Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: William Cavenaugh and Mary Brien: 30 December 1798

It is Wedding Wednesday, and I cordially invite you to the wedding of my maternal Great-great-great-great-grandparents, William 'Billy' Cavenaugh and Mary Brien. There are no wedding portraits, no paintings or pencil drawings of the event, but I think it is interesting to imagine what it might have been like.

Married in the late 18th Century, the parish register shows that William and his Mary took the plunge on Sunday 30 December 1798. Last Thursday was the 212th anniversary of their marriage. I wonder what the appropriate gift should have been?

And the bride wore...

Historically, with respect to the fashion of the day, Mary was probably wearing Regency period clothing (think Jane Austen). To be strictly accurate 'Regency' refers to the period from 1811 to 1820 in Great Britain, of which Ireland was still a part on William and Mary's wedding day. During this period the Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent, proxy for his father, the insane King George III. When focusing on the fashion of the day, the term more loosely applies to the period from 1795 to 1820.

Mary's dress may have been blue, or pink, or even green. Darker colours such as black, brown or burgundy were practical for a bride from the middle class, because such colours would be more suitable for a woman as she went about her daily duties. Brides would recycle their wedding dresses so that they could wear them for many years to come. A darker coloured dress would not show dirt at the hem as readily as one made from a lighter coloured fabric. I like to imagine that Mary wore a beautiful green frock that day, such as the one in the image below; however, she was a very active lady involved in procuring arms in the time leading up to the 1798 uprising, so a darker colour may have better suited her. (Kettle, Chapter 1, p. 2)

A good match for two people from well-established families...

According to the memoirs of my great-great granduncle Andrew J. Kettle, both William Cavenaugh and Mary Brien came from families who had wealth, probably upper middle class. Mary's family owned a Carman's Stage at Turvey, just outside of Donabate in County Dublin. William's family owned a similar establishment, but the exact location of it is not mentioned. A "Carman's Stage" was an establishment usually found on the outskirts of many Irish towns in the period. They catered to the needs of carters passing through the town, delivering people and goods. At a Carman's Stage the carters could purchase meals and sleeping accommodation, as well as feed and stable accommodation for their horses. Perhaps we could think of it as an 18th century version of a Bed and Breakfast, or an inn.

The happy couple were wed by Reverend Luke Teeling in the town of Donabate, just outside of Swords, County Dublin, Ireland. Was there a reception held at one of the family Carman's Stages? Perhaps, but I have no evidence of such. One thing the happy couple did do on their wedding day was stand as Godparents. The church register shows them as baptismal sponsors for a daughter, Catharine, born to Stephen Luttrel and his wife Mary.

A wedding and a baptism all in one day. Sounds like something Jane Austen would have liked. I hope it was a wonderful day for all concerned.

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: Englishwomen's Dresses and their Construction, 1660-1860, MacMillan, United Kingdom, 1989.
Kettle. L. J., editor. The Material for Victory: Being the memoirs of Andrew J. Kettle, C.J. Fallon Ltd., Dublin, 1958.
Donabate Parish Register 1798-1800, on microfiche, The National Library of Ireland, Dublin.
Thank you to The Graphics Fairy for the Regency dress image.


  1. A wedding, a baptism, a history lesson and fashion lesson all in one! :-)

  2. I’ve awarded you the Ancestor Approved award (which Jennie awarded to me) for your blog that I really enjoy reading - thank you. You can read about the award in this post and you can also copy the Ancestor Approved graphic. Look forward to your further blogs :-) Happy New Year! Jo


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