Last night I attended a joyous, long-anticipated wedding at our church. As I sat in the pew between my son and daughter, we listened as the bride, and then the groom, declared firmly and unmistakeably: "I WILL!" During the ceremony there was laughter and then tears, as the bride's deceased father was remembered in prayer. And all who were there will remember singing the recessional ("I'm a Believer") along with the band, and laughing as members of the family danced in the aisles. Such stories, that will be handed down for generations.
And I recalled the stories I've heard and read about my own parents' wedding. They were married in a candlelight ceremony at the Mayflower Congregational Church in Detroit on 8 June 1951.
Although the wedding announcement was written up in the community newsletter, perhaps the best record of the wedding is to be found in my Grandpa Reed's journal: [my comments in brackets]
June 8. Chase is to be married in Detroit tonight at 8 P.M. Then we have to stand in a receiving line for an hour or so. We leave here [Lansing] at 1:30, have dinner at 4 with the Stoelts, wedding at 8, reception & home about midnite.
June 9, '51. The following is practically a copy of a letter to Lewis & Jane. [Jane was my dad's oldest sister, and she and her husband were missionaries in Bolivia at the time].
Well, last night we saw our second child and only son married. We were on our way at 1:40, having orders to be at Stoelts for dinner at four - pardon me - an invitation. From Mrs. S. they are somewhat the same. I forgot anything to read, so stopped in E. Lansing, bought a copy of Time and read 3/4 of it going and waiting.
Ruby drove first shift, to about Brighton, & mine took us in. Stoelts live well out toward Farmington in the edge of Detroit and it is open country along Grand River Ave. until the last 10 or 15 min.
It was our first meeting and we had to introduce ourselves as Mrs. S., following ancient custom, had banished Chase all that day. He was across town with friends and though he telephoned & talked to us both, we never saw him until he entered the church with his ushers for the ceremony. But the Stoelts are very friendly and intelligent people and we got on well from the first.
The date, June 8, is of course Ruby's and my anniversary, our 33rd. We met another couple during the evening who were also celebrating their 33rd the same day.
At Stoelts, we chatted some and I read my Time when I had a chance. Mr. S. asked Ruby if she liked television and seemed a bit disappointed when she said no. He had one of the biggest & finest sets I've seen anywhere and would have liked to show it off. He didn't ask me, but after she left the room he turned it on and we saw the last inning of a ball game. Then there was some advertising and a sports announcer gave a long description of the game we had just seen. Mr. S. went out during the advertising and came back to find me reading, so he turned it off.
Dinner was actually served at 5:00, a roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, hard rolls, coffee, frozen fruit salad. [All homemade by Grandma Stoelt herself , no doubt - she loved putting on dinners!] Had been dieting stiffly but put it on ice when I saw the dinner. Mrs. S. wants to be friends, but Ruby will have none of that, treats them as acquaintances only.
After dinner, went to the basement and saw the gifts, on a table in their rumpus room, finished in painted ceiling, knotty pine walls, asphalt tile floor. A table 10-12 feet long was loaded: 2 flatirons, Toastmaster, Mixmaster, bun warmer, large copper skillet with cover suitable for Dutch oven or chicken fryer, small pressure cooker, the coverlet & rug we gave them [which I still have], seven double cookers five of them really devices to keep food hot on the table with a hot water bath, 2 sets silver candlesticks, silver salt & peppers, two silver colander holders with Pyrex colanders, two blankets, 11 pair pillow slips, a whol drawer full of sheets, 6 tablecloths, a pair of yellow checked aprons labelled "Chase" & "Mary", 5 place settings of Castleton china, and a long, long list of other things I cannot possibly remember.
I cannot describe gowns, but Ruby's was really beautiful, almost overshone the bride's.
The church was several miles away, so we followed the Stoelts. It had sounded easy, but in such heavy traffic, cars kept getting between us, then slowing down until there was constant risk one would stop at a traffic signal and leave us nowhere to go. I didn't know the way either forward or back, the name of the church, or address, or anything. I went through some lights on amber but kept on his tail, and had to make some very hasty stops when he did besides.
