Fred and Hannah’s Wedding: 1974

If all weddings are a product of their era, my parents’ wedding was certainly a product of theirs. We tend to think that Alternative Weddings are new to our generation, but of course they really began with the counter-culture movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s – and my parents lived in Berkeley, the epicenter of it all. My parents’ wedding is for anyone that is worried that a practical wedding has to be small, or a alternative wedding has to have a certain style. Now I will let my Dad (who is a huge fan of all of you guys and reads all of your comments) take it away. Oh, and one last thing: my parents were so excited to write about their wedding that they told me they stayed up past their bedtime doing it, because they were just having so much fun. —Meg, EIC

Hannah and I got married at the high altar in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco with five Episcopal priests celebrating the Eucharist (i.e. Communion) early in the Winter on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. (Our entire family loves irony.)

Elaborate, yes. Expensive, not really. The five priests were close personal friends, most about our age. We asked them to wear their fanciest, most colorful vestments. A friend printed copies of the liturgy so everybody knew what to say. I asked my brother to be Head Usher; the other ushers and our attendants were close friends. We chose the hymns, and even included a Christmas carol. Other friends baked the bread for Communion. We chose the wine (a nice Zinfandel, as I recall), and asked the priests to give big sips to the recipients. The wedding ceremony itself takes no more than 20 minutes, so we chose to have Communion. It is optional, but provides emphasis for the idea that a wedding incorporates a married couple into the Community. We are big on that kind of thing.The Christmas decorations were still up in the Cathedral; the only flowers we needed were corsages for our mothers and bouquets for Hannah and her attendants. We did not belong to the Cathedral congregation, so the use of the building cost a couple of hundred dollars, but a Verger (a custodian, wearing vestments) came with it. We decided to hire one of the Cathedral organists for another hundred or two. This did not seem like very much, and he could play anything we wanted, including, for the Recessional, some heavy-duty Bach that matched one of the hymn tunes. (We like Johann Sebastian.) We had the Receiving Line at the back of the church so that we could greet our friends, and so they could start partying as soon as they got to the Reception. The organist rang change for half an hour. The photographer had shot my sister’s wedding two years earlier (the reception had been in my parents back yard), and charged us the same price even though he was from out of town and had to travel. (His wife wanted an excuse for a trip to San Francisco.)

Hannah did all of the heavy lifting in putting the wedding together. In the late spring she had agreed to marry me, so she had about six months. I had just finished my degree, and my first full time job was on the East Coast. It started in late August, so I was not around to help her. Both of her parents worked full time, so, while they paid for the wedding and set some limits, the wedding belonged to Hannah. However, I was around when she got her wedding dress in the early summer. It was a winter dress with long sleeves, and was marked down 50% to $150 at one of the high-end department stores. This was good; her mother could not have afforded a $300 dress. The dress was actually a little short and could not be lengthened, so Hannah wore perfectly flat ballet-style satin bedroom slippers to disguise the shortness.

Hannah’s parents arranged for the reception; the ceremony was ours. The reception cost more than a thousand dollars, a lot of money in those days, but it covered the venue, the food, and the setup and service. We served hors d’oeuvres and wedding cake and champagne punch. Hannah’s mother gave us the choice of limiting the guest list or eliminating champagne service. We gave up the champagne. We bought the cake at a local coffee house, now defunct, where one of the bakers had trained at the fanciest bakery in San Francisco. It cost $100, a good price for a good cake. Different layers were different flavors, an innovation back then. They baked a sample cake for free; Hannah had them write “Happy Birthday, Mom,” and used it for her mother’s birthday.

The reception was held at the Marines Memorial Club. My father had been a career officer in the Marine Corps and a charter member of the Club; Meg is using his dress saber to cut her cake, just as Hannah used her grandfather’s sword to cut hers. Hannah’s parents also were members of the Club; her father had been an Army officer.My sister’s wedding cost a thousand dollars. Ours cost two thousand, and we did not feel that it was outrageous. Meg calculated that $2000 would be about $10,000 now, due to inflation. On the other hand, she priced out duplicating our wedding and came up with a cost of more than $45,000.

