashore.


Well as you can see I have my work cut out when it comes to advising couples about the great day ahead and it is a great day and not as Mrs Travers will have it when viewing a wedding from the top of a bus “another lamb to the slaughter”.

Advice to Guests

Before I leave you I have a few final words of wisdom to offer regarding the nuptials. Above all the day should be dignified. Even if one has a very theatrical friend present or some rough diamond friends on scooters, one of which is called Dave. So please plan ahead, and do not get over excited.

a perfect ensemble for a wedding, understated yet dignified

Do not get overdressed.  My neighbour, Lottie Macaulay, looked ridiculous recently at a Catholic wedding when she went dressed in a mantilla and flamenco outfit. I was unsure as to whether we should be singing Ave Maria or the Toreador song. As Jasper said if someone had speared her it would have been a mercy. Do not talk too loudly it is not your day and do not cry, weeping at the important parts of the journey that is life is for servants.

On that note I think I have said enough. In the mean time I have a fact sheet I will post on to you on receipt of a stamped addressed envelope. Next time we will take a peek into the wedding night and the life ahead. Must dash that’s the telephone.

Lady P-F calls

“Thank you for the offer Patience but I have no desire to go to Portobello in February with Dave or Mike, even if it is on the back of  a scooter.”

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

February 1958

With thanks to Ettiquette for Everyone by Arthur Groom



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4 Responses to Muriel’s Musings: Wedding Bells

  1. Matthew Bate says:

    ‪Finding love late in life, sage advice from Muriel, and Jasper knows his onions. ‬

    ‪Marriage, eh?‬

    ‪Fancy committing to one person for life…‬

    ‪I’m not certain I would take advice from a glossy magazine on the subject. Magazines are written by journalists and I’ve never met a happily married journalist. ‬

    ‪I wonder if marrying a Scot would result in an EU passport at some stage. How far back would they look? Grandma’s second husband was an Urquhart, of course. He was also known as Sandy; not because of his blond hair but because he was made of silicon and looked kaleidoscopic under magnification. ‬

    ‪It seems so odd now to have terms to describe women with their own mind. Muriel is a very modern woman, in many ways. And we need details about the chap under the rubble and the bit of rough with the poker. I would advise Jasper to re-engage with the earthquake. I would dearly love a museum in a shed, but it’s not easy to find a Muriel, one must put oneself in the way of luck, and grab it forcefully even if it comes late in life and is distant. The world will shrink for you. ‬

    ‪I once asked a man for his daughter’s hand in marriage. My timing wasn’t good. Details on request in person…‬

    ‪Regarding the matter of looking back down the aisle, you should ask your best man to look, and then say to her “Oh mate, you should see her” and a nation will burst into tears. Just remember that Aston Martins have odd handbrakes as you leave. And marry in a place of significance among loved ones. ‬

    ‪It is time for me to conclude that the age gap between Lady P-F and myself could be insurmountable. ‬

    ‪I cry at weddings and I always will. ‬


  2. Moira Taylor says:

    Oh Muriel! How could you?
    Not only admitting to a dalliance but with a man who works with his hands?And mucky hands at that? Are you trying to attract the attention (and perhaps custom) of the young, trendy and louche set? Please don’t as we, your regular customers and, might I hazard, friends, would have no truck with their sort.
    I was, though, quite glad to read that you were a thrawn lassie as I have always been that way disposed myself. Your dear, departed papa could have made an even bigger fortune if he had combined your love of Art Nouveaux and his knobs & knockers.Such door furniture goes down a bomb in the West End of Glasgow I believe.
    Your advice vis a vis matrimony is, as ever, sage although some of your correspondents leave a lot to be desired.One wonders how they could possibly have happened upon you?
    Cannot wait for your next foray into the realm of the wedding night. No, really.I simply cannot wait. I’ll be round later.
    Please be in.

  3. Louise Lewis (Lady from the right side of Carlisle) says:

    Chérie Muriel,

    Dwaaling, who wouldn’t feel a surge of excitement at the thought of Sooty Sandy with his poker in his hand?! Mon Dieu, the very idea of Sooty Sandy in his steamy forge is enough to get a gal’s motor racing, I’ll say!! One doesn’t believe you have mentioned him before, Mu dwaaling, but one can imagine les parents would not be best pleased… a Westbourne gal and all that… feels that Art Nouveau knobs and knockers may have been beyond Sandy’s ken……

    Still, you have found an almost model husband in dear Jasper – a true gentleman – give or take the shed and the gee-gee habit, naturellement. Moi, on the other hand, is not for matrimony – mais non! The artistic temperament craves freedom and cannot be burdened with a spouse. It crushes one’s muse irrevocably in most cases.

    Oh, arrête moi vitement! If the memories of one’s own fated marriage come flooding back, one shall require a whole bottle of Gin and a whole bottle of Dubonnet to regain one’s decorum encore. If only one could have written to Muriel’s Simply Marvellous Matrimonial Advice Column beforehand, one would never have taken the plunge! Non, unlike Lady P-F, one has learned one’s lesson and shall not be venturing up the aisle with Dave or any other rough diamond with a scooter (although a skiffle band does sound RAWTHER modern)!

    Give moi the ‘very theatrical’ Best Man any day – always light and very gay!!

    Yours staunchly in spinsterhood,
    Lulu xxxx

  4. seileasdar says:

    Dear Muriel,

    It was encouraging to read that the art of courting and marriage etiquette has not yet died out completely, although sharing your correspondence made me doubt the matter slightly. It is fascinating to read what people are unsure of, and your staunch, unfaltering advice on the matter, although I have to admit that the whole affair leaves me heartbroken, as I will never be able to have such an affair myself, I fear.

    They have given suffrage to women, we might even advance in politics one day and be ministers or such; they now even allow us to have own bank accounts, once the husband has agreed to it, we can run our own businesses and make our own, even stupid, decisions. However, some women still can’t really and truly wed who they love and want to spend their lives with.
    (But then, how many of today’s marriages are truly fastened in mutual deep dedication and commitment to the other’s physical and psychological well-being? Apart from yours to Jasper, that is, of course! Instead, it looks as if weddings are means to an end if you look at some miserable conjunctions.)

    All the frills and gorgeous dresses, jewellery and amenities, everything a woman should delight in, they are reserved for those that happen to fall in love with someone from the opposite gender. Others have to watch from the side line, slink back into obscurity and stay quiet and inconspicuous, or they will be persecuted and put into mental hospitals or worse to be straightened out in their assumed dangerous perverse thinking.

    To marry some man just for the sake of it, to have a wedding, or to be safe in the folds of respectable society would not agree with consciences. That’s how spinsters are made – Mind you, the inversion of arguments cannot be applied as not all spinsters, or librarians to that matter, might be in love with another woman!

    So I shall sigh from afar, from deep down my own little well of loneliness, attend others’ happy days, admire the dresses and the fortunes of those that can marry, follow etiquette in presents, and hope that one fine day, society might become enlightened about how it could be, instead of how it should be, as you have so aptly and skilfully advised your wanting readers.

    yours heartbroken

    A. N. Other,

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