A Very Pretty Wedding: Turn of the Century Wedding Customs, 1897-1903

wedding customs

“Secret Ceremony” Anakin & Padme
had a very pretty wedding…

Have you ever noticed how frequently the phrase “a very pretty wedding” turns up in nuptials coverage in historical newspapers? It made a handy search term for rounding up these pretty wedding write-ups! Since the summer wedding season is in full swing, I’ve highlighted a few historic wedding customs and ceremony trappings. It’s fun to see the similarities and differences between then and now! (All write-ups below are transcriptions of images housed at Ancestry.com.) 

October 7, 1897, Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey)

Hammond-Drake. A Very Pretty Wedding Will Take Place This Evening.
At six o’clock this evening, at the Central Methodist church, a very pretty wedding will occur. Miss Georgia Lanning Hammond, daughter of James H Hammond, will be married to Fred V. Drake, both of this city. Rev. N. J. Wright will perform the ceremony. The bride will be escorted to the altar by her father, followed by two flower girls, Miss Edna Wilkes and Miss Fannie Spencer, both attired in pink silk, one carrying flowers, the other the ring on a silver tray.
The bride will be arrayed in cream silk lansdowne, trimmed with lace and satin ribbon, and will carry a bouquet of white roses.
The best man will be Mr. Frank Stevenson. The ushers are Mr. Joseph Garabrandt and Mr. Williard M. Hammond. The church and house decorations are furnished by the Trenton Floral Company. A reception will follow the ceremony at the bride’s new home, 349 Perry street, where about sixty guests will be present. Mr. and Mrs. Fred V Drake will take a short wedding trip and on their return will reside in Trenton.
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September 9, 1898, Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

Green-Stoddard
A very pretty wedding ceremony was performed at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Conner, 60 Main street, at noon today, where Fred Odlin Green, the popular young clerk of the Exeter Drug company, and Miss Georgia Rebecca Stoddard of Portsmouth, were united in matrimony by the Rev. A. P. Bourne, assistant pastor of Phillips church.
The bridal couple stood beneath a canopy of green, from the centre of which was suspended a large floral bell. Miss Edith Green acted as maid of honor, while Charles E. Prescott of Arlington, Mass., attended the groom. The ushers were Everett T Lawrence and Miss Mary Elliott of Exeter and Miss Florence Hersey and Harry Bowles of Portsmouth. The bride was handsomely attired in a gown of white silk with corded trimmings and wore a veil caught with orange blossoms. She carried a bouquet of bride’s roses. Miss Green was gowned in white Swiss muslin with satin edged ruchings and satin stock and ceinture and carried pink carnations. A wedding reception was held from 12.30 to 2, during which the pianist furnished music, and in the dining room, where Mrs. E. V. Tracy, sister of the bride, presided, dainty refreshments were served.
The happy couple departed on the 2.36 train for an extended tour of the Maine coast. They will be at home after Oct. 1 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Conner. (illegible) Correspondent Union.
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October 23, 1903, Coshocton Daily Age (Coshocton, Ohio)

Pretty Wedding at West Lafayette (Special Correspondence.)
West Lafayette. Oct. 23– A very pretty wedding took place at [the] home of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Russell Thursday afternoon  when their youngest daughter Elsie Pearl and William Enos Reed were united in the holy bonds of matrimony. The house was beautifully decorated with ferns and cut flowers. Promptly at 3 o’clock the opening strains of the wedding march played by Miss Grace McManiman. The groom and his bride in her beautiful gown of white appeared unattended and were joined in holy wedlock by Rev. G. E. Rainesberger, assisted by Rev. W. L. Wells. The impressive ring ceremony was used.
Immediately after the ceremony an elegant wedding dinner was served. Mr. and Mrs. Reed left for a wedding trip they were accompanied as far as Coshocton by Mr. H. T. Hogue and Miss Anna Russel (sic). From there they go to Cleveland and Niagara Falls for a few days and then to Ada where Mr. Reed has employment in a drug store. They received many beautiful and useful presents. Among those who were present at the wedding were Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Russell, Miss Anna Russell, H. F. Russell, Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Reed, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Slaughter, Mr. and Mrs. R(?) J. Powell and two sons Russell and Eugene, Mrs. Ida McIntire, Misses Nell Platt, Anna Rogers, Leila Pritchard, Georgiana Familton and Fanny McGuire, Messrs. Robert McClure and Roe Burt from this village, Mrs. Allen McCoy from near Roscoe, Mr. and Mrs. H. T. Hogue of Scio, were the out of town guests.
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December 25, 1903, Bedford Gazette (Bedford, Pennsylvania)

