The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, 1895 – the former Miss Vanderbilt needed the veil because, though famously beautiful, she is rumored to have cried throughout her wedding.
That said, any rich, Dutch doctor who needs a gracious hostess for his dinner parties and mousey Mama to his flighty late-wife’s children is welcome to call on me – assuming he doesn’t mind a little wear on the tires, if you will. I am great at all that hostessing stuff, and Betty Beth has already volunteered to take the kiddies for a few hours a week, and I would be suitably appreciative – no gushing – of shopping sprees at Harrod’s and a devoted household staff. (Drifts off into pleasant daydream....)
Actually, only one quarter of Betty’s marriages are convenient. I tend to avoid the MOC stories, as the premise is so utterly and unbelievably unhappy to me. “As I am now almost forty, and you are 26, we’re probably both willing to spend the rest of our lives without so much as speeding past the Brighton city limits.” Oh, no, we are not, bucko. We’ve never been there, and we understand that mutual affection, respect and a socking great allowance paid quarterly are important components of a successful union, but we’ve heard a few things about Brighton, and frankly it sounds worth exploring in the right company. Anyway, it turns out I’ve been avoiding fewer books than I realized – and The Vicar’s Daughter (1996), which includes a MOC, was off the list anyway because I hate when the parents die in car crashes (sorry, Once for All Time).
My favorite marriage scenarios are the ones where he proposes near the end of the book, but not so near that we don’t get to see the wedding. Cassandra by Chance (1973) is the first of seven – just 5% of the stories offer us an invitation to the wedding of two entirely happy, mutually loving people – but what a wedding: “on a cold blustery January day in the little village church on Mull... overflowing with flowers.” The bride wears blue, to match her sapphire engagement ring. (And seems to have her new mink coat on over the blue dress. Am I misreading that?) After a jolly reception at her sister’s, they change into sheepskin jackets and walk briskly up the hill to Ogre’s Relish, planning for a mixed half-dozen of baby ogres and ogresses. Happily, there is no mention of awkward social moments with would-be suitor and minister Mr. Campbell conducting the service.
A sapphire-blue wedding dress – perhaps a skosh chilly for Mull in January.
This one will work well if he gives you an heirloom aquamarine.
If you haven’t read Philomena’s Miracle (1978) recently, do go back and tuck through those last few pages of wedding-prep and aisle-walk. They really make a VHEA, although I do wish Betty didn’t harp so on our heroines’ looks, as if that were the primary and proper criterion for love. If you’ve never read Philomena’s, you have a treat in store. I’m less enamored of Eugenia and Gerard’s Heidelberg Wedding (1984). Hands up who’d want to be proposed to, without warning, at the door of the chapel and swept in, handed a bouquet, and pointed toward the officiant. We skip a lot of years after that, and then get four wedding scenes in ten books in 1997-2000. Perhaps Harlequin/M&B was paying extra for satin and lace – and flowers. Always flowers.
The wedding chapel at Heidelberg Castle, pre-be-flowering.
With the usual caveats, I count 34 MOCs, or 25% of the 135 books. Five of them take place early in the story, 23 happen about halfway through, and six occur toward the end – including that of the beautiful Sophie and her Rijk, who marry for convenience on page 137, and discover they really, truly do love each other on page 188, after rescuing a small child from drowning and freezing and straightening out all the confusion as to just what the curiously-likeable Irena means in Rijk’s life.
Given that seven marriages take place in the final paragraphs, that leaves 94, or 70%, to occur after the curtain falls upon our satisfyingly-snogging hero and heroine. As the milkman in Last April Fair (1980) says “to no one in particular” after squeezing and wriggling past a blissfully-unnoticing Phylly and Pieter, “it’s a very good morning for some of us, and that’s a fact.”
While we have limited glimpses into their Afters, about 27 couples (MOC and non-MOC) show up in subsequent books, and 100% of them are blissfully happy together. If I know anything about social sciences (and I don’t), that’s a statistically-significant sample.
Finally, let me quote from Kate Fox’s anthropological work Watching the English, recommended on this site by Betty Andrea, and many thanks to the said Betty for the tip. Here’s Ms. Fox on weddings in England: “We know that a wedding is supposed to be a joyous event, but in our usual Eeyorish fashion, we really see it as an ordeal, an occasion fraught with difficulties and dangers (or, as the ever-cheery Debrett’s puts it ‘a minefield for the socially insecure and a logistical nightmare for the organisers’ and, for good measure, ‘a source of inter-family tension’). Something is bound to go drastically wrong, and someone is bound to be mortally offended – and because of our belief in the magical disinhibiting powers of alcohol, we know that the veneer of polite conviviality may crack, and the inevitable family tensions may erupt into unseemly tears and quarrels. Even if stiff upper lips are maintained on the day, there will be grumbles and recriminations in the aftermath, and in any case, even at best, we expect the whole ritual to be rather embarrassing.”
According to Fox, the English practice “negative politeness,” which involves taking great care not to threaten the privacy of others. This and other factors make them chronically uneasy on social occasions, like wedding receptions. (“Positive politeness,” as practiced in the US and most western European cultures, involves seeking to include others in community – or invading their privacy.)