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My parents’ real vintage wedding day

Modern weddings with a vintage theme are wonderful, and I love blogging them and reading about vintage weddings on other wedding blogs. But I’d love to travel back in time a generation or two and see real weddings first hand.

I recently spent a weekend at my parents’ house and had a chat with my Grandma too, and found out loads about their weddings as well as discovering family wedding pictures I’d never seen before.

My parents’ wedding day – in words and pictures

Mel and Dot and the white wedding taxi

My parents' wedding day: Mel and Dot and the white wedding taxi

My parents were married in December 1971. They didn’t organise their own wedding, my Grandma arranged everything for them – and she told me she spent a day or two – in total – planning the wedding. I loved hearing about it: they had the kind of wedding that appeals to me so much nowadays. Both of my parents were very independent and relaxed about the celebrations, so there was no wedding planning stress.

My mum and dad bought a ring and then told everyone, and they were engaged for one year. My mum made her own (very beautiful) dress from a pattern she’d bought in a shop. In their own words on the wedding day they “just turned up”!

Grandma had organised the wedding invitations, which were bought from a local shop. She remembers on the day they had pretty flowers and buttonholes – but in 1971 they didn’t spend money they hadn’t got so the flowers were simply pretty and not over the top.

It was a bright winter day, and my mum – who was gorgeous with a willowy figure only my sister inherited! – wore a slim fitting ankle length white wedding dress with long sleeves and a white hat.

Granddad Dave, Grandma, Peter Ashby, Dad, Mum, Auntie Janice, Nana and Granddad

Granddad Dave, Grandma, Peter Ashby, Dad, Mum, Auntie Janice, Nana and Granddad

Mum made her own wedding dress, which was a really popular thing to do at the time. She bought a wedding dress pattern and all the material and did an amazing job! I remember she kept her wedding dress in her wardrobe when I was growing up – and we were allowed to wear the hat for dressing up, but only my sister could ever fit into the dress! Mum wore her hair up with little strands to frame her face, and had white shoes, a small rose bouquet and carried a silver horseshoe for good luck. Dad wore a suit and tie with a carnation buttonhole, and had “a Beatles hairdo”.

Mum and Dad had a church wedding with a reception in a local hotel. My dad found time to pop into the library on the way to his wedding, which made me laugh out loud – I’ve inherited his love of reading! There was music in church: a local schoolteacher played the organ for them. My auntie Janice (Dad’s sister) was the bridesmaid and Dad’s friend Peter was the best man.

The best man, bride and groom and bridesmaid

The best man, bride and groom and bridesmaid

My parents’ wedding reception

The reception was booked in a small hotel in the town, which was run by a local couple. Not everything went to plan! The hotel was getting an annex building and would be able to seat their 60 guests. The owners were arranging for the wedding cake as well as the catering.

Unfortunately the hotel owners had a little bit of a fall-out in the run up to the big day, and the annex wasn’t there! So rather than seating 60 wedding guests, there was room for about 30. There were no tears or tantrums: the meal was had in two sittings and half of the wedding guests waited in the bar for the others to finish!

I’m told the speeches weren’t entirely planned, and that my dad wrote notes for his on the back of his library ticket. (He’s a good public speaker and as a draftsman he has tiny writing, so it was probably much longer than it sounds!)

I love the photos of the wedding that Mum and Dad have: there wasn’t a professional photographer there throughout the day to document everything, but they did have a formal photo session after the ceremony with a local photographer. Friends took photos and as well as the pictures my Mum has some keepsakes of the day: the silver horseshoe she carried with her bouquet, and some little buttons from the dress.

A group wedding photo and a family treasure

A group wedding photo and a family treasure

After the wedding Mum and Dad had a night out in Manchester: my Great-Granddad gave them £5 to spend on a meal the same evening. There wasn’t a wedding disco, and guests spent the evening having a sing song in the bar or went for a cup of tea at my Grandma’s house.