This was an era when Alternative could mean many things. We took the standard service and pushed the envelope as far as we could; our parents were distinctly dubious about its showiness. And that did not even include the Episcopal Chaplain to U.C. Berkeley carrying the Bible into the midst of the congregation so the Gospel could be read by the Pastor of the Berkeley Free Church, one of the most radical priests of the sixties. Alternative is as alternative does. We got the wedding we wanted for $2000. We like to dress up, put on a big show, and have a party. And even the Wedding Elves: the Baker, the Verger, the Organist, the Marine’s Memorial staff , seemed to have a good time.

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  • I love this. I love this I love this I love this. Thank you Fred and Hannah, for sharing such loveliness, and for staying up past your respective bedtimes to do so.

    (mmmmmmmmm, Zin)

  • really enjoyed all the little details as shared by your parents

  • Hello Meg’s dad, and thank you so much for this. The dress looked a perfect length to me, in fact it’s pretty much similar to my own (wedding this Sunday). Why waste the sight of fabulous shoes?

    And now Meg, I’m really intrigued by your Episcopalian/Jewish mix.

  • Meg

    Baptist, Maire-Eve. My mom’s Episcopalian.

  • Harmke

    wow, your parents look just like mine did when they were married 26 years ago in the Netherlands, same sleek hair, same non-poofy wedding dress, same beard, LOVE IT!
    only my dad didn’t want to wear a suit (to the great grief of my grandma) and bought himself a pair of rib-pants and a matching (yes, matching. that was quite the achievement for my dad back then. well, actually it still is) sweater.

  • oh wow!! the pictures look so fancy! What a great story.I posted a little about my parents wedding yesterday…

  • Awww. Meg, your family knows how to do it! Fun and perfect for the historical moment.

  • LPC

    So sweet. Thank you for posting this.

  • I love this. Thanks, Meg’s dad, for sharing it. I am so impressed that you remembered all the details–I have this distinct impression that I will forget basically everything as soon as ours is done.

    I hope that we remember ours as fondly as you remember yours. :)

  • I’ve seen the photos of my parents wedding (1978, Kansas), but know very little of what happened other than an Uncle stepping on and ripping my mom’s veil. I’m going to ask now.

    Thanks for sharing, Fred and Hannah, it’s lovely to see.

  • Meg

    My parents always say that you won't forget if you don't want to. And I don't want to.


  • rachel w

    this made me smile- what a lovely and sweet wedding :) and i love that you remember your day so clearly; i’m really quite tired of people telling me i will forget the whole day.

    my fiance and i are just a month and a half away from our own episcopal ceremony (with its beautiful liturgy and hymns!) in our cute little church with priests we are friends with and who have encouraged our relationship… afterwards, we are celebrating with a picnic reception at a nearby park- very special and very simple :)

  • Thank you for sharing this! I love the wedding dress!
    Now I can’t wait to go home and ask my parents about their wedding. I know very few details except for the handmade dresses and the ridiculously cute hat/veil my mom wore.

  • *sigh* Meg, this is beautiful, and your comment about duplicating the wedding being exorbitant is spot-on. I wanted to have the same backyard wedding as my parents, but renting the tent was $15K+ alone.

    Instead I am having a wedding at a nondescript hall (I tried everything else, really), and paying for all sorts of services I don’t need or want. I’d run away, but at this point I’ve sunk so much into it, that I’d feel bad.

    Sorry this became so melancholy, you’ve just distilled all of my frustrations into a single post.

  • Please pardon my ignorance, and I’m sorry if that was too personal. It’s just that knowing you are having a Jewish wedding, I had always assumed that was your background.

  • What a lovely wedding! How amazing that a wedding that cost $2000 in the 1970s would exceed $40,000 today! Yikes!

  • K

    Fred and Hannah, I hope you enjoy going back and reading this post whenever the mood strikes you. Since our wedding was blogged, I’ve loved going back and reliving that those moments, on both sunny AND rainy days.

    May you have many more happy years together. ♼

  • I love it that your parents have written about their wedding for your blog.

    Seems our parents generation in general did things a bit differently.

    I love my parents wedding photos as they look so young (younger than I am now, certainly) and so 70s. But English 70s, so with a sweet little stone church in the background. The photos are sepia tinged with age now.

