family wedding photo outside with bridesmaids in different coloured skirts

Eliza and Richard

I met Eliza only once, in person. I didn’t need to meet her twice. She is totally magnificent and a fellow Celebrant. We have become great online friends and colleagues, each pledging to each other to use the other’s services should the need arise. Something about her fierce loyalty and supportiveness is remarkable and unique. She barely knew me at the time but offered huge levels of unconditional support and kindness in the warm gentle tones of a light and comforting Scottish accent.

As you may know I invited lots of people to donate images of their weddings, their family weddings, historic weddings, recent weddings and the stories that go with it. One of the donations were these from Eliza of her very own Special Day, marrying Richard in early Spring 2016..

She and her husband Richard, who I have never met, are featured here in my Making Memories Series. Ironically, one of Eliza’s pet hates, quite rightly, is the emphasis of the Wedding Industry upon The Bride…at the expense of The Groom….but Richard, poor thing, won’t feature in this blog because I’ve never met him in my life. All I know is that he looks totally smitten.

The interest for me, in this series, is to enjoy the stories of these couples in their different Social and Historical contexts. To look at the fashions and changes, the choices, the nostalgia for bygone times. The role of Art and Design, and social etiquette. The nature and importance of Memory-making and Special Days and of course, my other constant theme…the importance of our animal families. Dogs, in particular, often feature, even in some of the antique photos. These two are very cute.

How beautiful this wedding is! Those soft, gentle colours, the tastefulness, the historic motifs and retro-references.The photos seem resonant of The 3 Graces and of Italianate sculptures, the images burst with cultural and historical references, that calm sensitive colour palette oozing sophistication. The wedding took place at Hampton Manor, Hampton in Arden.

Two other friends, sent me images from the 1920s and 30s. One of the photos features a design not dissimilar to the gown and headdress Eliza is wearing here in 2016. It is interesting to see the original designs cropping up later in time. Here, for example is my darling friend Damian’s Great Uncle George fresh from the Altar in the 1920s. Damian says “My Uncle George’s Wedding – my Grandfather is on the far left and the bride was the beautiful hearted Winnifred”. I was struck by how closely the headdress design ‘beautiful-hearted Winnifred” is wearing resembles the one equally ‘beautiful-hearted Eliza’ chose for their Big Day.

This next image is from my friend Elizabeth, this is her grandparents John and Irene in 1933, a little later, but not dissimilar. A friend of mine remarked upon the huge size of bouquets at that time. Gorgeous aren’t they?

Eliza told me that her Wedding Day really was the best day of her life. She got married relatively late in life and has since gone on adventures to live with her husband and son Theo in Andalusia. A bit of a departure from the West Midlands.

Eliza describes their wedding thus:

“we had a 1920’s/ Scottish-Charles Rennie Macintosh theme…we even bought chairs (I have a photo of them too) I guess blush? Everything was bought second hand or homemade and we got a low season cheap deal in the venue”. She loved every minute as you can tell.

Now, already only 4 years later, Eliza’s wedding would have come with a hashtag! I was a bit behind the ‘curve’ (sorry for using that word) with hashtags. I think they were a ‘thing’ by then, but not quite the way they are now. Eliza’s hashtag might have been #budgetbride, #DIYbride, #thriftybride, and it would have been quite the feature because it was a #lowseason wedding. We can’t know whether Great Uncle George and the ‘beautiful-hearted Winnifred’ got married in or out of ‘the season’, but my bet is that at that time the getting married was more important than the time of year that you did it. Partly, I suspect (though this might just be me), because you weren’t supposed to have sex until you were married. In your early 20s Summer can seem a long time to wait when early Spring is an option!

I can’t imagine that Winnifred and George were a #budgetbrideandgroom, not if his Great Nephew Damian is truly his relative. But, actually for most working class families a wedding was a relatively low-key, low-cost occasion of neccesity. Dresses were made by family members, flowers picked from the garden, things were ‘borrowed’, and money was spent on trunks full of linen for the bridal Trousseau instead. Good quality bedlinen, as we all know, is hard to find and expensive to buy and indispensable. So there was wisdom in that. Your sister made the cake, your Mum made the bridesmaids dresses. In the next of the series I will introduce you to my Swedish relatives and my Aunties’ post-war weddings. We have a good tradition of this kind of wedding.

Eliza and Richard decided not to spend more than they had to spend in both senses of the phrase. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that they had anything other than a splendid occasion. Perhaps her their hashtag should have been #moresensethanmoney.

Eliza and Richard’s wedding is different to those of George and Winnifred and Elizabeth’s grandparents because of its historical context. Life changes so rapidly. All of the weddings as far as I know are UK weddings. Even on our tiny island, our society is barely recognisable now from what it was then. But some themes do remain, in the evocative retro-styled gowns, the Wedding Breakfast and the public pledging of vows, especially made outfits, co-ordinated colours, attention to detail and great care and thought. The specialness of everything. The ‘moment’.

George and Winnifred got married about a century ago and so much has changed even in the UK. At that time almost every photo you see will be in a Church porch. Photographers only really attended relatively wealthy weddings as far as I am aware. They never photographed the ceremony as it was considered sacred. Most brides were in their early 20s and didn’t have children. By the time Eliza and Richard got married it was usual to marry in a Register Office later in life, to be Atheists and to have a Secular ceremony, to have your children at the ceremony and to pay decent money for the best photographer you can afford. Photographs have taken on great importance. But even more has changed since Eliza and Richard’s Special Day. Especially in the past three months. Part of the reason that I am even able to write this is because I am in Britain during ‘lockdown’ and Eliza is in Spain during ‘lockdown’ and we have had time! Four years after their big day and they couldn’t have held their wedding at all in the early spring in the West Midlands as their country and the world would be in the grip of a Global Pandemic. This is another reason why Special Days are so significant and important. They mark history and they give us good things to hold onto. On that perfect day, all was right in the world and we really must seize those days! Have those days! cherish those memories and look forward to more. Winnifred and George and Irene and John faced unimaginable global events before and after their Special Days, but good times and Special Days were had again, and we too will see some good times very soon. Special days bring us those hopeful moments. We look forward to them and we remember them.

This joy, and these joyous days really matter in the stories of generations. Your ceremony marks a particular moment at a particular time in a particular context in your story and the story of your families. Your joyous day is important for many reasons which extend beyond you as two individuals. I defy anyone to look at these two people and feel anything but pleasure.

The gorgeous sumptuousness of Eliza and Richard’s choices reflect an optimism. The 20s were a time of huge social change, new freedoms, especially for women, and the whole world was opening up. Style and art and architecture were bursting into new life and inventiveness. It makes sense to me to build a tableau of beautiful things drawn from a richness of Scottish design history. To place your own Special Day within the context of so many other Special Days before your own. Weddings today are actually an art form, a creation; a way of holding onto that beautiful moment in time and drawing upon it in tougher times, which is why some wedding photographers really are Photographic Artists.

Thank you Eliza and Richard, for sharing your #Specialday

If you are interested in booking your Wedding with Eliza, she can be found on Facebook as ‘Humanist Ceremonies by Eliza!’

07855 453771

you can see she’s marvellous.

“Day by Day and Night by Night we were together, all else has long been forgotten by me” Walt Whitman

Thank you to Jonny Barratt for these beautiful photos.@jonnybarratt

#brumcelebrant #birminghamcelebrant #celebrantbirmingham #celebrantbrum #celebrantweddingceremonies

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