Dilys Katherine Hills and David Millard Jennings – 30 March 1970
I’m fascinated by my mum’s choice of wedding flowers and wedding dress in the 1970s. The Era brings to mind barefooted bohemian brides wearing floaty maxi dresses with loose long hair decorated with a floral crown or daisy chain. The Hippy Culture that began in the previous decade continued to be popular at the beginning of the 70s, but began to wane as rock `n’ roll and disco became influential. My mum was a rebel. She had left home at a young age and had lived an `alternative lifestyle’ which wasn’t approved of by her mother. The years before the wedding mum had been sleeping rough, mixing with drug addicts and alcoholics whilst having a lot of fun. (I was born the year before the wedding!). Why then did mum choose a very traditional white church wedding and opt for a bible corsage as a wedding bouquet?!
The Marriage Act of 1836 allowed for non-religious civil marriages to be held in register offices. It puzzles me that mum chose a church wedding instead of a registry office or even eloping to Gretna Green. I will never know for sure. There may have been pressure from parents to `conform’, but I don’t think that was the reason. My adoption records show that mum was working hard at maintaining a job to look after me and turning her life around. I think the church wedding was symbolic. Mum needed to prove to the authorities that she was fit and able to look after me and a proper church wedding was a good start. My foster father was best man at the wedding. They were married in St George’s Church, West Harnham which was the local church to where mum grew up.
1970s Wedding Flowers
My mum chose pretty traditional flowers for her bridesmaids. Christine, the elder bridesmaid, had a neat round Spring Posy Bouquet including peach coloured hyacinth pips and coral spray roses with a small amount of asparagus fern. The individual flowers were wired and mounted. The finished handle would have been ribboned and completed with a small bow.
The children are carrying Bridesmaid’s Baskets of flowers typical of the 1970s. The flowers in the baskets are quite minimal – a sprig of freesia, two carnations and a piece of asparagus fern,. The flowers were pushed into floral foam as in some pictures I can see the oasis. In the Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry the advice is that `the flowers should be placed in very firmly so that there is no likelihood of their falling out, even with rough handling by the bridesmaid!’ I can’t decide if flowers have fallen out with rough treatment or mum made the baskets herself with just a few token flowers. Constance Spry advised that the basket should be filled with flowers to about 1/2 inch from the top in a pleasing shape. There is a dainty bow placed on the handle.
Bible or Prayerbook Spray
Mum opted for an unusual Bible Spray instead of a bouquet or posy. This consisted of a small spray of flowers and leaves stitched onto a ribbon, which in turn acted as a bookmark in the Bible or prayerbook for either the marriage ceremony or the Lord’s Prayer. Mum chose to use flowers in a an orange, coral and yellow colour palette. She included coral spray roses, hyacinth pips and yellow freesia. Foliage was made up of asparagus fern and ivy leaves. The ribbon was a bright turquoise blue and co-ordinated with the bridesmaids dresses. I had fun making my own interpretation of the Bible Spray and then painting my version in watercolour. It was out of season for hyacinth pips so I went for the overall look rather than an exact replica.
Buttonholes and Corsages
The men in the bridal party are all wearing traditional wired white carnation button-holes. Carnations were chosen because they were widely available and had good lasting qualities. In this case there was no foliage. Whenever possible a buttonhole flower was worn through the buttonhole and not pinned onto the front of the lapel. For this reason the flower stem needed to be very fine so the flower heads were mounted on taped wire to provide a thinner stem. Sometimes Asparagus plumosus fern was used or three leaves made into a spray. Nowadays the groom’s button-hole often includes a flower from the bride’s bouquet to distinguish the groom from the rest of the bridal party. In the 1970s there was less individuality – all the men had the same white carnation buttonholes including the groom.
The mothers of the bride and groom traditionally wore a ladies corsage spray and my grandparents are both wearing corsages with a selection of different flowers. The bride’s mother’s vibrant corsage includes orange spray roses, yellow freesia and asparagus fern and stood out against her navy suit. The mother of the groom’s corsage is daintier incorporating hyacinth pips. Both ladies are wearing flowers on their left shoulder, although traditionally Ladies were always right!
