Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family Wedding Photographs

Family Wedding Photos

Family photographs which celebrate family events such as weddings are important social documents for family historians. As well as recording events which shaped the lives of the families who we are researching, wedding photos can provide us with a pictorial narrative about family relationships and so much more. Wedding photographs make an important statement about the social context within which the family existed, for example, whether the family was wealthy, of a working class or perhaps an ethnic background. Wedding photographs are also a relevant representation of social change, fashion, the places where and the way in which our forebears lived.

The clothes worn by the people in wedding photographs reflect much about fashion and the times in which they lived. Weddings are a special event for all families to which 'best' clothing was, and still is, worn. Wedding photographs from the two World War periods or the Great Depression are a reflection of how our families fared during these times of great hardship. The clothes worn by the Bride and Groom, provide vital information which helps us to define who a person was and much about them. From the wedding photograph pictured right, taken in Lancashire, in 1917, during World War 1, we have an immediate pictorial narrative about this couple. The groom, Bill Eckerley is wearing an army uniform. Research finds that he is a Private in the A.O.C. ( Army Ordinance Corps). The bride, Winifred Agnes Quinn is wearing day clothing as many women did during the war years when there was a shortage of money and materials. The fuller skirt and jacket which was fashionable in the pre 1918 years (after which, skirts became straighter) records this young bride as a fashionable young woman of her time. The photograph is taken in a studio, indicating that there was sufficient money to be spent on an official wedding portrait.

The wedding picture of Stanley Galik and his bride Mel, (below right) taken in 1945 in Norfolk England where Stanley was stationed is typical of many war time wedding photographs. There was a shortage of money and weddings were often arranged in haste as partners were sent off into battle.

Day clothing and uniforms were typical apparel for a wedding in England during World war 2. These two wedding photographs are a pictorial record of changing fashions as we see the women's skirts become shorter and straighter and the groom's uniform tells us that he served in the Navy.

Not only are wedding photographs, a significant record of the social and economic lives of our families, but they also make an important statement about the people in them. There is a saying that' clothes define the person'. Often the clothing worn in a wedding photograph defines who the wearer is. In the photograph, below right, in which I am Flower Girl (1958) I can see that my aunt felt confident enough about herself to wear a daringly (for the times) fitting wedding dress. Knowing that my grandmother was a wonderfully talented seamstress, I know that the wedding dress would have been hand made by her. My own mother made the little flower dress dress for myself. There is a certain psychology to 'reading' family photographs, and in particular, wedding photos are a wonderful insight into how our ancestors and relatives perceived themselves. A less confident bride may have worn a looser fitting gown.

Celebrations such as weddings are times when many family members gather together and are quite often the only pictorial record of many relatives and ancestors. They have, therefore, a significant place in the recording of our family history and are important resource material for anyone researching family history.

If you are fortunate, your family wedding photographs may have names written on the back to enable you to identify the people in the pictures and the place where your ancestor was married.
The wedding photograph, below right, is a treasured record of the wedding of my parents who married in 1954. Since they both died fairly young, I cannot ask them about their special day, however, I have a beautiful pictorial narrative of this family celebration, where the guests are dressed in their best clothing and the ladies in the fashion of the 1950's, are wearing hats. My mother sewed her wedding gown and veil and my grandmother made the bridesmaid's dresses as both girls were sisters of my father. I know from writing on the back of the photograph (written by a great aunt who sent the picture to another relative) that the marriage took place at St Paul's Church, St Paul's Terrace, Brisbane and that the reception was held at 'Whytecliffe'.


  1. A Wonderful collection of photos!

  2. Lovely job putting these photos - and they are a wonderful collection - in context.

  3. Just looking through several of your blog posts I can see that you have some amazing photographs. It's too bad that some were lost in a fire, but the ones that survived - they're great.
    Welcome to geneabloggers.
    Nancy from My Ancestors and Me at http://nancysfamilyhistoryblog.blogspot.com

  4. Due to the nature of the bulky equipment and lighting issues, wedding photography was largely a studio practice for most of the late 19th century. Over time, technology improved, but many couples still might only pose for a single wedding portrait. Wedding albums started becoming more commonplace towards the 1880s, and the photographer would sometimes include the wedding party in the photographs. Often the wedding gifts would be laid out and recorded in the photographs as well..
    Nice one...Thanks For Sharing..
    Montreal Photographers

  5. That’s quite an interesting post. Everything is just so adorable. One of my friend’s wedding is also going to be held at the vintage themed San Francisco wedding venues and the couple will have a 70s themed ceremony. I am super excited to be the part of this fun vintage ceremony.