40 dozen buns and 41 cakes were baked, 14 gallons of potato salad made, 70 lbs. of ham cooked and 2 gallons of pickles canned. Those food preparations took place in order to serve lunch to the nearly 300 guests who attended my parents’ wedding sixty years ago.
I have been working on a readers theatre piece for our family to perform at the anniversary dinner we are hosting. As I have gathered information about my parents’ wedding in May of 1952 I have been impressed with the way the whole event was such a family and community affair. Everyone was involved!
There was no professional wedding coordinator hired to organize the big day. My Aunt Viola, at left in this photo, my mother’s older sister, was in charge of most of the arrangements. I have seen the notebook she kept as she did her planning. It is a marvel of scheduling. Every detail of the ceremony and reception has been arranged with careful thought.
A relative who ran a printing business in the United States engraved the invitations and napkins. Eighteen neighbor ladies baked the nearly four dozen cakes. Six aunts took charge of potato salad making and a dozen other female relatives turned 50 boxes of jello into fruit salad.
Friends decorated the church sanctuary for the ceremony and the basement for the reception. Cousins acted as ushers. Twenty households in my mother’s small Saskatchewan hometown offered to take in guests who were arriving from Manitoba for the nuptials.
No professional musicians or clergy were hired. My father’s uncle performed the ceremony. The husband of one of my mother’s cousins preached the wedding sermon. One of Dad’s sisters played the piano and another was the soloist. My mothers’ sisters handwrote the place cards. They painstakingly decorated each one with flowers they made by dyeing delicate shells pink and green.
My aunt Leila, to the right of my Mom in this photo, composed a humorous and entertaining epic poem about her sister’s life to perform at the reception. One of my Dad’s best friends penned a German piece of a similar nature about him. A lady from the church decorated the wedding cake and a host of my grandparents’ friends made coffee, set tables and did the dishes after the meal was over. Twenty four fellow church members served the food.
No one it appears presented the couple with money, except a Mrs. Jantz who gave them a crisp new dollar bill. The other guests had all gone to the trouble of carefully selecting a gift they felt would be useful. Each contribution is carefully noted in my aunt’s book with the donor listed. Pillows, pitchers, teapots, sheets, salt and pepper shakers, cushions, casserole dishes, pot holders, dresser scarves and cake pans were received to help the young couple set up housekeeping.
The wedding itself was a big social event in the community. Nowadays we only see a picture of couples in the newspaper and perhaps a short wedding announcement. Fifty years ago a marriage celebration like my parents warranted a full length column in the local weekly. The fashions worn by the bridal party were described in great detail as was the ceremony itself. The education and future plans of the newly married couple were outlined. Weddings were obviously important community happenings of interest to everyone!
Here my grandparents say good-bye to my Mom before she leaves on her honeymoon. I can only imagine how much work it must have been for them to prepare for their daughter’s wedding sixty years ago. They could never have done it without the help of a whole community of volunteers. I’m sure that for the people who attended the wedding, the event had real significance and meaning, since they had almost all been involved in some way in making the day a success. Is there something to be learned from that as we plan weddings in our modern-day? Perhaps marriages that start off with strong support from a community of caring people have a better chance of lasting for sixty years.