In the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy ladies loved to use hand fans. You can find them in many portraits and paintings from this period. All of them were cute but wedding fans were possibly the loveliest. Today, some couples incorporate the tradition of using an ornate fan at a modern wedding, too. It looks chic, elegant, and a bit retro style – though, you can find a wide range of decorative wedding hand fans made in different styles (Asian, futuristic, vintage, flamenco, folklore, etc). It’s a pity the tradition for the groom to send an elaborate hand fan as a wedding gift to his bride has died down.
This curious and adorable tradition existed mostly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wealthy grooms presented their brides with beautiful hand fans, real masterpieces sometimes. You could receive such a wedding gift if you were marrying a royal or high-status man from a rich family. So, these wedding hand fans are rather rare today, but we still can find them in fashion museums, museums of fans (yes, there are such museums and they’re great!), and some folk museums around the world.
Antique folding fan, Austrian or German, the 1760s. From The Met Museum
How did these wedding fans look like? Often, they were custom-made specifically for a certain bride, so the mount part of a fan could have portraits of the bride and the groom. Here’s an example.
Wedding or betrothal fan, possibly German, 1770-1790. From The Met Museum
Or the hand-painted piece of cloth or paper that served as the mount had a depiction of some love story or a scene from a historical wedding or an arbour scene of a sacrifice to the god of love, etc. In any case, the wedding fan usually told a story or showed a wedding scene.
Vintage hand fan made by Edouard Moreau, France, 1860. It’s made from ivory. From The Met Museum
Although sometimes, a wedding hand fan looked much simpler. Like this one rather plain fan.
American wedding fan, 1893. It is made from ivory and silk. From The Met Museum
Modern couples sometimes incorporate fancy hand fans as the wedding décor or use fan wedding bouquets or create DIY wedding table centerpieces that include a vintage fan or use a hand fan as an adorable accent in the wedding photos. But few brides actually carry a fan during the wedding ceremony and use it for the purpose specified. And practically no one presents his bride with an ornate hand fan as a wedding gift.