1970s Wedding Fashion
The 70s was a time when no particular bridal fashion dominated the era. You can see an eclectic mix of bridal fashion in 70s photos. Mum made her own full length wedding dress and Christine’s bridesmaids dress. Although a traditional white wedding dress it does have billowed `leg o’ mutton’ sleeves which were a key bridal look of the period. The look is actually quite demure and covered up, particularly as mum had been fond of the 60s mini skirt. So different to fashion today where it is hard to find a wedding dress with sleeves.
Mum chose to wear an elbow length veil with artificial white flowers in her hair. The veil length is shorter than my Gran’s 1930s veil which was full length. Some brides preferred to wear floppy hats or bohemian style floral crowns or circlets.
The overall colour scheme was quite a bold 70s colour scheme using the complementary colours of coral orange and turquoise blue. Mum wore quite bright blue eyeshadow.
I find it fascinating that I also chose peach and aqua as my wedding colour scheme. Mum’s half sister who never met mum also chose to wear turquoise on her wedding day! Kathryn’s turquoise 70s wedding dress is much more prairie style with ruffles and she’s opted for a hat instead of a veil.
Prairie Style gowns were popular as evidenced by sewing patterns of the 70s.
Bohemian styles with longer cascading sleeves were in vogue. Necklines tended to be square in shape or higher as worn by my mum and Princess Anne during her wedding to Captain Mark Phillips in 1972. Princess Anne’s gown was based on a medieval design with trumpet sleeves edged in pearls and a train.
The 70s bride was not afraid of colour or pattern. I’ve found many an example where bridesmaids seem to be decked out in bold, highly patterned material reminiscent of vintage curtains!
Big floppy hats were all the range. I really can’t image why mum chose to put her bridesmaids in those bright turquoise bonnets covered in artificial flowers! However bonnets in the style of Little Bo-Peep and Holly Hobbie were in vogue. I guess they completed the milkmaid/peasant look nicely!
Not everybody opted for a long flowing wedding dress in the 70s. When Bianca married Mick Jagger in 1971 she opted for an Yves Saint Laurent tailored blazer, midi skirt and floppy hat. Nothing was worn underneath the jacket!
The 60s had inspired the mini-skirt so some brides chose to stick with the mini and a simpler more tailored look as worn to this registry office wedding.
The bride travelled to the church in her brother’s dark green Mark II Jaguar. My Uncle remembered touching up the paintwork the day before and his housemates said he was `guilding the lily’. It felt quite symbolic when my Uncle gave me away as he had my mum and we also travelled to the ceremony in a Mark II Jaguar.
From the wedding group photograph it looks like mum had a similar number of guests as both myself and my Gran which was about forty.
The reception was held in the church hall which looks like a rather ugly prefabricated building. It was a simple affair. There were no formal laid out tables with a seating plan. It was a case of standing around and circling, helping yourself to the `cold buffet’. The buffet consisted largely of sandwiches, sausage rolls and the 70s favourite of cheese and pineapple on sticks. There was a traditional two tier iced fruit wedding cake which was topped with a small spray of freesias in a pretty silver bud vase. I remember the bud vase.
Wedding Present List 1970
I still have mum’s wedding present list tucked amongst the photos. I love this kind of social history. There are quite a few similarities with my Gran’s 1930s wedding presents and the ones we had in 2011. We all were given casseroles, bath towels and cutlery.
They were eight casseroles! We were given a wonderful cast iron Le Creuset casserole by Margaret and David which has proved invaluable. Margaret went to school with mum and had given one of those eight casseroles in 1970 so I wonder if it was used as much with so many to chose from! It’s quite interesting that the pyrosil casseroles are listed separately. The Pyrosil Corning Ware Blue Cornflower oven to table dish with it’s detachable handle was used for over twenty years! It was used both on the top of the stove and in the oven. My guess is that was the only casserole that was used out of the eight!
These days I don’t think you’d give an ash tray as a wedding gift. However my Gran was given a Turkish cigarette holder.
The wedding breakfast finished mid afternoon when the Happy Couple drove away on honeymoon to the West Country. Although mum wore traditional white for the ceremony she was quite happy to wear a fashionable mini skirt and boots as her Going Away Outfit. The honeymoon was a weekend in the West Country where it was perishing cold with March winds and snow.