In our randomly continuing series about weddings, my sister has offered to share her wedding story with us.
Prologue: First before I start, I am not reminiscing nor do I have any longing for my former marriage. However, I loved most of our wedding celebration and the loved ones who attended.
We were living in an old single wide trailer we rented on the outskirts on Raleigh. Yep, really poor college students. A motorcycle and a useless Ford Maverick that I pushed more than I drove were our vehicles. We had a cat and a fish tank.
We decided to be married at the Boone Gardens under the big cherry tree. Why? Because that is where we were arrested on one of our dates. It was common knowledge that one could step over the fence behind Hampton’s Funeral Home to gain access into the garden. My boyfriend parked his bike at the adjacent park and over the fence we went to have a serious discussion about our love. Then flashlights started darting through the trees and bushes. We could hear police speaking! We tried to get out of the sight line. Could someone really care THAT much about two lovers in the gardens? But we were caught and put in the back seat of a police car. Then they drove us around the corner to the Horn in the West entry. The director came out to meet the cop car. It was Billy Ralph! (the high school music director) He took a look at us in the back, laughed, and said that we were not the peeping Tom. Good thing we took music during high school. I was so embarrassed. Turns out that the actors at the Horn had been spied on multiple times by someone who parked a bike at the park and went to the dressing rooms through the garden over the fence. We were made to pay the garden admission fee.
It was 1984 and big dresses and weddings ruled. Lady Diana had made everyone want to be a princess like her for a day. Surprisingly, I did not want that. Big sleeves, pouffy dresses, heavy beading, and lots of formality actually was not what I desired. I know, really weird for those who thought they knew me (this girl who loves dresses and being pretty also secretly did stuff like ride motorcycles, fix cars, skydive, and enlist in the Army).
But I digress. I designed and made my dress. I eventually bought 12 yards of the main fabric and 10 of the moire lining at a drapery shop in Tennessee. It had to be sheer and embroidered with leaves. As a florist, I wanted my flowers to be the only flowers in the wedding. My fiancé was freaking out a bit as I draped and pinned the fabric on an ancient Sears dress form and then laid the fabric on the floor and began cutting with just a tape measure, stopping occasionally to take a measurement off myself. The sheer fabric had cost over $100 and he had never seen me design and sew before. He was worried I would mess up. Then I carefully cut out the edging on the fabric so the border leaves floated as a hem. I loved my dress. Then I designed and made three white and silver lame’ bridesmaids dresses (remember, it’s the eighties), and four men’s ivory gauze shirts with sashes. Lots of money saved.
I wanted my brother to give me away. He has always been the one watching my back and advising me. I compare all men to him. My brother is awesome. My relationship with my dad was strained (understatement). My mom prodded me into having him give me away even though they had been divorced for years. I gave in.
I choose red, white, and silver as my colors because I wanted phalaenopsis and cattleya orchids and red roses as my flowers. As a florist I bought (wholesale) all the flowers and made my bouquet and 3 for my bridesmaids. And a whole bunch of boutonnières and corsages. I didn’t want a giant stiff bouquet as was the fashion. I love weeping willow, so I mounted the flowers to it without wires so it was free flowing with movement. I was up the whole night before doing all this. I was pooped, but I saved a ton and got exactly what I wanted.
We weren’t planning a rehearsal dinner, but then my dad and my future FIL decided that they would each pay half. Cool! It was at Makotos and I loved it. I did feel a bit bad about my dad doing this for me because I couldn’t recall him doing anything for my older sister’s wedding. Perhaps he felt peer pressure because my FIL was a fancy professor.
I wanted guests to be as casual as we were and asked that no one wear a suit. It wasn’t on the invitations, but most folks were told thru word of mouth. It was late July and it also made sense not to be wearing hot suits.
My dad didn’t get the memo. He gave me away wearing the only suit in the crowd.
Because both our families were divorced and fractured, we couldn’t place certain people next to each other. We ‘brilliantly’ decided to can the notion of bride and groom sides and go with moms and dads sides instead.
My flower girl was my two year old niece. But she had skipped her nap and was cranky. Fortunately my young cousin from California was there and filled in. Earlier that week, she wanted to see a movie and picked Cujo. I was plagued by nightmares for years. Thanks Stacie!
Music was light baroque played on two flutes by my fiancé’s sister and cousin.
My fiancé showed up 20 minutes late. Casually walked in, chatted with guests, and then eventually moved into position.
Afterwards, the reception was at my MIL’s home. The cake was made by a church member where my mom attended. She was doing cake decorating as a hobby and gifted us with it. It was lovely and simple. I decorated it flowers prior to the ceremony. But my mom refused to attend if we didn’t respect her church’s rules….no alcohol and no dancing. I love my mom more than anything, so the dry reception was short and dance-less. My BIL thought the idea of birdseed was funny and proceeded to climb up on his mom’s roof and dump ten pounds of it on me and my new husband. We were picking seed out of our hair, shoes, and clothes for days.
When I threw my bouquet a young exchange student from France caught it. So she kept it to take home. I’ve always thought that was kinda cool.
I would guess the whole wedding, reception, flowers, clothes, and food cost me around $500. The honeymoon was payed for by my new husband.
To save money on our honeymoon, we opted to take the motorcycle to DC and then up to Vermont. We would stay at the Appalachian House in DC and his aunt’s home in Orwell. We hadn’t bothered to make arrangements for a motel for our first night because we weren’t sure how far we’d get. Once tired, we decided to stop at an exit. No vacancies anywhere. Saturday and the end of July was bad timing. Several more exits and still no vacancies. We were getting super tired and it was getting late. We saw a tiny row motel and exited hoping maybe this one. The elderly clerk and his wife were thrilled to have honeymooners stay. They gave us a paper with a sweet saying for newlyweds on it. The drawings on it looked like it was from the 1940s. I still have it. Then we went to our room. It smelled old, the bed was rumpled and poorly made, the TV was small and black and white, and there was a large hole in the floor as you entered the bathroom. It was gross. But being tired and knowing there was nothing else, we spent the first night of our honeymoon in this seedy motel. Makes for a strong memory though!
When we got home to our rented trailer, our 55 gallon fish tank’s bottom plate had sheared. The teenage neighbor boy watching it and our cat had brought over large pots and captured the fish to put in them. He drained the rest so a major mess was avoided. He even aerated the water the fish were in by stirring it daily. Pretty awesome kid. In the end, we had saved enough gift money to go and buy our first big purchase….an Apple 2E computer with dual disk floppy drives and a printer. We were SO cool!
The Ford Maverick croaked as we drove away from the computer store with our purchase in the back. And so began our 18 years.
Epilogue: Years after our divorce I needed some special fabric. So I took apart my wedding dress and repurposed the fabric. I still have the veil I made. I made a conscious effort to not be sentimental because I knew taking apart my beautiful creation would be tough.
She got married in 1984, so for reference, her $500 would be worth about $1300 now. But keep in mind she made her own dress, and built her own flower arrangements from flowers she bought at wholesale. I also don’t remember if she had a “real” photographer, or if everyone just took pictures.
In 1984, the average price of a wedding was $7100, which is $17,000 in 2021 money. So apparently, the big wedding trend had already started. Actually, I found this article comparing wedding prices from 1939 to 2013 – and really, the costs aren’t that different – except for the reception.
The reception is apparently were things are crazy these days – average of $30,000!
Anyway, I know I enjoyed reading my sister’s wedding story, and reliving those memories from so long ago. I hope you did too!