How many of us really understand when we marry that this could mean looking at the same face across the dinner table, holding the same hand whilst walking down the street or listening to the same person snore every night for the next 60 or even 70 years.
More recently, wedding days have become bigger, grander and certainly more expensive, meaning only one thing. Harder to plan! With all of the elements to manage, the true meaning of the day can often be overlooked.
No-one ever said that a marriage is easy. It takes hard work, dedication and compromise. But why take my word for it. After all, I have only been married 8 years. I recently had the privilege of catching up with a selection of couples who have overcome adversity, separation and war time service which has only made their relationships stronger.
Their wedding days were simple but full of meaning. Attended by the closest of friends and family with very little financial input in the celebrations. Delicate floral displays, often of locally foraged blooms, wedding outfits resembling a Sunday best, a spread of whatever rationed food was available at the time or whatever they could afford once rationing had finished in 1954. Love saw people through tough times and gave them hope during the bleakest of experiences.
As the years passed, the 50’s brought with it a new era of wedding. Fashion, décor and lavish parties became more desirable and readily available. Wedding day aside, how did these spectacular couples manage to form such a strong bond?
Douglas and Maureen were married on 22nd March 1958. Both living in the Copthorne, West Sussex area they were introduced by friends. Douglas joined the RAF at 17.5 years old and served 8 years before leaving to meet the beautiful Maureen. The proposal was no big romantic gesture, Douglas simply presented Maureen with a ring and said, “do you want this or not?” They went on to spend many years enjoying common interests such as dancing, cinema and trips to the coast. They married in the local church surrounded by family and friends from the community and enjoyed a buffet and dance in the village hall afterwards. Flowers were a beautifully draped spray of red roses and white stephanotis. The men wore their Sunday best suits and the bridesmaids wore dresses made by a neighbour. Each dress made from a different colour material. The wedding dress floated to the ground in a beautiful white material also hand crafted by a loving neighbour.
When asked what their tips were for a successful marriage Douglas told me “tolerance”as Maureen laughed and agreed, “if we argue, I will go off and not say anything.”“It’s important to have your own hobbies and interests”Maureen told me. This wonderful couple have spent 60 years married on top of the 3 years they spent courting.
I’ve also have the pleasure recently of meeting with John and Hazel who met in 1951 at a local ballroom. September 8th to be specific. This was half way through John’s 2 years national service which meant they spent 6 months separated prior to them tying the knot in 1958.
The beauty of their relationship is proven by the detail of their memories. They fondly reminisced over the changing weather conditions on their wedding day and the exact outfit each wore the moment they were first introduced.
Their wedding was a simple church service attended by friends and family followed by a buffet style wedding breakfast with live music at a local hotel. Guest numbers were limited to 50 as Hazel’s father was responsible for paying the bill but they somehow managed to sneak in an extra 4 guests without too much of a fuss being made.
John and Hazel have 2 children and 6 grandchildren who they love spending time with. They also had some interesting words of wisdom which had me in hysterics. When asked, how have you managed to stay so strong over the years John rather swiftly jumped in with “I just take no notice of her”Both John and Hazel have their own interests and believe it important not to lose touch with who you are and what you enjoy doing. Although they have always spent time following their own dreams they have enjoyed plenty of activities together, especially in later life when they both took up bowls.
Hazel was quite frank with her advice “I wouldn’t have got married at 21, I was enjoying life and then it changed, I had to do jobs around the house.” “Monday night was washing night for us”Believe it or not this was a joint activity. With no such thing as a washing machine there was lots of manual labour involved which required the hand of a strong and capable man.
Finally, I met with Alan and Levana. Recently married 60 years they have spent most of their time together travelling due to Alan’s work. They met in 1953 at a local youth club and were introduced by friends. They actually admitted to having a quick “snog behind the bike shed”
Alan asked Levana’s father for permission to take her hand in marriage and they then went on to spend 18 months together before marrying in the village church and celebrating with friends and family in the village hall. They dined on a delicious buffet made by Lavana’s mother and travelled off to Torquey on honeymoon shortly after the wedding.
Alan has been employed in a number of positions all across the world and has been supported by Levana and their children. He is grateful for all they have done saying “I could not have done what I have done without the 100% support of my wonderful wife”Levana left school at 15
One thing I observed during my time with these couples is that the husband generally did the speaking, they were confident and happy to share their stories. However, they would always look at their wife after saying something. Almost like they were seeking approval. It was clear that there was a lot of love in every home I was invited to and it was an absolute pleasure hearing the ups and downs that these people experienced.
So why is it that such a large proportion of marriages now don’t survive until ‘death do us part’?
It seems the key to a long and happy marriage is to be true to yourself. Continue to pursue your own interests but make sure you have time together. Brush over arguments where you can and don’t take things too seriously. Never go to bed on a bad word and stand by each other when facing the world.
It's with great thanks that to the wonderful couples I had the pleasure of interviewing to create this blog.