1976 Vintage Wedding: Dave & Mary

The first wedding where I was in the wedding party was on July 31, 1976.

I was the groom. It was the day I married Mary. The smartest thing I ever did.

I didn’t know what to expect. I had only witnessed one wedding before this day.

All this had also happened pretty quickly.  I had moved from my hometown of San Diego to attend Cal State Chico in fall 1975. Within a month, I had met Mary.  It didn’t take me long to realize she was the kindest, wisest, most compassionate woman I had ever known.

I figured I better grab her before somebody else did. So, I proposed in January 1976 while we were still in college. We got married six months later.

Mary had been to perhaps a thousand weddings in her time. She also was much more savvy and sophisticated than I was. So, when it came to the wedding, I did the smart thing. I let her plan it.

We got married at St. John’s in Berkeley, the same church where Mary’s parents had tied the knot in 1945. Since Mary’s father had died of cancer in December 1972, the selection had special significance for my fiancée’s family.

The night before the wedding, I slept at the dorms at U. C. Berkeley.  A high school friend was a resident assistant there, so a bunch of us hunkered down there. That was fine until the next morning when we realized no one had any shampoo. So, yes, I stood at the altar with unwashed hair. Mary still married me. It wouldn’t be the last time she looked past my imperfections.

The ceremony began with our college friend singing The Beatles’ “In My Life.” Her beautiful voice accompanied only by her guitar echoed through the church. The bridesmaids walked down the aisle. Mary’s oldest sister had told me I’d be nervous. I assured her I wouldn’t be. I nodded my head at her as she walked by, signaling I was calm. She shook her head in disagreement. We have the same repertoire going to this day.

Mary’s other bridesmaids waltzed past. The maid of honor looked like she was going to throw up. Talk about being nervous.

In the front row, Mary’s other sister wiped away tears. She had her 2-year-old daughter next to her and her pregnant belly in front of her. Her son was due any week.

Mary finally walked down the aisle to some traditional wedding march music. I don’t exactly remember what it was. Walking with her was Mary’s brother-in-law. To those who knew Mary’s father, this was quite a moment.  Her brother-in-law had been part of the family since Mary was 9 years old.

My bride was simply stunning. A simple yet elegant white wedding dress, flowers in her hair, her sweet, radiant smile on her face. I don’t remember much of the ceremony itself. For starters, my 12-year-old sister was one of the bridesmaids. She started crying… loudly… as soon as the minister started talking. I tease her to this day about “ruining” my wedding. That’s what older brothers do.

The other reason was… when I wasn’t glancing over at my sobbing sister, I was staring into Mary’s beautiful eyes. The minister’s words floated by.  I repeated what he told me to repeat. The rings were exchanged. We kissed and we were married.

I remember feeling like I was walking on air as I left the church and walked into the brilliant summer sunshine. We were driven to the wedding in an old car by my best man and the maid of honor. I remember feeling overwhelmed on that short trip. Mary remembers feeling the same way.

The reception was in the clubhouse of Hiller Highlands in the Berkeley Hills. It was a happy, fun affair. I don’t remember much of that either. Things went by in a blur. Everyone was talking to me. I didn’t know who half of them were.

Mainly, I wanted to get away from everybody and be with my new wife. We finally did that. Driving off to San Francisco, having dinner at The Carnelian Room on the top floor of the Bank of America building. We stayed at a hotel near the airport and flew to Hawaii the next morning.

A lot has happened since that day. Not all of it has been uplifting.

The Carnelian Room is now closed. The Hiller Highlands clubhouse burned down in the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. That same year my best man, died at the age 33 of alcoholism. Mary’s brother-in-law, the same young man to walk her down the aisle, is now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.

Life does take its twists and turns. But mostly, the past three and a half decades have been blissful and rewarding.

Mary and I raised two daughters. We did so living three blocks from her sister and brother-in-law.  Mary’s mom lives close by, too. Our children, Melinda Jean and Katherine, got to experience what it was like to have an extended family. We have two grandchildren now from our oldest daughter. Our youngest daughter is getting married herself this summer. Mary and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this summer. We have lived in the same house since 1980. Our children grew up there. Now, our grandson and granddaughter run through it.

I remember our wedding with fondness.  I also look back on it as a beginning. The start of a terrific life with a remarkable woman.  My life would be so different today if I hadn’t said “I do” on July 31, 1976. It would not be nearly as full or fulfilling.

So, I urge people to look at their wedding day not as an event or milestone in their life, although it certainly is. I urge them to look at it as a beginning. The first step in a joyous voyage. The first brick in the building of a family.

As The Beatles said…

Though I know I’ll never lose affection

For people and things that went before.

I know I’ll often stop and think about them

In my life, I love you more.

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  • Veronica

    This is wonderful! Both my parents and my in-laws were also married in 1976. Much of your recollection mirrors theirs, as do the fashions. I’m so glad that you and Mary have had a wonderful 35 years.

  • anonymous

    Love. This. Post.

