“The bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door.” -Pride and Prejudice
The list of characters who get married in Austen’s novels is long: Mr. Willoughby and Miss Grey, Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon, Eleanor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars, and Lucy Steele and Robert Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility; Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas, Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham, Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice; Mr. Rushworth and Maria Bertram and Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price in Mansfield Park; Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston, Mr. Elton and Augusta Hawkins, Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, and Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley in Emma; Eleanor Tilney and her aristocratic lover and Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey; and Louisa Musgrove and Captain Benwick, Henrietta Musgrove and Mr. Hayter, and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. Not only is this a lot of people, it’s also an equal number of women and men–an equal number of brides and bridegrooms, if you will.
But in Austen’s six novels there are nineteen instances of bride, not counting the reference to Byron’s “Bride of Abydos” in Persuasion, and there are only two instances of bridegroom. Granted, thirteen of the occurrences of bride are in reference to one particular (and particularly annoying) bride, Mrs. Elton in Emma; but the word is also used three times to refer to Maria Bertram and once apiece for Charlotte Lucas, Lydia Bennet, and Miss Taylor. The only bridegrooms named as such are Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Rushworth in Mansfield Park.
So two and a half times as many as many brides as bridegrooms appear in Austen’s novels, and they’re mentioned many more times–almost four times apiece on average, compared to the single mentions of Mr. Collins and Mr. Rushworth as bridegrooms–evidence, perhaps, of the fact that in the world Austen depicts, notwithstanding the iconic and ironic opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice, marriage is much more crucial to the security of her female characters than to her male characters.
One further note: Neither Mr. Collins nor Mr. Rushworth is a sensible or sympathetic character, and much the same could be said of Mrs. Elton, Lydia Bennet, and Maria Bertram. Perhaps Austen, with her keenly satiric eye, saw the ridiculous in matrimony and particularly in British wedding customs, and thus avoided using the words bride and bridegroom except for ridiculous characters. Or is the discrepancy due to the fact that the main characters–i.e., those who aren’t comic/satiric objects–get married only at the end of the novels? In the final chapter, when the plot is being wrapped up, Austen tends to present events in summary rather than in detail. She doesn’t actually describe the protagonists’ weddings and post-wedding social visits, so she doesn’t have much opportunity to deploy the words bride and bridegroom at that point.