Imagine planning your wedding without the internet, without your smart phone, or without Pinterest! Goodness, imagine if you didn’t even have a ball point pen to quickly jot down ideas in a notebook! Rewind a hundred years and you’d be planning a wedding without technology and the advancements we are lucky to have nowadays.
However the 1910s did see the invention of some amazing things that we now take for granted like the bras that we wear and anything with a zip. Thanks to the inventions of that decade we don’t have to be without electricity in our homes, telephones, fridges, vacuum cleaners, plasters, stainless steel, tea bags, instant coffee, pyrex and pop up toasters. Transport wise the 1910s saw amazing firsts for flying machines and motor cars becoming more widespread. Plus for entertainment the first crossword puzzle came about in the 1910s as well as hand cranked movie cameras, neon lighting and fortune cookies.
I’ve recently been thinking about this era as my mother has been researching our family history and came across an amazing photograph of my grandfather’s parent’s wedding from 1911. We were amazed at the grandeur of their wedding considering that they both worked in service and so wouldn’t have been able to afford such a grand wedding.
Think Downtown Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs. My ancestors would have definitely been the ‘downstairs’! The 1911 census said that one out of every seven employed persons was a domestic servant. Yet despite their position, their wedding was quite a lavish affair. My Grandad often said he thought that the ‘upstairs’ helped with the wedding and also that the chief bridesmaid’s employer helped too.
Their wedding certificate said that they lived in Scott Ellis Gardens. This was a stone’s throw away from St John’s Wood in London, home of Lord’s Cricket Ground and near the famous Abbey Road studio. Scott Ellis Gardens was built on land owned by Lord Howard de Walden.
Their wedding took place on 5th June 1911 at St Mark’s Church, Hamilton Terrace, NW8. It was on a Monday, which according to the traditional rhyme was said to mean the bride would be healthy (watch out for more on wedding traditions and superstitions in future blog posts) and the bride was driven there by coach and pair (a coach drawn by a pair of horses). What struck me about the date is that it is almost exactly 100 years before my own wedding on 5th August of 2011.
1911 was a time before any world wars, when there was no NHS, no vote for women and you could’ve gone out to work at 13 years old. It saw the launch of the ocean liner RMS Titanic in Belfast (which we know didn’t enjoy the happiest of voyages), there was a big heatwave, as well as the Coronation of George V in June.
My Great Grandad, Albert Edward Wagstaff was 20 at the time of his wedding and worked as a woollen warehouseman at a large firm called Holland and Sherry in London. He married my Great Nan, Sophie Elizabeth Piggott who was 22. They were at least a decade younger than the age I was when I walked down the aisle, although they were relatively old to marry in those days.
How different my dress looked compared to my Great Nan’s. Hers was a long sleeved, high necked and flowing gown versus my strapless, sleeveless, tight fitting dress. Her bridesmaids wore flowers on broad brimmed hats and wore their own Sunday best outfits, versus my bridesmaids with sophisticated chignons and custom made dresses for the day. My Great Nan had a floral crown, which wasn’t a trend when I got married 4 years ago, but is already having a revival now. One thing that I was keen to mirror was to have a big bouquet which my Nan in the 1940s also had on her big day.
The men were wearing their best suits (which didn’t match with each other) and we can see that the tradition of buttonholes hasn’t altered much in 100 years. However my Great Grandad does look particularly dapper. He handled very good quality materials at work (mostly in suitings for gentlemen and ladies costumes) and was often able to buy remnants. So he always had very good suits made for himself and beautiful costumes for his wife. Perhaps this is why they look so smart on their wedding day.
I love looking at how weddings have changed over the years and also how some traditions have continued to be upheld. (Take a look at our Wedding time capsule post for details of other trends.) Despite the technology and tools we have nowadays, our wedding photos don’t look too dissimilar to those of a hundred years ago and weddings remain constant events in our society with many common and recurring features. Maybe things haven’t changed too much in the last 100 years after all.
Back row (left to right): William (Albert’s older brother), the groom Albert Edward, William (Albert’s father), 2 ladies unknown, Frank (Albert’s youngest brother who went missing in the war)
Middle row: Avis (Albert’s sister), Jinny (Albert’s sister), the bride Sophie Elizabeth, Ruth (best friend and chief bridesmaid who was a cook at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton), Avis (Albert’s mother who my own Grandad was terrified of her and called the Countess!)
Front row: children unknown
This post is dedicated to my Grandfather who sadly passed away this month aged nearly 92. He was an inspirational man and played an important and influential part of my life. He was kind, generous, wise, fun loving and always thinking of others.
Over the years, Grandad’s moving speeches (and bright orange shirts) were always so poignant and he would always end a speech by saying how proud we had made him. On this occasion, I feel I’m allowed to say that Grandad did us proud.
The summer is a really special time of the year for me. Not only is it the height of the wedding season but it is also when I celebrate my own wedding anniversary with my lovely husband. We had such a beautiful wedding day spent with all our friends and family and we love to look back on the day with great fondness.
