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Wedding Extravaganza


The extravagance of weddings is a popular topic. We blame it on modern commercialism. But then, what excuse could President Ulysses S Grant have for the money he spent on his daughter's wedding?

For the occasion the East Room which was chosen for the wedding ceremony, was resplendent and aromatic with flowers and greenery. From the ceiling, suspended on floral ropes, dominated a giant wedding bell composed completely of flowers. Never before, in the history of White House entertainment, were the decorations so lavish, and the atmosphere so laden with perfume.

200 guests sat in the State Dining Room at the White House, their hunger assuaged by a seven-course wedding breakfast. The savoury part of the fare included chicken, woodcock, snipe and crab. For the dessert there was the ever popular strawberry and cream and cake. Punch was laid on, of course, possibly based on Mrs Grant's favourite recipe.

When food was eaten, wine was drunk, and good wishes were exhausted, Nellie and Algernon slipped into a Pullman carriage groaning under the decorative weight of flowers and flags.

Nellie, of course, stole the show. She was attended by eight bridesmaids dressed in white, four carrying pink bouquets, the other four blue. Algernon, showing himself a sensitive guy at a time when men were men and women had babies, chose also to carry a bouquet. His was pink and white.

The wedding dress chosen by Nellie was of white satin, fashionably bustled in the back, and trimmed with lace, orange blossoms and miniature oranges. Yes, I did say miniature oranges. What I'm not sure about is whether they came from grafted miniature orange trees, or bonsai trees.

Suffice it to say, that the dress alone cost $5,000. And that was in the year 1874. President Ulysses S Grant had decided, like so many other people, that spending money on a wedding was as a good an excuse as any. Especially if you have the money.

Vlady, an Australian Civil Marriage Celebrant, is an author of "The Complete Book of Australian Weddings", "The Small Organsiation Handbook" and an ebook "Honeymoon! A Sizzle or a Fizzle?" which you can see on her website http://www.vlady-celebrant.com


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2005