Throughout our long and colorful local history and heritage, one of the major foundations and encouragements of our steady growth, successes, and challenges has and hopefully always will be the grand tradition and institution of marriage through our countless generations of hardy families. There is no doubt that both then and now for the young at heart that love has always been in the air, and in honour of our early brides and grooms from our vibrant Town and County the congenial ladies over at the Fort Ostell Museum have put together a delightful new display feature under the veil of ‘Once upon a bride” from 1840 to 1955 and ongoing.
Our annual Heritage Tea
The new wedding exhibition and much more is on display now at the Ponoka museum at the north end of the Lion’s Centennial Park, and will be one of the new features introduced at the annual Heritage Tea on Saturday, July 30 at 2 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend. This delightful early display of wedding and bridesmaid’s dresses, accessories and other unique treasures were kindly made available to the museum by individuals from Ponoka and district and represent several generations of their families who settled here, married, chose their careers and welcomed their children over many decades. Some of these newlyweds included Stan and Anne (Tkach) Laycraft, (1935), Marion (Watson) and Cliff Vold (1949), Helen (Saboe) and Werner Nielson, Leonidas (Lee) Auten and Mary Elizabeth Auten (1899), Jessie (Wettre) and Harry Ravnsborg (1918), Sarah (Lindsay) and Ed MacGeachy (1931), Helen (Dewhirst) and Alvin Spelrem (1948), Edith (Ward) Cerveny (1921), as well as a couple of petite flower girls Harriet Evans (2004), Helen Dewhurst (1946) and many others. Most of these families were our earliest pioneers and had emigrated from the United States, throughout Canada or overseas to begin their new life on the rolling prairies. Our excellent museum is also putting together a special plaque to recognize the countless ‘ward brides’ who settled in this district with their new husbands so many decades ago and proudly raised their usually very large and rambunctious families.
Among the magnificent collection are the spectacular full-length handmade dresses with so many tiny buttons as well as accessories of lace and ivory for the bride and her bridesmaids, gift boxes, original silverware and tea services, jewelry, an early certification of marriage and the ‘going away’ wardrobe. There were also those items from the precious trousseau, including exquisite baubles and decorations, fine linens, cushions, china, silverware, pillows, quilts, toiletries and so much more. It has been claimed that in those early days, the daughters and their mothers would start collecting items for their trousseaus long before the young lady had met the right boy, likely because many of the delicate surprises were hard to find and quite expensive. Some of the more well-off families might host a gala party at their homes to show-off the trousseau, at which the forthcoming wedding date was then announced. On the other hand, some new brides may have had to dye her former wedding dress another color to wear to her first job or for special occasions.
There are also many photos in the display of local family weddings of days gone by, as well as the importance of ‘the white wedding dress’, which was made popular by Queen Victoria in the 19th century, but prior to that the ladies could be married in any color that they wished. While the white wedding dress is chosen by most brides as a symbol of purity, the color blue also symbolized purity, piety and faithfulness. Another very longstanding and ancient custom among the wedding traditions was the ‘dowry’, the transfer of parental property at the marriage of a daughter to the groom in appreciation for welcoming their daughter into the family. Although the dowry custom is only carried on in a few countries now, some of the gifts in the early days may have included money, property or a prize bull or horse. There is no doubt that visiting this unique and historical feature at the Fort Ostell Museum will bring back many fond memories of your family weddings.