I've never done a wedding theme, but it's something most folks can relate to.
It was also a good theme for June... plus, I was selfishly inspired, by the marriages of my kids in recent months. I thought I could have fun making use of all the props and photos I've accumulated.
The recent Royal Wedding gave me a way to pull in a little current news, with all the memory sharing, that I expected. With a wedding theme, I knew I would need to be a little cautious. Most of my seniors are women and all my regulars have been married.
I knew we could have some fun sharing some wedding memories, but I figured Harry and Meghan could help me out. Keep from letting things too sentimental. Even good memories can conjure up sad emotions, when you're missing a spouse. It would be fun to put a little focus on a storybook wedding!
Quilt-Free Quilt Group
On Tuesday morning, I left the usual quilt at home and spread a white cloth on the table. (If only I owned a wedding ring pattern quilt, I would have used it) Then I let the white tablecloth set the mood.
When I scattered a few books, hands began to reach and pages began to turn. First it was quiet, while images were being absorbed. Then the sharing started. Two chuckled over an amusing, retro wedding veil. Another two women pointed and sighed over an elegant lace gown. I saw one woman shake her head and smile over an extravagant wedding celebration. "I got married by a judge!" She announced with a chuckle.
Weddings of The Past
All the folks I gathered with, were old enough to remember the weddings of Princess Grace and Jackie Kennedy. No one in my morning or afternoon groups claimed to have had such a ritzy dress or decadent wedding, but we all loved comparing the styles.
I tossed some invites and cards around the table. There wasn't one person who knew what a "Save the Date" card meant. Most were surprised at how casual invitations have become. All were pretty surprised to find out it took one dollar to mail the heaviest of the invitations.
I hid the very tacky bride and groom "cake topper" inside the mystery bag. We passed the bag, taking turns feeling the plastic couple, through the fabric. No one guessed what it was, but all laughed when the dated decoration was revealed.
In my memory care group, I asked, "What goes on the top of a wedding cake?" Ramona's face lit up! "Butter cream frosting!" Ramona knew more about cakes than most of us. She had been a cake decorator, in her younger years. We talked about how wedding cakes have changed over time. Most hadn't heard of a "groom's cake". We all wondered if that tradition would stand the test of time.
Young and Old
When I was a kid, most little girls dreamed about being a bride. Not always so, today.
It was fun having some youthful guests with different perspectives, in my morning gathering. Neither of the young girls had any desire to try on my old yellowed veil. Who could blame them. It looked about as crazy as the one I wore on Halloween, nearly 55 years ago.
Ready for the Aisle
I was glad to have a reason to pull out the old bridal veil. It hasn't been of much use since 1979. A few were game to grab the veil and flowers and ham it up for the camera.
Margie started singing, Here comes the bride! I quickly shared a recording of Wagner's, Bridal Chorus. The familiar music inspired some to sing along. Then a few demonstrated the step-together-march... using fingers, across the table! It got pretty silly.
No Veil for Mr. R
Mr. R was our only man in the group and he was quite a good sport. He graciously went along with our theme and was even willing to pose for a photo... but not as a groom!
He laughed and made it clear he was not interested in playing the groom role again. "I did that already!" He shook his head remembering the hard work... which had more to do with raising 10 kids, than being a husband.
I hoped Mr. R could help us out, with the definition of War Bride. I've always been a little confused and I thought our WWII vet could help us out.
But our conversation took another route when someone thought a War Bride was something like today's term of Bridezilla. Luckily the only horrible bride stories that were shared, came from TV and movies.
Weddings Around the World
It was a coloring book that opened up a discussion about wedding traditions around the world. There were curious illustrations of brooms being used in a German wedding and a lucky black cat in an Austrian wedding.
I pointed out the image of the Thai couple, connected by flower garlands. I had to admit, I still didn't understand what was behind all that happened during my son's Buddhist wedding ceremony in Thailand.
But I was able to share lots of photos and tell about the things I did know..
The warmth of my daughter-n-law's family and friends... the dreamlike sounds of monks chanting and bells ringing... the delicious smells and flavors of the celebration food... the colors and scents of tropical, flower displays and so many, many smiling faces!
I shared a few more photos about an Indian Hindu wedding that I attended in April. We talked about the beautiful clothing and energetic dancing. I'm pretty sure there were only protestants and Catholics in my two groups today, so I expected some to steer us towards a discussion of church weddings.
But there were too many questions about the bright fabrics and decorations and foods and music. The focus seemed far away from the Norman Rockwell style, little-white-church-wedding-image, that many could related to.
A bouquet of fake flowers, inspired a little brainstorming about how flowers are used in weddings around the world... bouquets, boutonnieres, table and cake decorations... We wondered if there's ever been a wedding without any flowers at all?
Our youngest in the morning group (with her aunt) told us about being a flower girl and scattering petals. I laughed about how I'd always dreamed of being a flower girl... but never had the chance. We talked about the ups and downs of playing a role in the bridal party.
Planning a Wedding Today
There are almost too many options when planning weddings, today. Most didn't remember having much choice about where to have the ceremony or even the reception. No one knew much about writing vows or even choosing music for the bride and groom's first dance. "I think it was easier, when there were fewer choices..."
When we talked about choosing a song for the bride and groom's first dance, there was a pause. No one seemed to remember specific music from their own weddings. Then Ramona, our cake decorator smiled with her suggestion. "I Love You Truly!" I had to smile, picturing either of my kids dancing to that sweet tune from the twenties.
Changes Over Time
We compared a few photos from different time periods. We agreed that there seem to be more smiling photos from today's weddings.
Some thought it was the formality that made people more serious at weddings in the past. Many of us thought that weddings have become more playful and party-like, because the bride and groom are doing more of the planning in today's wedding. A few of us admitted that our mothers, had done most of the planning.
In my afternoon group we took turns pondering a few questions, that got us off on some interesting tangents.
We discussed, people who marry multiple times... weddings that are halted due to an objection... why couples elope and what would be the best place to get married if you could choose anywhere. (my daughter's answer at age 5 was Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Place!) We didn't discuss same sex weddings, shotgun weddings, mail order brides or annulments. But we could have. These groups surprise me sometimes.
What Did I Learn?
We had fun with our wedding theme, but I think I was too cautious with my approach. I jumped around from Royal to Hindu weddings, from cake to veils from wedding songs to wedding movies. I was so afraid of getting personal that I didn't allow time for memories to surface and stories to be shared.
I was concerned about those who have lost beloved spouses and some who might have dealt with ugly divorces.
We jumped around so lightly, that I ended up missing out on the best stories... about sweet proposals or funny wedding fiascos. If only my mom had been at the table with us, I might have been braver. 10 years ago, she was a part of my first Senior Quilt Group. She would have been perfectly fine, sharing wedding stories and ignoring her divorce memories.
Most of us have the ability to remember the good things, especially as we age. I should have taken the risk and asked more questions and listened more.
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.