Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage

Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage

by Michael Barson, Steven Heller




Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, as the classic croon... But in twentieth-century America—hang on tight—the horses have run wild and it's one bumpy ride! Welcome to the world of Wedding Bell Blues, a romp through our endless fascination with that most august of domestic institutions: marriage. Celebrated (and bemoaned) in every medium imaginable, weddings and marriage are as much a part of life as birth, death, and taxes. Hundreds of nostalgic images, from advertisements to magazine covers to movie posters, display the full range of romance and allure of actual and fictional brides and grooms. Seasoned advice from the likes of Archie Bunker to turn-of-the-century marriage manuals lend a note of unsolicited, and often absurd, guidance to the uninitated. Whether you're already hitched, have been, or vow never to be, tying the knot will hardly look the same again.

Michael barson has been married once, but it feels like three, or maybe fourteen (and he means that in the most positive sense). With Steven Heller he wrote Teenage Confidential, and has authored or edited nine other books. He lives with his family in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811821544
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date: 02/28/2000
Pages: 132
Product dimensions: 7.62(w) x 10.01(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Words of Wit, Wisdom, and Remorse


You think you're mixed-up about the ins and outs of wedlock? (Wedlock—now, there's a compound noun that carries certain implications!) So it has always been for the great minds of each age of humankind. If four thousand years of civilization's Alpha thinkers and philosophers couldn't figure out what marriage means, what chance do we have of cracking the code? So be our guest—jump in, and drink from the fountain of wisdom that follows. And then, after quaffing this heady brew, be prepared to get really confused!

Wedding Bells



MUSIC BY SAMMY FAIN With Ukulele Arrangement

* It is better to marry than to burn.


* Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.

Proverbs, 18:22

* A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.

—Proverbs, 12:4

* By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy.

If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.


* Two days are the best of a man's wedded life

The days when he marries and buries his wife.

—Hipponax (Sixth century B.C.)

* The bachelor is a peacock, the engaged man a lion,

the married man a jackass.

—German proverb

* The comfortable estate of widowhood is the only hope that keep's up a wife's spirits.

—John Gay, The Beggar's Opera

* Never marry a widow unless her first husband was hanged.

—Old English Proverb

* Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasure.

— Samuel Johnson, Rasselas

* One fool at least in every married couple.

— Henry Fielding, Amelia

* Composed that monstrous animal a husband and wife.

— Henry Fielding, Tom Jones

* They took from me my wife, and to save trouble I wed again, and made the error double.

—John Clare, The Exile

* Wedlock, a padlock.

—Old English Proverb

* There is but one hour a day between a good housewife and a bad one.

—Old English proverb

* Woe to the house where the hen crows and the rooster keeps still.

—Spanish proverb

* Wives rarely fuss about their beauty To guarantee their mate's affection.

— Molière, The School for Wives

* One was never married, and that's his hell; another is, and that's his plague.

—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

* Oh! How many torments lie in the small circle of a wedding-ring!

—Colley Cibber, The Double Gallant

* A light wife doth make a heavy husband.

—Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

* Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.

—Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

* We will have no more marriages.

— Shakespeare, Hamlet

* A young man married is a man that's marred.

—Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well

* Men in single state should tarry; While women, I suggest, should marry.

— Samuel Hoffenstein

* Though women are angels, yet wedlock's the devil.

— Lord Byron

* In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved.

—Samuel Butler

* Well-married, a man is winged

—ill-matched, he is shackled.

— Henry Ward Beecher

* Marriage is a feast where the
grace is sometimes better
than the dinner.

—Charles Caleb Cotton, Lacon

* Marriage is like life in
this—that it is a field
of battle, and not a bed of

—Robert Louis Stevenson

* Times are changed
with him who marries;
there are no more bypath
meadows, where
you may innocently
linger, but the road lies
long and straight and
dusty to the grave.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

* Strange to say what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition.

—Samuel Pepys

* Have you not heard When a man marries, dies, or turns Hindoo, His best friends hear no more of him?

—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Letter to Maria Gisborne

* As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,

* And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

* He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,

* Something better than a dog, a little dearer than his horse.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall

* Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

— Benjamin Franklin

* The men that women marry, and why they marry them, will always be a mystery to the world.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

* Divorce is of probably the same date
as marriage. I believe, however, that
marriage is some weeks more ancient.


