As wedding season starts to heat up, heres a look back at wedding traditions from the past. In 1970, N&O writer Elaine Ogburn talked to some Raleigh brides about their long-ago special day and how much times had changed.
Weekday weddings, white-coated servants and train getaways were a few of the trappings some 50 years ago when grandmothers of the now generation were planning their lives.
What do they remember most about marriages around the 20s? For one thing, they say, courtship wasnt quite the same. A southern beau and belle didnt have the public nightspots afforded couples today, so they might ride bicycles on dates, says Mrs. Graves Vann, who was married in Goldsboro in 1921.
On Friday nights we used to get together and make candy, she adds. If there were no parties to go to, a date could mean an evening rocking on the porch.
Chaperones were always close at hand then, says Mrs. Kenneth Royall, who married in Warsaw in 1919. Parents considered them necessary, so chaperones were in on everything the couple did.
Hope chests full of linens and fancy clothing were kept by many young hopefuls, but not Mrs. Charles E. Johnson, married on Lookout Mountain, Tenn., in 1919. She didnt collect anything in anticipation of her marriage.
I wasnt too hopeful, she laughs. I was too busy riding horses and having a good time.
Couples were carefully guarded from actions that looked or even sounded like they could be construed by others as improper.
No matter how one courtship differed from another, a marriage courtship ended as it does today with an inevitable proposal.
A shaky prospective son-in-law spoke behind closed study doors with a stern-looking prospective father-in-law then plans began to crystallize.
Announcement parties were common, says Mrs. Lorna Bell Broughton, who married the late Dr. Needham Bryant Broughton in 1921 in Wakefield. Theirs was given by a friend, she recalls.
Weekday weddings were popular and few people married on the weekends, say Mrs. Vann, who married on Tuesday, and Mrs. John Bratton, who married in Bennettsville, S.C., on a Thursday in 1919.
Invitations were initially what they are today, says Mrs. Johnson, who had Tiffanys 1919 edition. Mrs. Vann, who didnt want to leave anyone in Goldsboro out, placed her invitation in the local paper, and sent engraved ones only to out-of-town relatives and friends. A glance through newspapers of the time shows this to have been a common practice.
Wedding dresses were of necessity handmade since none were sold ready-made. Madame Barnes from Wilson was well-known to brides in the state, says Mrs. Broughton, who wore one of her longuette creations.
Many brides had their dresses made out of state, perhaps in Baltimore, Kentucky or even New Orleans. Veils, usually attached by a circlet of orange blossoms, covered the face until the marriage pronouncement was made and a helpful attendant turned it back.
Trousseau items were often handmade, even to the lingerie, says Mrs. Johnson, whose embroidered dainties came from Cincinnati. Gingham dresses were a popular part of the trousseau as well.
As for bridesmaids dresses, a distinction was almost always made between the honor attendants and others a different dress color, maybe another style of dress as Mrs. Johnson chose, or just a different color bouquet, which honor attendants carried in Mrs. Broughtons all-white wedding. Matrons were referred to as dames of honor.
Bridesmaids in Mrs. Kenneth Royalls home garden wedding carried parasols with an orchid bouquet on each handle. Meline picture hats worn by bridesmaids in both her wedding and Mrs. Vanns were popular accessories.
Wedding parties were more numerous then, says Mrs. Royall, whose wedding account records several barbecues, dances and at least one handkerchief shower in her honor.
Weddings were often at home and receptions, almost without exception, took place there since there were few available public places in which to hold them. Mrs. Broughtons wedding party and guests did, however, motor to nearby Raleigh for a buffet supper at the Yarborough Hotel.
At each wedding, guests stood in line to be received by members of the wedding party. Floating bridesmaids were then unknown.
Honeymoons usually began on the train whether it was headed north to New York City, south to Florida, or points in between.
At least one newly-wed couple hid from well-wishers behind a freight train until they could hop aboard the Orange Blossom Special chained trunks and all. The N&O 7/19/1970