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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