Yesterday, I had the huge privilege of meeting some incredible women – role models from the oldest generation; those who grew up in different times and in a different climate, marrying during or post-war and having to deal with hastily arranged legalities during a tight forty eight hour emergency leave, getting permission from parents and designing speedy celebrations, with limited resources due to rationing.
Even after war had ended, everything was strictly rationed and the speed and ingenuity with which families rallied round was impressive – so full of love. Clothing coupons would be donated to access material for dresses, and treadle sewing machines would whir from tireless feet of Great Aunt dressmakers to ensure the bride and bridesmaids looked stunning. Donations of home grown veg from winter stores made up recipes for a spectacular wedding breakfast with potatoes, beetroot and fresh summer salads. Precious rations of butter and sugar enabled Mothers and Grandmothers to whip up celebration wedding cakes, with creative trimmings to adorn it and to make it personal.
Rationing for weddings allowed solely for an additional 2lbs of cooked ham – hardly the basis of a feast – yet somehow, meat rationing was supplemented with perhaps a fine cooked leg of lamb or a clutch of hard boiled eggs. Guests knew not to ask from whence these delicious ingredients had been sourced!
Brides were frequently worried that the grooms would not turn up and that they would be left, bereft at the altar! Not for reasons of cold feet, but rumours abounded that their platoon would have been instructed to regroup as they were commanded to a last minute posting. Or, transport from central stations had been curtailed, and grooms desperate not to let down their about-to-be brides, walked miles throughout the night to ensure they were there, next morning to say, ‘I do!’ Often, by the following day, they would be back with their regiments and sharing a barrack bedroom with forty ‘mates’ and not in the marital bed with a longed for wife!
The lady proudly displaying the photograph above told me that she was now ninety years of age! The image of her and her beloved husband has been carried around in her purse for seventy two years. What an incredible time in which to hold such dear memories of a day when a union – which was to see her through a lifetime of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren – five generations in fact – a day when a beautiful marriage union, was not necessarily made in heaven, but by an army of family, precious friends and a bride and groom who truly intended to live by their vows to each other.
A wedding day, at the start of a lifetime of love together, never to be forgotten!