* Marriage is a science.

—Honore de Balzac

* It is a truth universally acknowledged
that a single man in possession
of a good fortune must be in want
of a wife.

—Jane Austen, opening
line of Pride and Prejudice

* Marriage is a lottery in which
men stake their liberty and
women their happiness.

—Madame de Rieux

* Every woman should marry—and no man.

—Benjamin Disraeli

* It is most unwise for people
in love to marry.

—George Bernard Shaw

* Men marry because they are
tired, women because they are
curious; both are disappointed.

—Oscar Wilde

* Don't wish me happiness ... wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor—I will need them all.

—Anne Morrow Lindbergh (just before her marriage)

* How marriage ruins a man. It's as demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.

— Oscar Wilde, Lady Windemere's Fan

* If couples did not live together, happy marriages would be more frequent.

—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

* The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

—H. L. Mencken

* If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married.

—Katharine Hepburn

* Marriage halves our griefs, doubles our joys, and quadruples our expenses.

—Vincent Lean

* Separate bedrooms and separate bathrooms.

— Bette Davis

* To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it,
Whenever you're right, shut up.

—Ogden Nash

* I lost a good secretary and found a lousy cook.

—Fiorella H. La Guardia

* I personally adore marriage ...
I even cry at weddings, especially my own.

—Zsa Zsa Gabor

* A man in love is incomplete until he's married.
Then he's finished.

—Zsa Zsa Gabor

* Marriage is the death of hope.

—Woody Allen

Professor Harold Bloom
Presents the Five
Happiest marriages
in Shakespeare:

1) THE MACBETHS, in Macbeth.


3) PETRUCHIO AND KATE, in The Taming of the Shrew.

4) CAESAR AND CALPURNIA, in Julius Caesar.

5) BRUTUS AND PORTIA, in Julius Caesar.

Chapter Two

Expertise from a
Century's Worth of
Marriage Manuals


TALKS ON NATURE: A True Marriage Guide by J. H. Greer, M.D. (1888) Let no married lovers think of habitually occupying the same bed. It can do no good ... What one may gain in vitality the other loses ... Aside, and above all other reasons, is the one that separate beds will in great measure help overcome sexual excesses. The close bodily contact under a common bed-clothing is a constant provocation to amorous ideas and sensations. It is the purely sensual that needs to be put to one side that the spiritual may have a chance for growth.


Table of Contents

Prologue A Century's Worth of Fun Facts about Marriage in
America—and Its Aftermath16
1 Words of Wit, Wisdom, and Remorse
The Sages of the Ages on Marriage22
Professor Harold Bloom Presents the Five Happiest
Marriages in Shakespeare32
2 Expertise from a Century's Worth of Marriage Manuals
Through the Years with a Whole Bunch of Know-It-Alls34
Our Choice for the Marriage Master of the New Millenium50
3 Whom the Gods Would Betroth
Part 1 The Most Epochal Marriages of the 20th Century52
Part 2 A Century of Hollywood Honeymoons, Marriages, 55
and Divorces—Plus a Few Really Tawdry Affairs
Part 3 They Never Married: Hollywood's Most "Almost"
Part 4 The Gospel Truth: Hollywood Fan Mags Give Us the
Eight Exquisite Comic Books Devoted to the Agonies of
4 Screen Dreams
Part 1 Those Awful Truths: The Ten Best Film Comedies
about Marriage72
Part 2 Those Cheatin' Hearts: The Ten Best Films about
Illicit Love80
Part 3 Dysfunction Junction: Ten Films That Will
Persuade You Never, Ever to Get Married84
Part 4You're Not Paranoid, You're Just Married!90
Part 5 Sixty-six Flicks about Fidelity, and Other
Marital Motifs92
Our Twelve Favorite True Tales of Matrimony from the
Confession Magazines106
5 Songs for the Simple Life
Part 1 Ten Time-Tested Tunes about Getting, Being, or
Un-being Married108
Part 2 Rock'n'Roll's Most Harmonious Married Couples112
6 T.V. Travail Fifty Great, Near-Great, and Practically
Forgotten Television Shows about the Institution of Marriage116
Epilogue Just in Case It Doesn't Work out After All 128

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