Week 50: #52 Ancestors – Tradition
By Eilene Lyon
I can’t think of too many traditions that have survived down to my generation, but one of them is age-old and nearly universal: marriage. When I look back through my ancestry, I find a surprising number of winter weddings. I think people were always looking for excuses to celebrate during the darker days. Or maybe just permission to have someone to cuddle up with!
For this prompt, I decided to share my ancestors’ wedding portraits. Not all of them were formal, or on the actual wedding day.
Let’s start with our wedding, 20 years ago in June 1999. It was a stormy day, cold and cloudy, making us question our decision to hold the ceremony outdoors in the mountains. But the skies did clear in time for the 5:30 p.m. event. Everything about the wedding and reception went according to plan, though it was rather chilly. The next morning we hosted all the out-of-town guests at our house for brunch and the present opening.
My parents had a formal wedding at the Methodist Church in Corvallis, Oregon, in August 1957. The maid-of-honor is my Aunt Barbara. The best man is Uncle Tres. I don’t know any of the other attendants. I find it interesting that my father has a female attendant and my mother has a male. Their marriage lasted 25 years, ending in divorce.
This isn’t a wedding portrait, but these are The Putterer’s parents at an early day. Clifford Park Lyon and Frances Mary Struss married November 15, 1941 in Peoria, Illinois, and remained married until Fran’s death in 1986.
All the following are my ancestors. Neither set of my grandparents had formal weddings. My maternal grandparents, Laurence Smith and Clare Davis tied the knot in Colfax, Washington, on May 24, 1934, officiated by a Methodist Episcopal minister.
Grandma said about the day, “We’d been going together for three years and had it all set up to get married as soon as possible. He had a job in Glacier Park Montana and I had to finish my exams at college where I was a graduating senior. Sister, her husband, and Mother came across the state to Colfax. Mom had arranged a minister.” Her brother-in-law, Paul Wickward, seeing Clare empty-handed, rushed to a flower shop in town.
My paternal grandparents also had a hurried wedding: Reatha was a couple months pregnant. Reatha’s father refused to have anything to do with it and reportedly told Everett he would have to buy Reatha a dress. Her mother signed a permission form. The application for a license gave incorrect ages for both the bride and groom – his younger, hers older.
A Lutheran minister in Watertown, South Dakota, officiated. This photo was labeled as a wedding photo, but clearly taken at another time. Their wedding date was December 31, 1932.
They had a belated honeymoon trip to Wisconsin in 1934 and took some “wedding” photos while they were there.
Of my four sets of great-grandparents, I have photos for three.
Though I don’t have a portrait to share, Charles Edward Smith and Mary Lila Reams married in Johnson County, Missouri, on September 2, 1888. They were married 29 years until Mary Lila’s death in 1917. It seems a little unusual that in three of four of these couples, the wife died first, from non-childbearing causes.
The only wedding portrait I have of the next generation back is that of Olive Springer and Charles Gusso.
Feature image: Our custom-made wedding rings, 1999.