The Colorful Wedding Announcement of Miss Helen Watts

Included in our Hostetler Photograph Collections is a set of glass negatives  showing the former Miss Helen Kelsey Watts in her wedding gown, in which she married Mr. Homer Brown Payne.

Payne Wedding 2

While researching these images, we located a wedding announcement, published in the Davenport Democrat on May 17, 1914—a nice long one, too, as both Ms. Watts and her groom came from well-to-do families.

Finding marriage announcements can be a little tricky—they were published anywhere from the day of to several months after the actual wedding, depending on the time period.  But we have several newspaper indexes that make the search that much easier—one of them is even available on our website, and is accessible from your own home computer.

These article are usually well worth the effort; early wedding photographs may be beautiful slices of time,  but most of them—and all the glass negatives in our collections—predate color photography.

Luckily the newspaper provides all the visual details, but describing the entire scene in loving color:

Payne Wedding1

The matrons of honor…were dressed alike in cream colored silk lace gowns made with dainty apron effect of pink chiffon taffeta edged with knifeplaiting, the girdle of pink satin ending in large butterfly sash bows of the same delicate shade of rose.

They wore pink lace castle caps trimmed in dainty little nosegays and with larger clusters of pink satin rosebuds on each side, and they carried staff bouquets of white baskets filled with lilacs, the basket handles tied with bows of pink tulle…

Payne Wedding

The bride entered on the arm of her father…She was in an exquisite gown of ivory while chiffon panne satin made simply, the drapery falling away into the lines of a long, pointed train; this was caught just above the waist line with a garniture of rose buds. The short tunic-like drapery of the skirt had a deep under flouncing of point d’Alencon, and the bodice with its round neck and short sleeves was entirely of the dainty lace.  The long bridal veil fell to the hem of the wedding gown and was caught with tiny bunches of orange blossoms to the little Juliet cap of tulle.  This had an inner ruching of the point d’Alencon that was fashioned as a frill, the points caught back to the cap. The bride wore the wedding gift of the groom, a ring of diamonds set in platinum, and carried an immense bouquet of lilies of the valley.

Details of the reception, photographs of which are not in our collection, are also thoughtfully supplied:

 The [Outing Club] rooms were all beautifully decorated for the occasion in the lavender and pink bridal colors…The large ball room was trimmed in garlands of huckleberry, the balcony rail stair balustrade, arc ways and openings were all festooned with the foliage, with bridal wreath and lilacs used profusely in artistic arrangement.  The wicker room mantle was filled in a banked with ferns and palms, and baskets of lilacs, snapdragons, roses, lilies of the valley and the different spring flowers in season, were used about the rooms and on the radiators, and in the super room where a buffet luncheon was served during the evening.

The announcement provides more than just color commentary:  the article is packed with choice bits of information about the bride and groom, their friends, their families, and even their financial prospects!  The destination of the honeymoon was apparently kept secret from the newspaper, but it did mention that the newlyweds would be setting up home at 29 Edge Hill Terrace, in the fashionable “Camp McClellan” neighborhood.

Clearly marriage announcement can be a rich source of family history and genealogical shortcuts—short of a time machine, there’s nothing better than a good marriage announcement to fill in the rest of the picture!

(posted by Sarah)

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