Beauty and the Beast – “A Tale as Old as Time”


Since the Disney live-action version of Beauty and the Beast movie is set for a March 17, 2017 release date, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss the classic fairytale.  European fairytales, such as Beauty and the Beast, were often verbal stories passed down from one generation to the next.  Later the stories were written into short stories or books and the narration featured fanciful characters, sometimes with magical powers, with some sort of moral lesson to learn.  In this post, I will discuss the origin of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, the various versions both in print and cinematic form.  Then, I will the end the post with a section offering wedding ideas inspired by the classic fairytale.  

In 1740, the first published version released was a French story, La Belle et la Bete, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuv, it was a rather lengthy version of the fairytale.  Then in 1756, a writer by the name of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont rewrote the story into a shorter version and it was published in Magasin des enfants.  Although there have been various interpretations of the Beauty and the Beast story throughout the years, the Leprince de Beaumont version is the one that has most often been retold. 

Magasin des enfants

In the Leprince de Beaumont version, the story centers on a widowed merchant, he is the father of six children.  His youngest daughter, named Beauty, is beautiful, kind and gentle, an avid book reader but her siblings are jealous of her and treat her very poorly.  Unfortunately the father loses his fortune and the family is forced to move to a smaller home and live a much more modest life.  Before the father leaves on an extended trip at sea in which he will be away for several months, he asks his children what they would like him to bring back from his voyage.  The children selfishly ask for rather expensive gifts but Beauty asks only for a simple rose.

When the father returns from the sea, he starts his journey home traveling across the countryside but during an unexpected storm he becomes lost in the forest.  Trying to seek shelter from the bad weather, he comes upon a magnificent castle.  Mysteriously the doors open into the seemingly unoccupied castle and in the dining room a bountiful feast is laid out on the table and  the father gladly sits down to eat.  After hungrily devouring the delicious meal, the father falls asleep.

The next morning, the father awakes and he starts to explore the castle.  In the garden he finds a beautiful rose garden.  He takes one of the roses and in an instant a hideous Beast confronts him and in a fit of anger he takes the father prisoner for taking his personal property after enjoying his hospitality.  The father begs the Beast for mercy and explains that he only picked the rose to give to his daughter.  The Beast agrees to release the father to return home and give Beauty the rose but on the condition that the daughter exchange places with the father as his prisoner.

The father arrives back home, although he tries to keep the problem from Beauty, but ultimately because she feels responsible for the situation.  She agrees to return to the Beast’s castle.  During her stay the Beast takes good care of Beauty, he serves her lavish meals and has long conversations with her and after a period of time she begins to let her guard down.  But even with all the luxuries she has received from the Beast she misses her father and pleads to go back home to see her family one more time.  The Beast finally agrees but on the condition that she returns to the castle afterwards.  Before leaving the Beast gives her an enchanted mirror which allows her to see what is going on at the castle and a magical ring that when turned three times on her finger it will to return to the castle in the blink of an eye. 

While home, Beauty’s siblings beg her to stay and she is torn between remaining home and breaking her promise to the Beast or returning to the castle because she misses the Beast and realizes that she has fallen in love with him.  To solve her dilemma she uses the mirror to see the Beast and finds that he is desperately heartbroken and has fallen ill so she uses the ring to immediately return to the castle.  As Beauty weeps at his bedside, her tears fallen onto the Beast who is transformed into a handsome prince.  Regaining consciousness, he explains to Beauty that a long time ago a women visited the castle and when she was denied entry she turned him into a hideous beast and the curse could only be broken by finding true love.  At the conclusion of the story, Beauty marries him and “they lived happily ever after”.

Throughout the years the story of Beauty and the Beast has been told in various versions such as books, movies and even a Broadway show.  Perhaps the most popular version has been the 1991 Disney animated film with the voices of Paige O’Hara as Belle and Robby Benson as the Beast.  Besides the Beauty and the Beast there are several other characters; such as Belle’s father Maurice (Rex Everhart), Gaston (Richard White), Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) and Chip (Bradley Pierce). 

The popularity of the Beauty and the Beast feature film lead Disney to adapt the story into a Broadway musical in 1994.  The production initially received mixed reviews but proved to be as successful as the movie and the show ran on Broadway until 2007 and grossed more than $1.4 billons worldwide sales with various productions in thirteen countries.

Most recently, in 2017 Disney will release the highly anticipated live action “Beauty and the Beast” movie starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast.  The notable cast also includes Kevin Kline (Belle’s father Maurice), Luke Evans (Gaston), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), and Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts). 

Wedding ideas inspired by the Beauty and the Beast fairytale

The following is a list of wedding ideas and suggestions inspired by the Beauty and the Beast fairytale:

Invitations – Consider wedding invitations printed in a beautiful font, perhaps edged in deep blue and embellished with a lovely gold satin ribbon.

Wedding ceremony and reception site – Since the Disney version has a storyline involving Belle’s love of books, might I suggest a beautiful library as the venue for the ceremony or reception.  Another idea suggestion is based on one of the most memorable scenes in the animated film and it is when the Beauty and the Beast dance and a hotel ballroom that features large crystal or golden chandeliers would be the perfect venue for a wedding reception.  Maybe for the bridal couple’s first dance they can waltz to the song from the movie.  

Bridal gown and accessories – In the Beauty and the Beast animated film, Belle wears a classic golden yellow ball gown in the dance scene maybe consider a similar style in a traditional bridal white or ivory.  Instead of the blue suit that the Beast wears in the movie consider a classic black tuxedo with tails for the groom.     

Wedding flowers – One of the most iconic symbols in the Disney Beauty and the Beast animated film is the red rose under glass.  A bridal bouquet of red roses would look beautiful against a white wedding dress and a matching red rose boutonniere for the groom. 

Reception decorations – At the welcome table there can be a display incorporating elements from the Disney animated film; such as a few stack of books arranged at various heights displayed with several antique clocks (Cogsworth) and silver or porcelain teapots (Mrs. Potts).  In keeping with the idea of red roses, consider large gold candelabra (Lumiere) with roses cascading down.  For the place setting consider gold charger plates used under the dinner plate and gold utensils instead of the normal silverware.     

reception guest table idea – dark blue tablecloth and cascading rose centerpiece

reception place setting idea – gold plate chargers and dark blue napkin

Cake decorations – Carrying over the idea of the red roses, consider an arrangement of cascading fondant roses.  Maybe consider adding a porcelain cake topper of Beauty and the Beast. 

white wedding cake with cascading red fondant roses

Beauty and the Beast cake topper

These are just a few simple ideas but I would suggest taking the time to research the internet and there are endless ideas for a Beauty and the Beast inspired wedding.