Weddings In The Red River Valley

by

Julie Bahr

It's always a happy day. Joy and excitement fill the airand is sensed in every corner. Everyone is smiling and laughing, exceptthe poor, unfortunate, young man who has just lost the one he has secretlyadmired for years as a bride to another. And over there, in the place ofhonor, is the celebrated couple. The lovely young woman draped in whitehas a delicate smile across her face and her arm is clinging to that ofher husband's. He stands tall and proud, as if to show off what he haswon. The onlookers joyfully congratulate them and comment what a lovelypair they make. This scene, the scene of the wedding, has always been thisway and I'm sure will always reman so. But there have been a few changesin the ways of courting, weddings and honeymoons since those "GoodOld Days" in the Red River Valley. Modern conveniences have eliminatedsome problems, but only to create others.

Let's look at the pros and cons of how cars have replacedhorses in the ways of courting. A horse doesn't cost so much to use foran evening. If you come home late, a horse isn't as loud as a car. Twopeople can't help but snuggle up on a horse. You can't loose the keys toa horse, and it can't have a flat tire or run out of gas, either. Thenhow do you explain coming in so late? But the horse did have its drawbacks. When a young man thought he had stayed too late at his sweetheart's house,he had to clean the barn before he left for home. No, he wasn't made todo it as a punishment. He just cleaned the area behind the horse, so whenher father came out to do chores the next morning, he wouldn't find toomuch evidence of how long the young gentleman's horse had been there theevening before.

The telephone has also advanced from the stone ages inthe ways of wooing a young woman's heart. With the good 'ol box telephonesituated right in the middle of the kitchen wall, it was rather hard tokeep your conversations in a low tone so the rest of the family could nothear. Then little brothers and sisters gather around to make life veryuncomfortable for those few precious moments on the phone. Not only doesthe family listen in, but who knows how many other people on either yourline or his, about sixteen families in all, are listening in on that talkyou want so dearly to be private. No wonder news traveled so fast! Today,many couples spend more time on their private extension phones than theydo together in person.

The time of engagement varied in length as much as it doestoday. Some couples got married on the spur of the moment while otherswere engaged for years, although most were under a year. The ages of thebride and groom were nearly the same as most couples getting married today.

To join as husband and wife with a legal contract (1) orto marry two people is an act which has been in practice since the beginningof time. It has always been proper to marry the person you love, but themarriage ceremony, along with many of its traditions have changed over theyears. During the past fifty years in the Red River Valley, these changeshaven't been too drastic, but there are still quite a few.

How often do you hear of a home wedding these days? Nottoo often. It's usually the rich or those who dare to be different whohave their vows spoken in their home. This made them a little more specialand needless to say, everyone around the house couldn't help but becomeexcited. But it took a lot of work to get everything ready for the wedding,just as it does today. That day is the one time you want to run smoothly.

With all the aunts and uncles and cousins and friends comingfor the celebration, lots of food will have to be ready and waiting. Inpreparation for some weddings, the cooks prepared food for two full daysto satisfy everyone's needs. The father would butcher a pig or cow or bothto celebrate the occasion. Most of the weddings had a wedding cake, too. But they weren't done up as elaborate as they are today.

The big day finally arrives. The house is full of company. The pastor is ready and waiting patiently, but really wishes it would hurry. Everyone is waiting for the marriage ceremony to start so they can seethe bride in her dress. No two dresses of any brides were ever alike. Most of them were quite fancy, even those at the simplest weddings. Oneparticular dress was made by the bride's mother and fashioned out of whitesatin. It was in an apron style, which was the fashion, and also had sequinson it. This was rather different but certainly very stunning.

Hilma Olson wore her wedding dress in 1912 and it was madeof a cream color silk. It was a floor length surplice that had a bow atthe tie waist and pleats from the shoulders to the waist in a 'V' pattern. The sleeves were elbow length with lace around them and there were longgloves, a broach and white shoes with the same kind of bumpy toe that isin style today. She remembers very distinctly how the shoes were too smalland she got a corn. Albin Olson, her husband, wore what would be calledthe "traditional", a black suit, button shoes and white shirtand tie. It's a shame how men were kept to black and white. At a modernwedding the groom may come out in a bright purple suit while the bride stridesin wearing white jeans.

You've probably read or heard about catalog order wives,where you buy your wife through the mail, and laughed or else said you donot believe it. Well, there really was such a thing. A young girl in theRed River Valley ran away from home and ended up being sold as a catalogwife and sent to Missouri. Those men must be either too short on time orelse not very choosy.

After the wedding there is, inevitably, the honeymoon. For some it's a cruise around some tropic islands while others go straightto their new home and cook breakfast first thing the next morning. Moreof the latter happened in old Red River Valley although most couples endedup going to Minneapolis.

For Hilma and Albin Olson's honeymoon, they returned somedishes they had borrowed for their wedding. They borrowed them from heruncle who must have lived some ways away, as it took one day by horse andbuggy to return them. But I'm sure they were just as happy with their oneday honeymoon as they would be with a two month tropic cruise because theywere together and that's what they cared about.

Now that we've taken a quick glance over some of the waysmarriages have changed during the years in the Red River Valley, you candecide which style and type you like best. With something as precious asmarriage there will always be parts of it changing, like the styles of theclothing, but the one constant factor of love will hold through until theend of time.

 

Bibliography

Barron, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur, Hallock, MN, Interview, January4, 1974

Lindgren, Mrs. Mabel, Hallock, MN, Interview, January 4,1974

Olson, Mrs. Hilma, Hallock, MN, Interview, January 23,1974

Pemberton, Mrs. Cora, Hallock, MN, Interview, January 4,1974

Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary, The Reader'sDigest Association, Inc., 1966, p. 829

Reese, Mrs. Katherine, Hallock, MN, Interview, January4, 1974

(1) The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1966, p. 829/P>

(1) The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1966, p. 829