Mum and Dad didn’t have a honeymoon, and had already bought a new house to live in. I asked about money and whether attitudes were different when they got married, and both said people just didn’t borrow for weddings in those days: the only thing you’d consider any kind of loan for was a house. Like most people, they didn’t have a huge disposable income so they bought what they needed when they could.

My Mum’s parents paid for the wedding (they insisted, as was tradition), and wedding gifts were things for the new house: my Mum’s parents gave them a bed and a mattress, and my Dad’s bought a lb of carrots from the local furniture store and got a free settee and chairs with them (because of Sunday trading laws)!

We’re very lucky to have found a short video made of my parents’ wedding – there’s only a few minutes of footage but to have something like this to be able to share and keep is really very special. You can watch it here:

Are you planning a vintage inspired wedding day?

I’d love to plan a vintage inspired wedding. For me it would be just like my parents’ wedding day: stress-free planning, a nice family celebration and then home for tea. I imagine my mum could even make my wedding dress!  (She’d need a bigger pattern and a wee bit more material!)

It’s not just the style of a wedding that can be vintage-inspired. My dream wedding would be inspired by vintage attitudes: no loans, no pressure to invite lots of guests, no designer dress or fancy mansion house in the country. I’d involve friends and family: to provide music, a buffet, flowers and jewellery – I’m all for the whole “something borrowed” idea, in fact it’d mean more to me to borrow accessories from friends than to buy new.

As for a honeymoon… well if you can afford a big holiday it’s fine, but for me it’d be a special evening out, a romantic meal and a fancy hotel I think! Just something to remember, a little time spent with my husband alone on or just after our wedding day. I really believe you can create your own memories no matter where you are: in a peak district hotel or on a tropical beach!

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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13 COMMENTS
  • Aimee Dunne
    9 years ago

    What a lovely, inspiring post. A nice reminder of what weddings are all about and that precious memories don’t need to cost a fortune! x

  • What a fantastic blog post, we can learn so much from our elders weddings! xxx

  • Neil Redfern
    9 years ago

    What a beautiful blog post 🙂 it just shows that no matter how much is spent on a wedding, or how much planning goes into the day, the most important thing is the love of the bride and groom 🙂

    • Claire
      9 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Neil for your lovely comment 🙂

  • Julie Dawson
    9 years ago

    Hey happy new year, thought I would come to your site first and see what I missed!! What a fantastic blog, so lovely and simple but so meaning. The core of weddings are the people who make them and I love your ideas of what you want a your wedding. Thanks Claire, this was lovely to read to start my day back at work.

    • Claire
      9 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Julie thank you! I remember you started 2010 for us on English Wedding and your advice always has the same kind of perspective I love – remember New Year, New Wedding Plan from last year? It’s still there!

  • chris hanley
    9 years ago

    theres a cliche thats used so often in wedding photographer about pictures and movies becoming more precious and treasured as years roll by. Your post is a beautiful testament to that very ideal. The industry needs to encourage and educate the real value of social history. Choosing the best professionals you can afford,is an investment that will reap rewards for you and all your family generations to come.

    Thanks for sharing Claire x
    Chris Hanley

    • Claire
      9 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Chris. I agree – weddings are about so much more than one day. They’re a big part of family history and I loved finding out about my parents’ wedding: the stories as well as the images are worth their weight in gold.

  • Damian Brown
    9 years ago

    Great post! I love old family photographs and I hope one day images I’ve taken convey the same feeling I get from dusty old images that I have of my family from years gone by! I’m sure they will. Funny… in 30+ years time… what we shoot today may well be considered vintage!

  • Sonia Hollier
    9 years ago

    What a lovely, touching post.
    Thanks Claire, for sharing your lovely family pics.
    I think that here are a lot of lessons to be learnt from how weddings were in the 70’s, peoples wedding day expectations are way too high now, and people seem to just focus on the wedding day itself, not the fact that you are starting your married life together. Your wedding day should be about how much you love each other.

  • Heline Bekker
    9 years ago

    Awww! This is so precious! x

  • What a gorgeous post! Really makes you think that as long as you share the day with everyone you love, it doesn’t matter about making sure you keep up with the Jones’. Loving the “something borrowed” too!

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