Celebrating your wedding day (and more importantly the passing commitment of your marriage) is often celebrated with a specific gift based on the number of years you have been married. This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages and the gifts relate to bringing luck to the couple. The gifts increase in value to reflect the time that the couple have invested in their marriage and each other.
To mark our anniversary my 87 year old Nan (despite being self-titled Mad Nan) always gets it right with our anniversary gift. She still relies on her trusting diary and with the aid of the lists at the back can easily identify which gift corresponds to which anniversary. This year she bought us a beautiful pot plant, last year was leather bookmarks, before that was a sewing kit with cotton reels in it and she gave us books the first year.
I’m truly lucky to have seen both sets of my grandparents reach their diamond wedding anniversary (60th). A feat that will be harder for our generation to achieve so readily. Until their passing, it was a joy to see my grandparents walking down the promenade holding hands, or squeezing each other’s knees and still so much in love. On my wedding day, my grandfather (he’s now nearly 92) gave me away and his advice to a long and loving marriage was good communication. He said to keep talking about everything and never to go to bed on an argument.
I remember going to many silver and ruby family anniversaries as a child and thinking that it was such a long amount of time to have spent doing anything. They were always amazing occasions and sometimes the only time we saw some of our distant relatives. One set of my grandparents always had big wedding anniversary parties. I went to their 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th parties and it was so special to celebrate with them and see how much everyone had changed every 10 years. When my grandparents had their 50th anniversary we put together a big food hamper and had great fun collecting together any food and other products with gold in the title (Gold Blend, All Gold, Golden Syrup, Golden Wonder, St Ivel Gold, Golden Grahams etc. You’ll be looking now next time you’re in the supermarket!)
Lots of couples nowadays are choosing to renew their vows more often and have another wedding celebration, as well as having anniversary parties to mark milestone years.
Meanwhile, some other popular trends include buying your new spouse an 0th anniversary present which is a gift to celebrate your wedding day such as cuff links, jewellery or a photo album.
Another way to celebrate long marriages might be with an anniversary dance at a wedding instead of throwing the bouquet. This is when you ask couples to all enjoy a dance together on the dance floor. One by one, the couples are asked to sit down during the song based on the length of their time together. The last couple on the dance floor will be the longest-married couple and they receive the bouquet. What a wonderful way to celebrate their togetherness!
If you don’t have a paper diary with those handy reference pages then you might want to take a look below at our compiled list of both traditional and modern themes. Some of the gifts in the traditional column have options depending on which side of the pond you want to take inspiration from! There are also lists in my Mad Nan’s diary for which flowers to give as gifts depending on the wedding anniversary year, as well gemstone gifts per year. What a font of knowledge my Nan ends up being!
||Crystal / Glass
||Fruit / Flowers OR
Linen / Silk
||Iron / Sweets
||Copper / Wool
||Salt / Bronze
||Willow / Pottery
||Aluminium / Tin
||Silk / Linen
Whether you’re celebrating your 0th anniversary, 25th, 30th, 40th or planning to make a new anniversary then we wish you a very happy one.
Friday 31st July, 2015 saw the rare occurrence of a blue moon. So named due to the frequency of the event rather than the colour of the moon. It happens every few years when there are two full moons in the same calendar month. The next one won’t be until 2018, so it really only happens ‘once in a blue moon’.
It’s interesting how the word ‘moon’ features in many common sayings and phrases. For example,’ once in a blue moon’ refers to something extremely rare.
Other ‘moon’ based idioms can mean striving for the best, longing for something, pining for something, extravagant promises, being extremely happy or can relate to the length of a lunar cycle (around a calendar month).
One common term based on a lunar month is ‘honeymoon’ (a word used a lot in conjunction with our favourite topic of weddings!) This word is said to come from the 5th century when a man would have captured his bride. The couple would hide for a full cycle of the moon after the wedding. During this month the newlywed couple drank mead (or honey wine) which is believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Nowadays, a honeymoon is the holiday that newlyweds choose to take after the wedding to celebrate their marriage and spend time alone together (and recover from the wedding!) Traditionally the honeymoon was organised and paid for by the groom.
Honeymoon destinations vary wildly from exotic or far flung places to romantic or sentimental locations. The world really is your oyster! If you’re going abroad, don’t forget to consider whether you’ll be travelling in your maiden name or married name (if you choose to change it). Whichever you decide, make sure your passport and tickets have the same name on them. See our checklist of other documents and organisations to tell about your change of name too.
So whether you’re planning your honeymoon now or you went ‘many moons ago’, we’re sure you’ll be ‘over the moon’ as your partner ‘promised you the moon’. Don’t ‘moon over’ the places you haven’t visited yet, instead make sure you ‘shoot for the moon’ and ensure your holidays away together are not just ‘once in a blue moon’.
And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked the moon had turned to gold
Now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart 1934
There are many traditions, rituals and customs that people uphold and perform in connection with weddings. Some of these have now lost their relevance in modern society and sometimes we are not even sure why we undertake them. However we continue to perform them for fun, family tradition and superstition, especially as many of them have derived from efforts to bestow the happy couple with good luck.
