Weddings begin and celebrate marriage. Unlike christenings, society debuts, or formal mourning, despite the falling rate of marriage, weddings continued to be an important event in New Zealanders’ lives into the 21st century. What had been of religious significance and then a legal necessity, became a romantic ritual, an expression of commitment, a reason to bring family together, and sometimes a moment of celebrity for the bride.
Wedding planning and paying
In the 19th century and most of the 20th century weddings were customarily paid for by the father of the bride, and planned by the bride’s mother. The degree of involvement by the bride-to-be varied. From the later 20th century the couple were more likely to pay for or contribute to the cost of the wedding, and it was often the bride who organised it.
Building up to it and after
Stag parties, at which the groom and his male friends gather and celebrate his life as an unmarried man, were often held before a wedding. They typically included drinking too much, going to strip clubs and humiliating the groom-to-be, for example by forcing him to dress in an odd way, tying him to a tree, or leading him about while calling attention to him. By the 2000s humiliation of the groom was less common.
Until the late 20th century brides-to-be would usually have a kitchen tea with female friends and relatives, who would give her gifts to help her set up house. By the 2000s it was more common for brides to have a hen party with her friends.
In the 21st century wedding festivities often included a final get-together the day after the ceremony.
Many 19th-century couples did not have a honeymoon. Married life began after the wedding breakfast, in the home they would occupy together. Well-to-do couples were more likely to have a honeymoon, sometimes travelling overseas to do so.
Caesar Roose and his new wife Gladys spent their honeymoon looking at oil wells and shipping in the US and Europe; Peter and Doris Mander watched the Sanders Cup yacht race; Harold and Eveline Turbott’s honeymoon cruise was also his passage to China, where he worked at a mission hospital. Roose was an entrepreneur, Mander a world-class yachtsman, and Turbott a doctor. Theirs were ‘busman’s honeymoons’, combining pleasure and business.
After the First World War honeymoons became standard; couples would often leave during the reception following the wedding. In the late 20th century many went a few days later, after socialising with those who had gathered for the wedding. At first most couples took simple honeymoons – a week somewhere within New Zealand, for example. By the end of the 20th century couples usually took longer honeymoons, and overseas travel became common.
Getting married has spawned an industry. To varying extents dressmakers, wedding planners, celebrants, car- and suit-hire companies, florists, reception centres, caterers, photographers, printers, liquor merchants, cake makers and decorators, gift suppliers and holiday-destination operators all earn a living from weddings. Some specialise and work solely on weddings. There are bridal shows, wedding magazines and theme wedding centres.
In the 21st century a perfect wedding for many people no longer required a white dress and tux. Unusual locations, historically themed dress for the wedding party (and sometimes guests), and novel transport were all commonplace. New Zealand also became an exotic location for overseas couples seeking a dramatic backdrop for their nuptials.