5 Wedding Tips From Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The historic wedding of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI took place on May 16, 1770 at the Palace of Versailles. While the subsequent marriage may not have been entirely carefree, the nuptials were a glorious, opulent affair from which any affianced twosome could glean some handy pointers. And before we go any further: no, there’s nothing herein about whether they ate any cake.

1. Marry at first sight, or even ahead of time.

The marriage between Louis-Auguste and archduchess Maria Antonia was arranged to reinforce the newly-established diplomatic alliance between France and Austria. As such, there wasn’t much in the way of romance when the pair made it official. Prior to the main nuptials, Marie and Louis were legally wed in Austria, though the groom wasn’t actually there. Marie’s brother Ferdinand stood in as proxy. When the 14-year-old future queen of France set out to meet and marry her actual 15-year-old husband, her mother bid her farewell with: “... Do so much good to the people of France that they will be able to say that I have sent them an angel.” That sure didn’t happen.

2. Have a destination wedding.

Marie embarked on a lengthy journey to get to her wedding—from Vienna through Bavaria and to the Rhine River, where Strasbourg was just across the way. She had an entourage too: 57 carriages, 117 footmen, and 376 horses. Before being handed over to French courtiers, Marie crossed through a wooden pavilion built on a small island in the middle of the river. Walking through symbolized the transition to a new life, a new country, and a new place in the world. The ritual was complete with a literal stripping away of her clothing, which is hard to imagine for a woman known for her accoutrements. At that moment, she became the dauphine. The 23-days long journey ended in Paris on May 16, the very day of the wedding.

3. Invite everyone and banish boundaries.

Over 5000 people attended the wedding with another 200,000 onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of the action. The public nature of the pairing didn’t end there: After the ceremony, the couple was led into their room where the bed was blessed by the Archbishop of Reims. They then retired to their chambers, accompanied by the entire court to bear witness that the newlyweds were ending up in the same bed. Louis XV reportedly even gave his grandson some advice before the couple said goodnight. Somehow, all this romance didn’t end in consummation of the marriage. That wouldn’t happen for another several years.

4. Make bold sartorial statements.

While we don’t know exactly what the wedding gown looked like (some reports say silver, others say lilac, some say brocade), the one consistent fact is this: the gown was blinged-out with diamonds and pearls. Louis donned a suit of silver or gold, and regardless of the details, it’s safe to say these two looked exactly as rich as they were.

5. Keep the party going.

Wedding festivities lasted for many days following the ceremony with performances, balls, activities and feasts. The jovial events took a tragic turn when, on May 30 (the final day of the celebration), an enormous fireworks display prompted a riot that led to hundreds of people being trampled. In 1876’s The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, Charles Duke Yonge wrote that the couple was so aggrieved they withdrew funds from the royal treasury to help victims and their families, and the bride even visited some of those in grief. Not exactly the sort of behavior that would come to define their legacy in the years to come.