Vintage Wedding: 1981

Today’s Vintage Wedding comes from reader Melissa, and will make you stop in your tracks. It will make you remember what weddings are about, and what marriage is about, and why you’re doing all of this in the first place. So take a deep breath, read, and then go find your partner and kiss them. If you’ve got love, the details don’t matter so much.

My parents met in college and became close friends. They dated for 8 years before finally deciding to get married. They got engaged in July and set the date for August of the same year. They weren’t pregnant at the time – they just decided it was the perfect time for them.

With less than a month to plan they decided to keep everything simple and intimate. My Dad’s family all lived out of state. His parents were able to make it, but not all of his siblings. They decided to get married in my Mom’s parent’s backyard, on a lake.

I e-mailed my Dad to get a few more thoughts from him and he said the following :

“An intimate wedding was just what we wanted. We were both working hard in full-time jobs and we didn’t have time to plan out a big fancy wedding… nor did we want one! I loved having the wedding in my new in-law’s back yard, right on the water and having every one ring hand bells when the service was complete. I also loved that my new sister-in-law put a “Just Married” sign on the mast of the sail boat and took a picture of us sailing off into the sunset. I loved having a swimming party with fried chicken and potato salad with the family right after the ceremony rather than having a stuffy reception where everyone has to do The Chicken Dance!”

I wish I had more from my mom about their, but when you’re 13, the younger you doesn’t think to ask about wedding day memories. I really wish I had, because by the time you want to know all about that, it’s too late.

They married in August 1981 when they were both almost 30. They were both pretty nontraditional individuals so much of the pomp and circumstance of regular weddings fell by the wayside. My mom picked a simple ivory dress and my Dad wore his suit and full hippie beard. They both had only one attendant. My Mom had 5 sisters, so one attendant is impressively small. They included a few songs in the ceremony, because music was so important to both of them. It’s that simple.

After they said “I do” their guests surprised them with a chorus of ringing bells (all part of my Grandma’s bell collection). After the small reception festivities they climbed into a sailboat and literally sailed away into the sunset.

They were happily married for almost 20 years when my Mom passed away from Leukemia. I have never met two people who were so in love. They were best friends, intellectual equals, wonderful parents and the love of each others’ lives (in my Dad’s own words). I got married in October 2009 to a man I had dated for 8 years and I can only hope that we will have half of their happiness.

Photos by: Friends and Family

Want to submit a vintage wedding? Please do. Pretty please! You can find all the details about how to submit here.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Starting my day with tears again, compliments of APW! This was beautiful.

  • I think this might be my new favorite part of APW.

  • LauraB

    The Vintage Wedding feature knocks my socks off. Beautiful story and pictures.

  • Sailing off into the sunset . . . how incredible! This sweet post is a great reminder that life is short & must be cherished. HUGS!!

  • Zan

    Your parents are adorable. I’m sorry your Mom wasn’t there to share your wedding day with you, but it seems like she left you a great legacy for marriage.

  • Elissa

    Beautiful story that has brought misty eyes this morning. I love this feature!

  • JT

    so sweet! I love it.

  • Leslie

    I would love to hear about the bells, if you can remember more – we are planning to include the ringing of my grandmother’s collection of bells, but haven’t yet worked out the details.

    • The bells sound absolutely amazing. I’ve been to Easter and Christmas church service where we ring bells. So joyous. They would be incredibly appropriate at a wedding too. There’s something simple and beautiful about the ringing of bells.

    • We carried on my parents’ tradition and did the same thing at our wedding (using the same bells). One of my aunts had a big basket full of bells and guests took one as they entered and made their way to their seats. When the wedding ceremony was over our minister announced it was time to ring. We turned to the crowd and were announced to a chorus of bells and smiling faces. I hope that helps!

  • 20 years? Oh dear, 20 years is not enough…so sorry to hear about the early passing of your mom.

    Thank you for sharing those beautiful pictures.

  • Your parents sound brilliant: fried chicken and a swimming party. Love is love, isn’t it, no matter what happens before or after “I do.” Your mama must have been a pretty wonderful woman to foster such words from a man.

    Love me some vintage wedding!

  • Beautiful.

  • Jessica

    “If you’ve got love, the details don’t matter so much.”
    I want to tattoo that to my forehead.

    • Sarah

      Do it backwards, so you can see it when you look in the mirror. =)

  • Thank you for sharing, Melissa! Your parents’ photos and your dad’s words are so simple and beautiful.