The organist, a high school boy, but thorougly competent, played a couple of numbers and the vocalist, also young about 25 sang a couple. He had a nice baritone voice that just went silent on the low notes, however. Then Chase, best man and 3 ushers came in from a side door, the minister (young, about 30) from another. The organ rollwed out the Wedding March and one by one three bridesmaids and the maid of honor came up the aisle, Lois third. [Lois was my dad's youngest sister]. Each walked the full length of the church alone (in the traditional slow step) and took her place before the next one started. Then the organist turned up the volume until the floor shook and the bride came in on her father's arm.
There was a sort of preliminary service on the steps and front of the rostrum - "Are you willing to take this woman - this man....who gives this woman" and the father gave the bride away (with the words "Her mother and I do"), then the party went back to the altar, the soloist, facing them, sang another song and the marriage was completed including the double ring ceremony which I had not seen before. There was another burst of music and the party went down the aisle, everybody remaining seated. After some time two ushers came back and led the mothers of the bride & groom down the aisle, followed by the husbands, ankling along by themselves. They should send in a couple of bridesmaids to walk with them, I say.
We went to the church house next door and Mrs. S. lined us up in a reception line and we shook hands with the approximately 250 guests, 242 friends of the bride, 8 of the groom, though most of the bride's friends had become Chase's too. I was next to Mary in line, as Mrs. S. placed me though I believe I should have been next to her. But my task was easy for practically all knew Mary & she them, except our family friends. Quite unexpectedly, I had a good time in the reception line. I talked until I was so hoarse I almost lost my voice; three or four women I'd never seen before kissed me; and I met one woman who was a weaver and we contrived little weaving chats two or three times during the evening.
The refreshments were coffee, tiny cookies, little paper cups of ice cream, punch and wedding cake, the latter about 3 feet across and same high. Men in the wedding party wore tuxedos, white coat & dark trousers. I was not with them except in the line, and wore dark coat & light trousers.
L to R: Ervilla Varran Stoelt, Arnold Stoelt, Mary Stoelt Reed, John Chase Reed, Ruby Chase Reed, Maurice Reed
One of the ushers took Chase & Mary back to Stoelts in his car & we followed again, the only way we knew to get there. It was then about 11 P.M. and the goof drove down Southfield at 45 and up to 60 miles an hour. I felt like going down a mountain highway blindfolded and no brakes! Soon Lois, Chase, Mary, the usher and some friends and a family who live across the street were there, standing around outside waiting for Mr. and Mrs. S. to come since they had the only key. The house was locked and Mr. S. had asked the police to watch it because of the gifts. We could have carried the place away brick by brick for anything we saw of them. Other cars came and the party grew, but all said the same, - as long as there was anybody left at the reception, Ervilla would be there talking. But of course they came at last, everybody changed from tuxedos & formals, suitcases were carried out, a weary Lois followed and at 12:45 we began the long drive home. I didn't trust the eyesight of either of them for after-dark driving and did it myself. A weary family, down to three members now, turned in about 2 A.M.
That was my Grandpa Reed's story of his son's wedding, and a very good one it is. But I remember another story, told by my father often over the years as I was growing up. He said that when the minister pronounced them man and wife, he heaved a great big sigh of relief, and a little ripple of laughter spread among the seated congregation. What perhaps most of those present did not know was that my mother had suffered from epilepsy since she was a child, and had grand mal seizures during times of stress. Because she was brought up in a Christian Science home, she had never seen the doctor or received medication. My dad was sighing because he was so relieved that she'd not had a seizure during the ceremony.
Whatever later difficulties presented themselves in this marriage (and there were plenty), I will be forever grateful that shortly after their honeymoon, my dad took mom to the doctor and got her started on medication, which she would take for the rest of her life.