Wedding Bells. Their Merry Peals Mingle With Christmas Chimes.
Mann’s Choice, December 24.– A very pretty wedding was solemnized in Grace Reformed church yesterday evening. The beautiful ring service of the church was used, Rev. W. H. Landis officiating. The contracting parties were Miss Margaret N. Faupel, one of our most estimable young ladies, and D. Henry Weisel, one of Meyersdale’s business men. At seven o’clock the bridal party entered the church and proceeded up the aisle to the strains of Mendelssohn’s wedding march played by Miss Laura Gernand. The bride was attired in Persian lawn, with lace trimmings. She wore a veil and carried bride’s roses. The ushers were W. F. Faupel, cousin of the bride, Howard Kinton, Asa Sams and Ross Mortimore. The church was beautifully and elaborately decorated with holiday evergreens, potted plants and cut flowers and the church colors.After the ceremony the bride and groom were driven to the depot, where, amid showers of rice and hearty congratulations, they left for Pitssburg, Greensburg, Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale and Braddock and to visit relatives in the western part of the state. The bride was the recipient of some pretty and useful gifts. Mr. and Mrs. Weisel will make their home in Meyersdale, where Mr. Weisel is engaged in manufacturing harness and saddlery supplies. We wish them prosperity and joy.
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Not to mention…

Happy 109th anniversary to my 3rd great-grandparents Pearl Snyder and Henry Ward Clemons, who married July 1, 1904 at Saint Marys, Pa!

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Let’s Talk Weddings

I’ll be honest, for me the biggest surprise was that the modern wedding customs I know and love were in practice at the turn of the century, so I’m asking you to share unusual and interesting historic wedding celebrations you’ve heard of, or a special feature from your own wedding. Me? Hubby and I used “Secret Ceremony” Anakin Skywalker and Senator Padme Amidala action figures as our cake topper … Your turn!

2 Replies to “A Very Pretty Wedding: Turn of the Century Wedding Customs, 1897-1903”

  1. Loved your picture of a “historic” wedding cake topper! What I’m struck by in reading the descriptions is how influential Queen Victoria’s wedding was (white silk and orange blossoms). It was probably a luxury to get married in a special white dress that couldn’t be reused afterwards. I seem to recall that in the “Little House” books, Laura got married in one of her best (non-white) dresses?

    1. Hehe, I’ll take any excuse to trot that picture out! And you’re right, I didn’t think the influence of Queen Victoria’s wedding at all. I never read the Little House books, but your comment reminded me of this little rhyme:

      “Married in gray, you’ll go far away,
      Married in black, you’ll wish yourself back,
      Married in brown, you’ll live out of town,
      Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead,
      Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl,
      Married in green, ashamed to be seen,
      Married in yellow, jealous of your fellow,
      Married in blue, he’ll always be true,
      Married in pink, your spirits will sink,
      Married in white, everything’s right.”

      Of course, I found enough versions with a quick Google search to lead me to suspect that women wore what they wanted and made up a rhyme to suit. 🙂 One interesting note–one of my great-grandmas wore a brown wedding dress in 1926, and she and her husband moved across the country right afterwards. I wonder if she picked a brown dress to match her plans to move “out of town!”

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