1979 Vintage Wedding: John & Sue

Today’s vintage wedding is from reader Lauren, and it’s from Australia. I’m trying really hard to focus on the meaningful story of a happy wedding that lead to a long marriage, but you guys… also… the dress! And the parasols! And can we all fawn over Lauren’s mum’s fashion sense for a moment? Ok. Now, the wedding that was so wonderful, it went on till five in the morning!

My parents, John and Sue, were married in Canberra, Australia on 3 February 1979. They had known each other precisely 51 weeks.

They met at a party through mum’s best friend, Coralie who was convinced they would be a good match. Dad drove a 1954 Triumph TR2 (which he still has – he drove me to my wedding in it last year), and it was parked out the front of the party. Mum likes to tell people that she noticed the car before she noticed dad!

At the time, mum was living in Canberra and dad, who was a Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant was based in Nowra, about a 3 hour drive away. They started a long distance relationship, and dad spent many hours driving back and forward between Nowra and Canberra in his TR. For his efforts, my nana made him sleep in a tent in the backyard! They also endured a three month separation when dad was sent on a short posting to Darwin, in Australia’s far north. Coralie’s (whose father was in the Navy) advice at the time was “this will either make or break your relationship because this is what the Navy is all about.”

A few months after they had met, disaster struck: Dad was informed he would be posted to Darwin for a year or more from the middle of the following year. Even nowadays, Darwin is a very expensive seven hour flight from Canberra. Back then, a long distance relationship would have been extremely difficult.
They had a conversation one day that went like this:

Dad: Well, I guess this is over then.

Mum: I guess so.

Dad: Or, you know, we could get married.

Mum had to insist dad actually ask the question before she could accept his proposal!

Announcements were made and planning began. They set a date for April 1979, which would have fallen on mum’s parents wedding anniversary. However, they were not far into their planning when dad was informed that he would be moving to Darwin in March, so they had to bring the date forward.

Mum had one Bridesmaid, Coralie, and had her younger sisters as flower girls. Mum’s mum and nana made her wedding dress, as well as the flower girls dresses, their own outfits, and the suit for my grandpa. There was a lot of debate about the colour of the dress, because dad would be wearing his Navy white uniform and Coralie was worried that anything other than perfect white would look dirty next to dad. In the end, their “all white wedding” looked lovely.

Mum’s next door neighbour made the wedding cake as her gift. They chose not to have flowers, as they were too expensive, and instead had parasols and pom poms for the bridal party. Mum had her hair done by her regular hairdresser and did her own make up. In all, the wedding cost about $2,000 (AUD), which would be about $8000 in today’s money.

The reception was great fun. Dad is not a tall man, and when he stood for his speech his  mates insisted they couldn’t see him so he stood on the table, much to mum’s embarrassment! They also brought score cards along and held them up after each speech.

My favourite part of the story of my parents wedding is that they stayed out until 5am! They left the wedding at a respectable hour, but as soon as they were outside they realised they weren’t done yet and ended up being the last to leave – along with my grandpa! I am super impressed by this, given that I was beat by midnight at my own wedding!

Mum and Coralie are still best friends after nearly 40 years, and last year Coralie made the journey from Tucson, AZ, where she is now living, to Sydney to be at my wedding.
In their 32 years of marriage, mum and dad have lived all over Australia, moving around for dad’s work. They had me two years after they got married, and later had two boys and another girl.  Dad’s Navy career meant that mum was at home alone for months on end with small children, while dad was away at sea. Mum says: “Coralie’s advice all those years ago was very accurate, and while difficult, those absences did make us appreciate each other.”

Dad’s final posting before leaving the Navy was to Sydney where our family were very happy and settled. They have lived in the same house now since 1994, where we grew up. They have started to do some travelling over the past few years, and are looking forward to more travel in a few years when my sister has finished school.

Modern photo by Follan Photography; Photo of wedding cake, and photo outside church, by guests at the wedding (unknown nowadays); wedding photos by PG Bridson.

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  • I love everything about this wedding. Especially the parasols, and the combo of the hat and dress together!

  • So lovely. Everything, the long distance relationship, the wisdom… and I am gonna go on and say wow, pretty pretty dress and the parasols :). Drooling.

  • FawMo

    This is just lovely. I love hearing the love stories of people who have made it work (and those who haven’t).

    BUT I’m going to superficially fawn over both John and Sue’s wedding and Lauren’s beautiful wedding dress! The pom poms are de-lightful!

  • Erica

    Vintage weddings are the best! They always make me feel all teary and circle-of-life-y….

  • I love these vintage wedding posts – they are by far some of my favorites. :)

  • Claire

    The photo of John standing on the table is priceless! The love story here is beautiful, but I also like the thread of longtime friendship woven throughout.

  • And their neighbor made that pretty cake? Wow. What a great love story here. *Grinning*

  • Cassandra

    What a nice story! It’s true – the long distance can make or break a couple, and as I’m stepping into an LDR with no specific end, it’s refreshing and heartwarming to read about a couple who made it so far.

    Also, I love the photo of Lauren’s dad on the table, and her mother so obviously looking like “Is he really doing that at our wedding?” Super cute.

  • Score cards for the speeches? Best idea ever. :) This vintage wedding just made me grin my head off while reading it!

  • I second and third the comments about the dresses, the parasols and Dad on the table…but where is THE CAR???

    I want more!!

  • Dad: Well, I guess this is over then.
    Mum: I guess so.
    Dad: Or, you know, we could get married.

    This is hilarious.

    Though our story was different, I feel like our relationship had a similar jump. My now-husband and I are from 2 countries and met when I was visiting his country. So, after the first two dates during my trip there, I had to fly back home. So our third date was his 10 day visit to come see me in my country. Quite a big third date to have with a risk of, “What if it doesn’t work…?” Kind of a huge jump, but long-distance relationships can be different that way: you have to decide earlier how much you really want to invest in the relationship and then work hard at it to counter all that physical distance. So their thought process resonated with me. :)

  • Moz

    Way to represent the Australians on APW! (I have mates who live on the Nowra base these days.) Your mother’s dress was so beautifully 70s and I love the speech/score cards story. I love vintage APW weddings!

    Also, it’s hilarious to see some churches have had that ‘no confetti’ rule for this long!

  • Kudos to your parents for a beautiful wedding and a lifetime of love. My husband and I have spent most of 2011 apart as he attended Basic training and now prepares for deployment. Being apart is hard; I admire all those who do it with grace.*

    • John McCormack

      The separations are often difficult, especially for the stay at home partner. My coping method was to look forward to the reunion, they are always momentous.

  • That dress is *killing* me. Gorgeous!

  • Kathryn

    Oh, delicious! Mates and neighbours and realised and mums and favourite.

  • Class of 1980

    Your parents look much the same. Cute!

  • These are the original vintage! Great designs although this may not be a fashionable way to go now, but I still believe the 70’s dresses would never run out of style.

  • Sue McCormack

    Thank you everyone for your lovely comments. It’s touching to see how many people have enjoyed our story. And to Class of 80- I’m sure you’re just being polite, but thank you, you just made my day.

    • Class of 1980

      NO NO! I’m not being polite. It’s true!

  • Kate

    I’m the daughter of a former Navy couple and now a military spouse myself, with a few years of long distance under my belt. I love this story and the story of how their marriage has progressed since their beautiful wedding day!