    I’m sorry your mom was taken so early. I know the feeling of wishing your younger self had had the presence of mind to ask more questions, or glean more memories, before it was too late.

    Reminds me of a quote we used in our wedding program: There isn’t time — so brief is life — for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. there is only time for loving — and but an instant, so to speak, for that.

    (-Letter to Clara Spaulding, 20 August 1886)

    • Heather

      Thank you so much for sharing. My parents were also married for 20 years before my mother died from metastatic breast cancer. I was 19 and my sister had just turned 17. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and be a fly on the wall during my young childhood. And I often wish that I had had the presence of mind and/or courage to ask my mother for life advice before she died. It does make me sad that my mom won’t be there when I get married next year and have children, but my step-mom is amazing and will be able to fill that “slot” for me, and I am so grateful for that.

      • I’m so sorry for your loss and I completely agree, I wish I could remember more from my childhood. You don’t value your parents enough when you’re young.

  • msditz

    These vintage weddings really have a way of bringing it all home. Love!

  • That was lovely and brought tears to my eyes… I only hope that one day our children will look back at photos of our wedding and early years together and see how much we have always loved each other. A wonderful way to start the day!

  • man I did not expect to be crying at my desk this morning. but this was beautiful and amazing. Thank you (and your dad!) for sharing their story.

  • Raqui

    Thank you for sharing the love! Imagining them in the sailboat just really transported me.

  • dude…this is awesome.

  • Class of 1980

    OMG, my sister had the same cake topper at her first wedding in 1983! Two white birds on a branch!

    Your parents sound wonderful and you are a lucky girl. ;)

  • What a lovely post, both for being poignant and your Dad’s sweet memories of the day. I’m so sorry about the passing of your Mom. They were simply adorable.

  • charm city vixen

    This is absolutely beautiful… Thank you so much for sharing.

    And it really brings everything home for me as well — the venue doesn’t really matter, the invites don’t really matter, the caterers don’t really matter, it’s all about the love.

    Thanks, APW, for including vintage weddings!

  • KA

    Gah, tears.

    What an awesome couple. And an awesome wedding!

    “but when you’re 13, the younger you doesn’t think to ask about wedding day memories.”

    Exactly! My grandparents were married for 54 years, and for the 14 years I knew them, I never once asked about their wedding. Kids can be dumb. :)

    • It also kinda puts into perspective for us contemporary brides that no matter what the WIC tells us about The Details (TM), our descendants/communities care waaaaaay more about the love than the decorations, yes?

  • Jo

    Crying like everyone else! This is absolutely beautiful, and confirms what C’s parents said to us the other day after adding more people to our guest list of their friends: “I don’t remember wedding being this…complicated, and neither does your father.”

    I’m trying to avoid the complicated, and go for THIS. Hugs to you and your dad. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom.

  • Aaaaaaawwwww. Such love from that post. Completely gutted that my man is miles away and I can’t find him and kiss him!!

  • Nicely done, ‘Lissa girl.


  • Thank you all for your wonderfully kind words. My parents set such a great example for me of what love should be. It’s not how many guests are at your wedding or how expensive your dress is, it’s all the years afterwards that matter. The fights, the births, the vacations, the hospital rooms, the quiet moments, that’s where you find the heart of a relationship.

    I’m so glad that Meg and the APW staff recognize and honor that. You guys are amazing.

  • april

    Just lovely – thank you for sharing with us. And also, I’m very sorry for the loss of your mum..

  • I came across this blog today and I love it!

  • Dianne Callahan

    Melissa, your parents are amazing – thank you for sharing their beautiful love story and wedding. Have you thught of honoring your mom’s memory by participating in the Light The Night Walk with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?

    • I have always wanted to do that! Not only did my Mom have Leukemia, but 4 years after she died my Dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma. He went through chemo and beat it, (woo hoo!), but because of that I feel a close tie to that organization. I’d really love to do something with them.

  • lor

    LOVE THIS, almost made me cry at work. How beautiful, and congratulation on your marriage!

  • Tasha

    BEAUTIFUL!!! That gives me goosebumps and really hits me inside :)

  • Melissa, this was so sweet and touching and a wonderful reminder of what is really important about weddings. I wish you had a chance to have more time with your mom and could have heard about this day from her as well as your dad.