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From the Cataloger’s Desk: Planning the Perfect Wedding (1950s Style)

February 1, 2017

To celebrate all the marriage proposals, wedding ceremonies and anniversaries that will be taking place this Valentine’s Day, I present the Wedding Embassy Yearbook, published by L.S. Ayres and Company in 1950. Although times have changed quite a bit, this book must have been an invaluable resource for brides-to-be 75 years ago.

Department stores reigned supreme during this time period, and the L.S. Ayres flagship store in downtown Indianapolis provided customers with unique and memorable experiences. To this day, people reminisce about eating chicken velvet soup in the Tea Room, viewing elaborate window displays at Christmastime, and enjoying fashion shows with designs by Hoosier legends Bill Blass and Norman Norell. It was also the place where brides-to-be went for all of their shopping needs.

With the Bridal Room on the 3rd floor, a bridal consultant on staff, and a gift service and registry on the 5th floor, L.S. Ayres was truly a one-stop shop. The Wedding Embassy Yearbook offers the following description: “They have a way with weddings there and they will know how to clothe you in beauty like your childhood dreams … help you choose your attendants’ gowns, your flowers, your color scheme. They will help you with the many details of your reception … plan your personal trousseau to a pretty perfection … so many of this, so many of that. And through it all, their wide experience will save you time, errors and expense.” Why go anywhere else?

In addition to describing goods and services and where to find them, the Wedding Embassy Yearbook highlights various issuesthat arise during the wedding planning process picking a date, choosing the perfect location, sticking to a budget, sending invitations, purchasing the dress, finding a venue for the reception, booking the honeymoon. The list goes on and on! Brides and grooms grapple with the same issues today; therefore, many of the suggestions in this book are still relevant. In 2017, however, it is difficult to read certain passages without smiling or laughing. Here are some that I found sweetly amusing:

  • “The neckline of your gown should never be lower than the shoulder line in back and no lower in the front than good taste may dictate … This is a solemn, religious dedication ceremony and not the place for d?collet?!”
  • “While the bridesmaids are more decorative than useful, the reverse is true of the ushers. They are more useful than decorative.”
  • “It is quite proper to display gifts on the day of the wedding, particularly if the wedding is a home affair. If they are many and valuable, they should be guarded by a friend, a servant, or even a detective.”
  • “It is a most fortunate bride who begins life with a full silver tea service.”

Besides the illustrations, my favorite part of this book is “The Bride’s Gift Record” at the very end. It is difficult to see, but the bride who owned this copy received a nice assortment of home goods: an electric kitchen clock, a G.E. toaster, crystal candlesticks, a silver tray, measuring spoons, a card table and much more. After reading the entries, I wish I knew more about the happy couple or had a picture of them on their special day. Regardless, I hope they lived happily ever after!

Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married this Valentine’s Day, I invite you to take an entertaining trip back to 1950 with the Wedding Embassy Yearbook. The catalog record for this item can be found here.

Lindsay Borman is the cataloger of Printed Collections at the Indiana Historical Society. Her claim to fame: She can name all of the U.S. presidents ... in order!

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