Posts Tagged ‘weddings’

For those of you who know me, you already know that I love weddings. Pretty dresses, free food and booze, and dancing? Yes please! Does this mean that I want to get married now? No! I can’t even buy groceries. Nor do I know what I want to do with my life, but I do enjoy stalking my classmate’s weddings. What can I say; I think I should have been a party planner. I love hearing about the engagement stories, seeing the beautiful dresses, and seeing the party take shape—will it be quirky? Rustic? Elegant? I will also admit, I enjoy hearing all these details and thinking what I would do differently. How I would make it better. 

While I love the dresses, and obviously I love the atmosphere, and when I get married I want to have a nice party, I have to wonder: when did weddings become such a big industry?  Royalty, of course, and to some extent the wealthy, always had big and expensive weddings, but the rise in mega-weddings for the average person fascinates me—especially when it’s a peer.

This past weekend, I went to the wedding of an old high school friend. A and I were close all through high school, carpooling to school and swim practice everyday once we got our driver’s licenses, and we often hung out on the weekends, but somewhere along the way, we fell apart. I didn’t expect an invite, nor did I get one, but this didn’t stop me from following her engagement and wedding planning. Facebook helped, but so did having friends in the bridal party. When a mutual friend of ours invited me to the wedding as his date, I leapt at the chance. Not only was I excited about this particular wedding, but also it was the first wedding of a friend. Granted, I attended the wedding of college acquaintances, but that was really because I was “dating” the groom’s roommate.

The fact that so many of my peers are getting married fascinates me, and I started thinking about the history of weddings. After doing some reading, I found some interesting factoids about staples of the modern wedding.  Many of the items we deem traditional, actually spring from the Victorian times.  It seems like a long time ago to us, but in the grand scheme of things, these “traditions” are infants.

Victoria and Albert on their wedding day.

Let’s begin with the white wedding dress.  In the Victorian woman was seen as pure, innocent and angelic—represented by the virginal color white.  Because of these ideals, white was already a popular color for women’s clothing. White was also chosen by Queen Victoria as the color of her wedding dress when she married Prince Albert. Previously, women wore their best dress, no matter what the color and often these dresses were a darker color, as they were more practical.  An example of earlier wedding gown is found here. However, the rise of the middle class during the Victorian Era allowed women to imitate the wealthy, who were imitating the Queen and eventually white became the standard color for all brides. Regency gowns were also often a white or cream color, but lighter colors were popular for all formal gowns, especially amongst the wealthy.

Wedding rings, on the other hand, have been around much longer than the white wedding gown.  In Roman times, and other past eras, men were the dominant figure in the relationship and the ring served as a branding of sorts.  A woman with a ring on her finger was obviously taken.  Some cultures in the Middle East even created complex puzzle rings that fell apart if taken off or attempted.  In this way the husband could identify unfaithfulness or attempted infidelity.

Rings for the woman, no matter what the material is a common theme amongst cultures.  The advent of wedding bands for the husband is a newer tradition.  During World War II men began wearing wedding rings to remind themselves of their wives and families back home.  From the 1940s the majority of men wear wedding rings as a sign of their unity. It wasn’t until I started this blog post that I realized that my dad does not wear a wedding ring. Since my parents are older, I wondered if my father’s lack of ring stems from my parent’s wedding era, or my dad’s line of work. Turns out (and if I had thought of this, it’d be obvious), metal on the fingers is not a good thing in my dad’s line of work–electrician.

1940s war-time wedding

While I think that my friend A’s wedding is traditional in many ways—a real preacher presided, the bride and groom gave traditional vows, prayer and hymns played a large role in the ceremony, the bride wore white etc.—it was also untraditional. The wedding party took pictures before the wedding, so obviously the groom saw the bride before she walked down the aisle, the father and the mother walked the bride down the aisle, and there was no bouquet toss or garter toss. Most importantly, in her traditional vows, A and her groom chose a set of pre-prescribed vows that did not include the phrase “obey,” for which I will always respect her. It reminds me of These Happy Golden Years when Laura Ingalls refused to tell Almonzo that she would obey him.

While A and I aren’t as close anymore, I wish her all the best. And I have to admit, I am a little jealous of her and my other married or engaged high school peers. Do I want marriage right now? No, I’m way too selfish, but I like the idea. I guess I’m a little lonely for the kind of companionship that my girlfriends can’t provide. Someone to tell a huge group of people, “no disrespect for all the beautiful people in the room, but I can honestly say that I am the luckiest guy in the world, and with the most beautiful woman.”

