Saturday, October 07, 2006

Is it true that unmarried women aren't supposed to wear tiaras?

Who's asking: Michelle, the "Get a Life" girl

The origin of this question was last week's Miss Manners column, in which a young woman on her way to England asked what opportunities she would have to wear her prom tiara, because "I know they use them a lot there." Miss Manners' response was remarkably gracious -- she said that no, tiaras aren't really appropriate for anything but the most formal state dinners or royal weddings -- but she mentioned that "tiaras are not supposed to be worn by unmarried women, with the exception of those who are being married within an hour of placing them carefully in their hair."

So Michelle wants to know: is that true, and if so, where did that custom come from?

It goes without saying that I'm not exactly the tiara sort; maybe 30 years from now, I can carry it off in a Margaret Rutherford-ish sort of way. But some secret part of my soul has always longed to be a little girlier, so for the next life, in which I might be a more girly girl (or possibly a drag queen) I decided to do some investigation.

Tiaras or diadems go back to Egyptian times, and have traditionally been an ornament of royalty. They seem to have come into more widespread use in France, during the reign of Napoleon, and they hit their height of popularity in Victorian and Edwardian England. Somewhere in that time, they came to symbolize the loss of innocence and the crowning triumph of love; Queen Victoria was a superstitious soul, particularly where marriage was concerned, and liked these rituals and symbols.

Now, of course, every sweet-16 celebrant seems to feel she deserves a tiara, but that's a rant for another time.

This weekend, ironically enough, is all about weddings.

I'm posting this morning from the sleaziest motel in Elkton, MD (not saying which one, as I don't want to get sued). Dizzy and I got a late start yesterday, so I just decided to drive until I got tired, then find a place to spend the night. This place theoretically does not allow pets, but they don't call these places "no tell" for nothing.

Anyway, Elkton's claim to fame is that it was, at one time, the elopement capital of the East Coast. Elkton is just across the Maryland state line, and does not require a blood test or a waiting period to get married. In the 1920s and 1930s, couples from all over the Northeast dashed to Elkton to get married in one of dozens of wedding chapels -- because, while Maryland didn't require a blood test, it did require a church wedding.

I'm actually on my way to my old friend Melissa's wedding, which is not in Elkton (though it is in Maryland) and is a little better planned-out than Elkton weddings used to be.

But before tomorrow's wedding, I'm headed down to Richmond today for the Dean family's annual Apple Butter Festival. Check Peggy & Scott's blog for photos in a day or two.

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