On Sunday 26 June 2011, Weston welcomed hundreds of visitors to look around the “Open Gardens” of the village. To encourage people to also stop off at our lovely old church we had the church decked out with flowers and held a display of local people’s wedding dresses.
What’s hidden away in the loft?
Before the event I thought that I was one of the few who still had a dress packed away in the loft, but no; the dresses started arriving and did not stop! They arrived in boxes , dress bags, sheets and bin bags. By Sunday afternoon the church was festooned with dresses, they hung from pillars, corbels, in fact anywhere that we could suspend them.
Trains, veils and headdresses
We had dresses from the 1930s on, with the final one from a wedding that took place in the church only weeks before. What a treat; opening boxes and bags to find silk and lace dresses, with trains, veils and headdresses. I had not realised that so many women cherish their dress as part of their memories of an important day. Some of the dresses testified to the wedding celebrations, with the odd wine stain or dust on the hem, but that all added character to the display.
These were not anonymous brand new dresses, but ones that told a tale of the times that they had seen. Some recut and reused. It is great that we were able to share our village church and the stories of some of our weddings with so many visitors.
Many of the dresses were displayed with individual reminiscences, some of which follow below:
1935 and 1977
This dress was originally worn for a wedding on St Swithin’s Day (15 July) 1935, it was worn again when the bride’s daughter married in 1977.
This dress was worn for a wedding at the chapel in Chatham Dockyard (the bride’s father was a naval captain). It snowed. One of their children, Hilary Bailey, is the Weston church organist. The dress was later shortened to make an angel’s costume.
Worn at a wedding at Weston in 1957. The couple were married by the Rev L V Miller. There were six bridesmaids (one dress can be seen in the background). All the dresses were made by the bride’s mother.
This bride moved from Enfield during the war and has lived in Weston ever since. Her mother made the dress in brocade. A local man remembers being paid half a crown for singing in the choir for this wedding.
This couple were married at Dunstable Priory, where the bride’s father was the Rector. He later became Vicar of Weston. The bride’s wore a wild silk dress. The weather was beautiful. The reception was at the Rectory. “It was so lively and people were so nice. I didn’t want to leave.”
January 1964 and thick fog for this wedding, which had to take place on the bride’s day off from her hairdressing salon in Weston. The service was conducted by Canon Brenchley, who was Baldock Rector at the time.
Made as a wedding gift by her next door neighbour (who was a pattern maker for a West End Fashion House), this bride drew a picture of what she wanted. It was actually a bit of a copy of an Audrey Hepburn dress in Roman Holiday and turned out exactly as she wanted it.
From a wedding at St Mary’s church, Shephall. The bride, who is one of our Weston beli-ringers, made the dress in material featuring chrysanthemums as the bridegroom was “into all things Japanese”. The dress originally had a train.
The bride said “knowing that I would be paying for my own wedding dress and being rather short of cash, a friend suggested that I go to Fenwick’s in Bond Street and look at ex window display frocks which they sold off at bargain prices at the end of the season. There were two availabe to try and this one, which fitted perfectly, cost £7 10s (7.50).”
This dress was made by the bride’s mother with honiton lace from the bride’s grandmother’s wedding dress.
The bride wore a golden cloak with this dress, for a February wedding, which cannot be found.
From a wedding at St John’s church, Facit, Lancashire. It was the day the drought broke after a long hot summer and there were standpipes in the streets as the rain come down in torrents.
The Dress, antique painted lace, was designed by Catherine Buckley, who had just completed a range of clothes for Joanna Lumley to wear in her television part as Purdey in the New Avengers.
The bride said “My dress was made by Diane Hill, who I knew through the scout movement. She ran a fancy dress business in Hitchin and was moving into making bridal wear.
I drew a sketch of the dress and went to Liberty’s in London to buy the silk. I had been at University near Nottingham and went around the lace warehouses there to find the lace for it.
Going for fittings was quite entertaining, as the changing rooms were shared with the fancy dress business. Coming out of the next door cubicle there was a little boy trying on a pirate outfit, wondering what I was going to a party as!”
This dress was bought in October 1992 from a bridal shop in Guildford, Surrey. It was second hand and cost £225. I loved it straight away! I had to it altered before the wedding day to make the bodice tighter. The wedding was on a very rainy, blustery day in December. On the way to the church we had to drive through floods and although the service was at 2pm the sky looked almost black. The dress felt lovely.
The bride designed this dress for her wedding in Aymestrey Church near Leominster, Herefordshire. The reception took place in the grounds of the Old Vicarage literally opposite the church, so not too far to walk! A rain dance by local morris (meant to keep it away) entertained the guests followed by barn dance. The cake was made by a bridesmaid, inspired by an incident involving hippos in Botswana!
The bride said of her wedding a St Thomas of Canterbury Church in Northaw near Potters Bar “it was a traditional village church service followed by a reception in the grounds of the groom’s parents’ house nearby. Ther dress was purchased from Young Bride & Groom in Watford, my home town. It is an Alfred Angelo dress and cost in the region of £500 back in 1996. I was particularly drawn to this dress because of the beautiful detailed beading on the bodice but at the same time, it was a simple design.”
From a wedding at Holy Trinity Church, Much Hadham, the dress is by Catherine Walker, silk crepe, with a small puddle train. Thereis a small blue bow sewn inside to assist with the “something old, something new…”
“I didn’t want a veil and wore a simple tiara (not one loaned by HRH). Closer inspection will reveal the original pollen, grass, champagne and accumulated dirt stains from the day, and it was much trodden on during the barn dance which followed in the evening.
“I loved wearing this dress and have fond memories of being zipped into it by my mum and sisters, but it was a huge relief to take it off at the end of a very long day!”
This lovely rich golden dress was worn at a wedding where both bride and groom had the same surname. The Bride had been married to the groom’s cousin who died in 1990. The groom’s first wife also died in the 1990s. They had know each other since the bride was only about nine, when the groom was articled to her father in his architectural practice. Everyone who signed the Register at the wedding had the identical surname!
This wedding dress came from the Ukraine. The wedding was at Holy Trinity Church West and the bride was Ukrainian.