If you’d like to read more about the history of weddings check out:




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It is the middle of June, historically the most popular month for weddings. Named for the Roman goddess, Juno, the month of June is a month associated with the Queen of the Gods, goddess of marriage. Therefore, it was a time when people believed their unions would be blessed by the goddess of the institution into which they entered. Throughout the centuries, the month continued to be popular for its fine weather, Spring and Summer flowers in bloom, outdoor spaces available in the dry and warm weather, and appropriate timing for guest attendance (schools being out of session, vacation time being used often at work, etcetera).

So, in honor of the month of L-O-V-E, (who needs February anyway!) I want to share with you two incredible stories about wedding dresses that are both romantic and patriotic.

While looking at tweets on Twitter a few days ago, I was intrigued by two Smithsonian links to items in the National Museum of American History. Both stories touched my romantic little heart and were fascinating, so, I had to share. The stories on the Museum’s blog and newsroom feature wedding dresses made out of parachutes. Yes, parachutes.

Rosalie Hierholzer Parachute Wedding Dress

Rosalie Hierholzer Parachute Wedding Dress, 1940's. Smithsonian National Museum of American History

First, let me set the scene, because no designer in their right mind nowadays would think about recycling a military-issue safety device for that one-of-a-kind special day creation. It was during the height of World War II. Everything was rationed, from sugar to meat, and certain materials like rubber and nylon were scarce because they were needed for more important products being produced to send to our servicemen overseas.

Silk and nylon, materials used to make stockings and fine fabrics, were used to make parachutes for soldiers in the Air Force, among other things. Silk was also an import from Japan and China, areas unavailable for trade at the time, for obvious reasons. Therefore, both of those items were scarce on the home front. It was not uncommon for military issued items made of these materials to be recycled as undergarments, hosiery, and wedding gowns. Therefore, when both Rosalie Hierholzer and Ruth Hensinger were offered their fiancé’s parachutes as material for their wedding gowns, both said yes, and the rest is history.

There is a bit more to both women’s stories, however, including details that make this factoid about rationing and home front shortages more human and real.

Rosalie Hierholzer met her husband in the summer of 1945 in Texas. Temple Leslie Bourland was a radio operator for the 77th TC Squadron of the 435th Troop Carrier Group stationed in England and France. While flying over Germany, his plane was hit, and Bourland, along with his fellow crew members, jumped to safety. While floating down over the Rhine, Bourland’s parachute and his hip were shot. While recovering and regrouping, Bourland and a friend used the parachute as a blanket until they were rescued in time for this war hero to participate in D-Day. During Bourland and Rosalie’s courtship, Bourland showed his fiancé his war mementos, including the parachute that saved his life, and Rosalie’s aunt offered to make her niece’s wedding gown using the silk fabric, bullet holes and all. Fortunately, there was enough fabric left for Rosalie’s aunt to cut around the holes in the dress.

Like Rosalie’s gown, wedding dresses from this period were often designed and made by someone close to the bride or her family. Traditionally, wedding gowns were passed down by families and reused after refurbishment until the first few decades of the twentieth century, when the wedding gown became a unique, personalized dress, worn once on the bride’s special day. During World War II though, women had to improvise in order to be able to make their own one-of-a-kind creation.

Ruth Hensinger Parachute Wedding Dress

Ruth Hensinger Parachute Wedding Dress, 1947. Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Ruth Hensinger, in a similar twist of fate, had a parachute to thank for providing her with not only a fiancé, but with fabric for her own fashionable gown. Her husband, Major Claude Hensinger, a B-29 Pilot, was forced out of his plane with his crew by an engine fire while flying back from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan. Like Bourland, Hensinger used his parachute as a pillow and blanket while waiting to be rescued by Allied Forces. When he and Ruth became engaged in 1947, Hensinger offered up his parachute fabric for his bride to use. Ruth, seeing a wedding gown based on a dress worn by Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, decided to design her dress to echo the aesthetics of the costume in that movie. In retrospect, I find this fact quite funny, especially if you’ve ever seen the Carol Burnett Show.* Forget the curtains, Ruth’s got a parachute!

Both dresses (actually all three, if you include Carol Burnett’s curtain dress) can be found in the Smithsonian collection. They are a reminder of what weddings are all about: love. Without the fabric that these brides wore to the alter, their husbands wouldn’t even be there. Reusing the parachutes for material worn to the celebration of each couple’s love is not just economical and patriotic, but extraordinarily romantic and symbolic. While both dresses are beautiful, well-crafted, and the brides looked gorgeous on their wedding day, we should take something away from these women in an age of million dollar wedding circuses. Yes, the dress is usually the focal point of the day, but it isn’t all about what you wear.

* Make sure you watch part 2 after the first video. It’s the best part!

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