Handkerchiefs are often the obligatory "something old" memento included in the bride's wedding ensemble, stashed into the bouquet along with the "new" hair ribbons and "something blue" brooch. However, in recent years it seems that, despite their intricate hand stitching, delicate fabrics, and detailed silk and lace, the handkerchief is seen as more as a necessary relic than the symbol of decadent high society and chivalric romance that it actually is.
Modern brides today, pressured to cast-off traditional formalities in favor of a more casual ceremony, enjoy finding simple, effective ways to still weave a little tradition and old-fashioned charm into their wedding days. We submit that the hankie, as the ultimate symbol of high fashion, sentimentality, and faithful love is a quick and cost-effective way to infuse a little epic romance into your wedding day.
After all, the pocket-handkerchief was created for exactly such an occasion. More general versions of the handkerchiefs have been valued since Roman times for their utilitarian functions, but the pocket-handkerchief was created solely as a symbol of beauty and status. The pocket-handkerchief made its properly genteel debut during a promenade in a public garden, where its creator, an unnamed Venetian aristocrat lady, displayed her handiwork to a crowd of admirers.
Word of the comely cloth then traveled across Italy to France, where the expensive, embroidered handkerchief found great favor with the noblemen and women in the court of Henry II. By 1850, the handkerchief was an omnipresent accessory of the German upper crust as well.
But it was Marie Antoinette who made history one day at Versailles, when she noted that the square handkerchief was the most attractive and practical variety. Louis XVI then issued a mandate throughout the kingdom that all handkerchiefs must emulate a square shape. Thus, the handkerchief as we now know it was born, and still survives today.
Throughout history, the handkerchief eventually became accessible outside the courts of the monarchy, but was still prized as an elegant, luxurious, and expensive symbol of class and taste. Wearing a certain handkerchief could even guarantee you a place in the posterity of the society pages, as seen in this Isle of Man Family History Society Journal, Nov 1988:"When Lady Coventry paid a call on George II she was a sight worth recording, being attired in 'black silk sack without a hoop and trailing a yard on the ground, and had on a cobweb lace handkerchief.... and a pink satin cloke'.
A cobweb lace handkerchief made the society pages and earned this daring trendsetter a permanent place in fashion history. What bride wouldn't want to take a clue from Lady Coventry, trailing an opulent lace or silk hankie from her bridal gown or bouquet? You never know where sightings of the telltale token might end up.
In the height of their popularity, handkerchiefs were seen as ultimate fashion accessories. By the time of the early Renaissance, the high fashion handkerchiefs caused Erasmus to state, "To wipe your nose on your sleeve is boorish." This thought was echoed in the aforementioned Victorian era- journal, which stated, " It would have been uncomfortable as well as extravagant to blow the nose on such expensive trifles as handkerchiefs, heavily embroidered as they were in Assisi or Holbein stitch in red or black silk, and then bordered with bullion knots or a fringe of metal thread embroidery." It was plain to see these elaborate cloths were intricately sewn and lovingly cherished, just as handkerchiefs should be today. Indeed, the woman of your family who gave you your 'something old" token, most likely received the handkerchief from one of the great matriarchs in your family line, who no doubt constructed this dainty apparel with utmost love and care. Cherish your handkerchief as the precious heirloom it is, christening it with no more than a few joyous tears on your wedding day.
When explaining the handkerchief's rightful and reverent place in weddings, it is important to allude to their high-society history, but it is even more necessary to mention that handkerchiefs are also traditionally associated with love. During medieval times, hankies were given to knights by ladies to wear during tournaments as a good luck token. To bring victory in battle and signify her support, a lady might give an embroidered handkerchief to knight of her liking, or to someone who asked for the honor of wearing her favor.
These are some old rituals surrounding handkerchiefs, but today's brides might be surprised how modern traditions have their precedent in the hankies of the past, such as in the case of the popular wedding monogram. Indeed, the society journal states, "Monograms were very late additions, and the convention arose that a lady would embroider the initial of her Christian name in the corner, but for her husband would stitch his surname's initial." For an extra-special wedding tradition, why not apply this charming custom to your own monogrammed wedding hankies, for a touch of old-fashioned romance? We recommend the Men's Handkerchief, a crisp white hankie that comes with an option for block monogramming.
The Men's Handkerchief might be a more appropriate wedding gift than you think, seeing as, by 1900, handkerchiefs were more of a symbol of male social status than feminine delicacy. A gentleman of the time was no gentleman at all without a handkerchief made of silk, linen, or cotton tucked in his breast pocket. We have no doubt your groom is a modern day gentlemen, so why not dub him with this chivalrous cloth, to bestow a sense of tradition on his wedding tux? Or to draw from another appealing old world tradition when incorporating handkerchiefs into your wedding, why not have your groom and groomsmen emulate the Victorian fashion of hanging silk handkerchiefs out of their back pockets, for a dapper and flamboyant touch?
Handkerchiefs are one of the quickest and easiest ways to bring a touch of parlor room class to your wedding. Plain or ornate, the hankie immediately adds a sense of occasion and contributes to the sentimental feeling of a wedding. Crisp, resilient, and starched, the hankie will stay fresh from morning until night, and will no doubt come in very useful!
Also, keep in mind when accepting Grandma Aileen's crumpled up hankie; handkerchiefs are a long and rightful symbol of special occasions. During the Stuart and Tudor times, the society journal reads: "Printed commemorative handkerchiefs became instant momentoes of great events military victories, coronations, royal weddings, political triumphs, society scandals and that annual favourite, the Derby."
Any modern bride knows, coronations and royal weddings are truly regal occasions. Your wedding day should make you feel like royalty, so why not carry a beautiful handmade handkerchief to follow in the footsteps of queens?
A hint for mothers and grandmother's of the bride: For a bride's momentous steps down the aisle, there are several handkerchiefs designed to accompany her through this special rite of passage. Celebrate her entrance into adulthood with a Women's Handkerchief, a simple and sophisticated white hankie, edged in sweet lace. Or, remind her of the special place she'll always have in your heart by purchasing her The Daughter's Handkerchief, a smaller, wispier scrap of embroidered lace. For an even more sentimental touch, consider the doubly meaningful "something blue" handkerchief, embroidered in delicate cornflower. However you choose to incorporate the handkerchief into your wedding day, be assured of its regal, romantic, and reminiscent connotations, all of which make the handkerchief a perfectly precious addition to your wedding ensemble.
Some info taken from:
Translations of excerpts taken from : " Les Textiles, Histoires et Travailby M. and E. Theodore
Isle of Man Family History Society Journal Vol 10, No 4, Nov 1988