One such tradition stems from an old English rhyme concerning items that the bride should wear or carry to bring her luck on her special day.
and a silver sixpence in her shoe.
The full version of the rhyme includes the line about a silver sixpence which sadly sometimes gets forgotten. The rhyme is said to originate in Victorian times although some of the traditions are thought to be much older.
This represents the link with the bride’s family and friends from the past. The object is commonly an heirloom such as jewellery or a garter and is passed on to offer good luck from a happily married woman.
This item symbolises a happy and prosperous new life. Often this item is the wedding dress.
This lent item is to remind the bride that her friends and family will be there for her whenever she needs their help. The borrowed object must be returned to ensure good luck.
This item symbolises faithfulness and loyalty. The colour blue often represented purity in olden times. Sometimes the bride’s garter is the blue item or you could add a pop of colour to your outfit in the form of blue shoes or blue nail varnish. This item usually leads to great levels of creativity!
And a silver sixpence in her shoe:
Then comes the last line that is so often missed out. This part of the rhyme is about placing a silver sixpence in the bride’s left shoe to ensure the couple have wealth in the future (both financial and happiness). It is thought that this tradition came about in Elizabethan times when the Lord of the Manor would have often given a sixpence as a wedding gift to any brides that lived on his land. It also harks back to times when the bride’s parents would offer a dowry.
Whichever customs and traditions you decide to incorporate into your big day, we wish you health, wealth, happiness and all the very best in your married life.
One of my friends recently inherited something really precious. I think it’s more valuable than jewels or antique furniture. This heirloom is a time capsule. A priceless glimpse throughout the ages. A lovely family photo album that belonged to her father’s godmother.
The album covers weddings, christenings, graduations and some pictures of trips to visit friends and family. It charts these special occasions from the 1940s up to the 1990s and she arranged the pages so there is a wedding photo of a couple, and then a picture of the same couple at their child’s christening, graduation and often their children’s weddings too. It was clearly something that she treasured to keep all that time and to keep updating.
Whilst I don’t know any of the people in the album (apart from my friend), you can clearly see a family resemblance between the people on each page. More strikingly is how much each wedding photo is a time capsule for dresses (material, styles, length and colours) along with bouquets, veils and hair styles. They are an exaggerated example of fashion trends of their day and epitomise moments in time. We find that some decades have common trends such as:
1920s – Flapper style low waist, straight, flowing, lace dresses showing a bit of ankle. Bob hair cuts with hair accessories and head pieces.
1930s – Slim-hipped, long, simple, column dresses made from beaded, luxe fabrics, often with lavish embellishments.
1940s – War time shortages led to non-rationed net curtain or parachute silk, full skirted dresses. Or nice skirt suits. Big bouquets and wedding bands for absent husbands.
1950s – Rising hemlines and shorter veils meant shoes were more important. Sweetheart necklines, under lace, full skirted, small waisted, tea length dresses worn with gloves.
1960s – High waisted, empire line or A line mini dresses plus pill box hats with veils.
1970s – Hippy style, long sleeved, high necked, longer length dresses. Or trouser suits with big floppy hats.
1980s – Fairy tale, voluminous, princess gowns with puff sleeves and long trains worn with floral crowns.
1990s – Corseted off the shoulder dresses with full skirts vs bias cut, sheath dresses.
2000s – Strapless, sleeveless dresses.
2010s – Figure hugging, illusion backed, mermaid style dresses vs Hollywood split or pick up skirts.
We’ve captured some of these characteristics of wedding attire for each decade on our wedding time capsule Pinterest board. Plus there’s currently an exhibition running (until 15 March 2015) at the V&A in London that’s well worth a visit. It’s called Wedding Dresses 1175-2014 and looks at 300 years of bridal fashions.
What’s interesting is that trends tend to come back around again. And this decade seems to be about picking what style you want from the past and merging things together to bring your own dream to life. I, for one, really wanted a big bouquet just like my late grandmother had at her wedding in 1948. Plus a long train and long veil like a 1980s princess but strapless, figure hugging with a pick up style skirt as is common in this millennium.
It is strange looking back at some pictures from the recent past as the ones from the 1980s and 90s seem dated, whilst ones from the 1940s or 50s look relatively tasteful by comparison and more unaligned with current styles. Are some eras too recent for us to be able to appreciate for inspiration yet? Or is it that black and white photos are kinder? In any case our children will no doubt look back at our wedding photos and laugh at the fashions of the day. One thing that really struck my friend was the poignancy of the wedding photos from during or just after the war in the photo album. We can not imagine what it must have been like to live through a world war as a young couple, separated from each other.
There’s certainly something special and different about having photos from all the weddings and special occasions you’ve ever been to in your life together in one album. Nowadays digital photography often means that we don’t even print out any photos. Considering that for many, big occasions (like weddings and christenings) are the only times when people see their extended family. So it seems fitting that these momentous occasions are captured in time to pass to others as a wonderful time capsule.
Timeless. Captured. Memories.