Book weddings: Diana Barry

If there was ever a writer who understood the importance and interest of weddings, it was L. M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books and innumerable short stories set in Canadian small towns and villages.

I’ve always thought Montgomery would make a great women’s magazine writer because she has such a deep interest in the minutiae of women’s lives – all the details considered traditionally feminine, which are commonly treated of in such magazines – home décor, fashion, cooking, jewellery.

She was also keen on weddings, so I’m going to do a series of posts about the weddings which occur in her books and short stories. First up, an important one in Anne Shirley’s life: Diana Barry’s wedding.

One evening Marilla, coming in from the orchard with a basket of apples, found Anne sitting along by the east window in the twilight, crying bitterly.

“Whatever’s the matter now, Anne?” she asked.

“It’s about Diana,” sobbed Anne luxuriously. “I love Diana so, Marilla. I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband—I just hate him furiously. I’ve been imagining it all out—the wedding and everything—Diana dressed in snowy garments, with a veil, and looking as beautiful and regal as a queen; and me the bridesmaid, with a lovely dress too, and puffed sleeves, but with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face. And then bidding Diana goodbye-e-e—” Here Anne broke down entirely and wept with increasing bitterness.

I’ve always loved this exchange – I don’t think I’d ever seen before an acknowledgment of the joy of indulging in sentiment. Say what you will of Montgomery, and I’d be the first to acknowledge she had a lot of weaknesses as writer – she understood teenage girls. This is funny and touching and very 13 years old.

Anne is somewhat more level-headed about a decade later, when Diana actually gets married, to the unremarkable Fred Wright:

“After all, the only real roses are the pink ones,” said Anne, as she tied white ribbon around Diana’s bouquet in the westward-looking gable at Orchard Slope. “They are the flowers of love and faith.”

Diana was standing nervously in the middle of the room, arrayed in her bridal white, her black curls frosted over with the film of her wedding veil. Anne had draped that veil, in accordance with the sentimental compact of years before.

“It’s all pretty much as I used to imagine it long ago, when I wept over your inevitable marriage and our consequent parting,” she laughed. “You are the bride of my dreams, Diana, with the ‘lovely misty veil’; and I am YOUR bridesmaid. But, alas! I haven’t the puffed sleeves—though these short lace ones are even prettier. Neither is my heart wholly breaking nor do I exactly hate Fred.”

We see the usual deep interest in the details of the wedding: the roses (pink, if you please) and their meaning; the bridal white – Montgomery’s brides always either wear white, whether it is silk or satin or a simple organdie, or navy blue, if they are older and sensible. And the paramount importance of the veil – how delicious is that description of Diana’s black hair being “frosted over with the film of her wedding veil“?

I also like the detail of Anne’s envisioned puffed sleeves being replaced by short lace ones – much more chic, one imagines, as well as prettier. Anne is wearing a “soft, white dress with lilies-of-the-valley in the shining masses of her hair“, showing that bridesmaids in white is no new idea.

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