  • cr

    I have been reading your blog for months now and I am so grateful for all your wonderful advice and I just love this post! So sweet! Thanks! ~ c

  • Yeah, receiving lines! I have only been to one wedding that had one. Now I wish I had done this. It seems as though this lovely touch of wedding hospitality has been replaced by the bride and groom and their attendants and parents rushing off to take photographs, followed by the ubiquitous formal “entrance” of the bride and groom at the reception. Both of which focus on the wedding as a “show” rather than a community ritual. Bring back the receiving line!

  • Meg

    Oh, I don’t know, Erika. Every wedding I’ve ever been to has a reciving line. They take FOREVER, and you talk to the couple for two seconds. I think their are less formal ways to greet everyone. That said, I rather strongly disaprove of rushing off to take pictures and leaving your guests stranded.

  • Meg

    Which isn’t to say receiving lines can’t be lovely‌ they can be. I just don’t think they are the best, having waited in them for hours of my life ;)

  • this is so beautiful…thanks so much to your parents for sharing! they look fantastic. meg, you look like your mom! so pretty!

  • Gorgeous! Grace Cathedral is such a lovely church. The last time I was in that area and went inside to look around, when my partner and I exited, I took his arm and imagined what it would be like to get married there and come walking down those steps, LOL. (We’re not religious, but one can’t help but be impressed by a gorgeous setting!)

    (My parents got married in San Francisco in December 1975 — I love how their church wedding pics have Christmas trees — at St. Patrick’s, a Catholic church in SOMA, now next to the Marriott and the Jewish Museum.)

  • MegsDad

    rachel w: If you make your it your own, and don’t have a cookie-cutter WIC wedding, I seriously believe that you will remember your wedding forever. (And you, too, accordiansandlace.)

    Marie-Eve: You stumbled into the briar-patch of our family’s religious connections. Don’t worry. We took no offense — and sometimes even we get confused. (And I like the dress, too.)

    And Jeff: Just wait. You will get your chance to be married in Grace Cathedral. *That* I believe with all my heart.

  • Rachel

    I hope and pray that in 20 or 30 years, my husband and I are excited to “blog” (or whatever the kids are calling it those days) about the day we get married! :) What a blessing.

  • Meg’s Mom

    We loved the receiving line. It gave us a chance to make sure that we had greeted each of our guests, and since we didn’t have a sit down reception, it was difficult to be sure that we had greeted everyone during the party. I have fond memories of the people who greeted us in the receiving line, and it removed the “Oh my gosh, is there someone I haven’t greeted?” fear.

    I also had always dreamed of listening to change being rung from the bell tower after my wedding (harking back to my English roots), and had never imagined that it could actually happen. It was delightful to be able to listen to the marvelous bells of Grace Cathedral while greeting the friends and relatives whom we loved. I felt so fortunate that all these wonderful people had chosen to share our wedding day with us.

  • That was so cool! You should save a hard copy of that post somewhere. What a wonderful thing for your parents to do!

  • The Sister

    Wait, I don’t like Zinfandel! …I probably shouldn’t have said that, I might get kicked out of the family.

    I’ve always loved that dress, and thought about wearing it for my own wedding. But if it was too short on Mother, it would never work on me!

  • One Love Photo

    I love this feature, it is so sweet. And I love that your Dad wrote it and that he loves your blog and reads ALL the comments. That’s is so my Mom! Hi Fred, nice work and I loved your wedding story!

  • Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • What a treat. That photo where they are looking at each other is wonderful. And look at the size of that cake! Fantastic.

    So nice to see a little bit more of where you come from, Meg.

    Thanks, Fred and Hannah :)

  • Oh, and this making readers want to ask their parents about their weddings… love that too.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    Is it possible that I just fell in love with you a little bit more Meg? Now that I know what wonderful people you come from (not that I doubted this for a minute)?

    Lovely Meg, Lovely Meg’s Lovely Parents. Lovely post.

  • Your parents are such great people – it comes through in the way the wanted to share their love with their friends and family, and share that experience with all of us.

    Oh, I’m teary.

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