  • FawMo

    I really have nothing to say other than we stand on the shoulders of giants.

    This post was so beautiful, warm and full of buoyant love. Congratulations on your successful marriage, it has filled me with nothing but contended joy. Thank you.

  • The week before our wedding, this was the perfect thing to read. Thank you!

    • mags

      me too – congrats on your upcoming wedding! :)

  • ka

    Gahh, being forewarned never stops the blubbering.

    I’m an unfortunately cynical person, and what I’ve observed firsthand of marriage lies at the apex of that cynicism. So for me these posts are a touchstone to another way to think and to live that is missing in the rest of my life. Stories like Dave and Mary’s are why I’m getting married, even when the rest of the world says “What’s the point?”

  • Welp this was amazing and beautiful. Wow.

  • Meg, I didn’t believe you. Lesson learned.

  • You warned us, but I sat here and bawled. Such a sweet story. I love the stories by grooms anyway, but this one is just phenomenal. Thank you for giving us hope for a long and happy life together, regardless of the twists.

  • This was so sweet and a simple. Thank you very much.

  • Kristin

    Coming out of longtime lurker-dom to comment on APW for the first time. Thank you for this. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever read on this site, and I’ve read a lot of great stuff here. Still trying to choke back tears. Just beautiful.

  • I love this.

  • Oh. This is so good. I love the vintage weddings and this is my favorite yet.

  • Stephanie

    Beautiful! I am inspired and hopeful.

  • I pride myself on my steely disposition and yet, here I sit, blubbering like a fool. I don’t care. I love these vintage weddings because they remind me that the “stuff” isn’t the point. Hitching your star to the right person, that’s the point.

  • aww this was really sweet. thanks for sharing Dave! <3

  • Sara

    This is so beautifully written! I love when we get to read posts by husbands. Thanks for letting us celebrate you 35 years later

  • Welling. Up.

    Did you have to quote that song? Gah! You’re killing me! *sob*

    • Shannon

      Yeah, I was fine until the song, and then the gasp and sob came out…

  • LOVE. That is all.

  • I could’ve hit “exactly!” for every comment above mine but I felt I had to chime in as well. I adore this post written by the groom with such a heartfelt message about our wedding being just the beginning. LOVE!

  • Ms Ditz

    I’ve always known my parents were awesome, but seeing their wedding on APW confirms it! I feel totally blessed to be able to say here, “OMG you guys! Those are MY parents!” :-) My fiance and I both have great marriages to live up to, but we have the love and support to make it happen.

    • Ashley

      What an inspiration your parents are! The only thing missing was a photo of them today! :)

    • meg

      Your grad post has a lot to live up to ;)

      • msditz

        OOoohhh…a challenge! I like it ;-) If I do a grad post I will include a picture of my parents present day!

  • Yes. Yes on all points. A wedding being the beginning of so much more. The bitter sweetness of losing loved ones and things changing. Being so fully immersed in the person you love. The day blazing by. Fantastic. Thank you!

  • Lexipedia

    I’m about to walk down the aisle (as a MOH) to that very song in three weeks. My mother is the bride and she is just about the age of Dave and Mary. She has been singing that song to me since I was a tiny baby and it is so, so meaningful to us. Especially as this is her second marriage (first wedding though), In My Life is absolutely perfect. One day I’m planning to make it a tradition. And yes, I cried.

  • Shannon

    YAY, thank you so much for this! It’s wonderful to read something written from the perspective of 35 years into a marriage… so much to learn.

  • Brother Jerald

    I remember it well…delicious lentil soup at the rehearsal dinner. I still have the recipe and make it from time to time! What a wonderful couple you guys are. Congrats on 35…we’re not far behind you!

  • L.W.

    Another lurker here, writing this through tears: WOW. We stand on the shoulders of giants, indeed.

  • Dana

    “My life would be so different today if I hadn’t said “I do” on July 31, 1976. It would not be nearly as full or fulfilling.”

    The line that really started the sobs for me.

    So beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • patti

    Love is all there is…
    I love your thoughts and pictures. Warmed me to my core!

  • Moz

    This is beautiful. Congratulations on your marriage. I love it when a guy writes for APW.

  • That’s so beautiful.

    I”m so sad for the loss of your best man at such a young age, and for your brother in law’s alzheimer’s. A marriage supports more people than just the two who are married to each other – what a gift to bestow upon your families.


  • Love love LOVE these posts. *tears*

  • Mom Pat

    It was a wonderful day for all of us and we are eternally grateful that Dave had the good sense to marry Mary!! Isn’t he just the most amazing writer??? So from the heart.

  • Marcia

    Great job, Dave. It brought back a lot of memories. One thing I didn’t remember was how young you both looked. Wow! Needless to say, both you and your marriage have aged well.

  • I just asked my maid of honor to sing “In My Life” at our ceremony. It’s cool to see that it has been sung at weddings for over 35 years : )

  • Lisa

    Oh my goodness, I’m trying to keep the tears in my eyes from falling. How beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.