Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A final look at weddings in Steele County, Part III May 5, 2016

A groom's jacket from

A groom’s jacket from 1897.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE GROOMS? I wondered as I toured the Wedding Traditions of Steele County exhibit at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna.

 

Look at the fabulous detail on the back of this bridal gown.

Look at the fabulous detail on the back of this bridal gown.

 

Among the nearly two dozen bridal gowns displayed, I noticed only two dresses complimented by groom’s attire. What’s with that? I figured I knew the reason. Char Ost, a volunteer who helped with the project, confirmed my suspicions. The museum simply doesn’t have groom’s clothing in its collection (other than those displayed and some military uniforms) because the men continued to wear their suits after their weddings.

Makes sense.

 

The bride wore a blue grey wool suit at her 1944 wedding.

The bride wore a practical blue grey wool suit at her 1944 wedding.

 

I really enjoyed this exhibit. It gave me insights on how world events and the economy and personal wealth (or lack thereof) and tradition shaped weddings.

 

This dress had the longest train of all those on display.

This dress had the longest train of all those on display.

 

Here’s one final look at this exhibit from my perspective. You may notice things I didn’t if you were to view this display at the Steele County History Center. And that’s the beauty of a collective historical display. We each bring our own backgrounds, our own interests, our own experiences to an exhibit.

 

My favorite headpiece is this lovely hat worn by a bride in 1923.

My favorite headpiece is this lovely hat worn by a bride in 1923.

 

A crown headpiece, probably from the 1950s (I don't recall).

A crown headpiece, probably from the 1950s (I don’t recall).

 

Hair prep essentials.

Hair prep essentials.

 

Imagine fitting your feet into these tiny boots and then attempting to lace them.

Imagine stuffing your feet into these tiny boots and then attempting to lace them.

 

Vintage portraits are part of the exhibit, helping to tell the wedding story.

Vintage portraits are part of the exhibit, helping to tell the wedding story.

 

Look at the beautiful hardanger on this 1909 wedding gown.

Look at the beautiful hardanger on this 1909 wedding gown. Simply stunning in handmade simplicity.

 

FYI: To read my previous posts in this three-part series, click here. And then click here.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Details of weddings in Steele County, Part II May 4, 2016

A sampling of dresses in the exhibit.

A sampling of dresses in the Wedding Traditions of Steele County exhibit.

 

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER AND WRITER, details matter to me. Likewise, details matter to historians. We are meticulous in our documentation. We understand that details tell the complete story.

 

Details have always been important in wedding photography.

Details have always been important in wedding photography as shown in this exhibit photo.

 

Wedding gifts are listed in this book on display.

Wedding gifts are listed in this book on display.

 

That is evident in Wedding Traditions of Steele County, a recently-opened exhibit at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna. Although bridal gowns certainly are the highlight, there is so much more to be seen—in the photos, in the genealogy, in the explanations of traditions.

 

This bow sits on the shoulder/neckline of a dress.

This bow sits on the shoulder/neckline of a dress.

 

Lovely fabric rosettes adorn a 1964 bridal gown.

Lovely fabric rosettes adorn a 1964 bridal gown.

 

A sash ties in the front of a dress designed by Owatonna native Scott Nylund.

A sash ties in the front of a dress designed by Owatonna native Scott Nylund.

 

An illusion neckline drapes on a 1949 bridal gown.

An illusion neckline drapes on a 1949 bridal gown.

 

As I took in the displays, I found myself focusing on details in bridal gown design.

 

Sharon West and her wedding party party get ready for her September 1959 wedding at the United Methodist Church in Owatonna.

Sharon West and her wedding party get ready for her September 1959 wedding at the United Methodist Church in Owatonna. Although this vintage shot doesn’t look posed, it likely was.

 

And then I studied the wedding photos, noting how wedding photography has changed from mostly formal posed portraits to the journalistic style of today.

 

A name place card is among items displayed.

A name place card is among items displayed.

 

Details, details, details. In planning a wedding, they are essential. And this exhibit shows that.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for one final post in this Wedding Traditions of Steele County series. Click here to read my first post in this series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A historical look at weddings in Steele County, Part I May 3, 2016

This sign marks the exhibits currently showing in the Steele County History Center through spring 2017.

This sign marks the exhibits currently showing in the Steele County History Center through spring 2017.

THE DETAILS ARE, OH, SO LOVELY. Dainty buttons. Lace. Shiny satin. You’ll see them all in Wedding Traditions of Steele County, a newly-opened exhibit at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna.

This section highlights dresses from the 1910s and 1920s.

This section highlights dresses from the early 1920s.

Nearly two dozen wedding dresses take center stage in this exhibit created by three volunteers and a museum staffer over some six months.

The exhibit team carefully researched the genealogies of the brides and grooms.

The exhibit team carefully researched the genealogies of the brides and grooms.

But this exhibit extends well beyond dresses to include wedding history, traditions and genealogy. It’s an impressive visual documentation, especially fitting as the wedding season begins.

The dress and matching feathered hat worn at this 1923 wedding are in lovely brown tones.

The dress and matching feathered hat worn at this 1923 wedding are in lovely brown tones.

Did you know, for example, that a bride didn’t always wear white? Prior to 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in an all-white gown, a bride simply wore her best dress, no matter the color. Blue, rather than white, once symbolized purity.

"Something blue" is woven into this crocheted ring bearer's pillow.

“Something blue” is woven into this crocheted ring bearer’s pillow.

And about that “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”…this started as a tradition to ward off evil spirits. You’ll learn that and a whole lot more as you peruse this multifaceted exhibit.

Fuller and lacier dresses defined the style of gowns in the 1950s.

Fuller and lacier dresses defined the style of gowns in the 1950s.

Volunteer Char Ost spent hours researching and planning with team members at meetings and at home as this exhibit came together. She’s a former museum staffer and board president who simply thought the project would be fun. The team reviewed photos of wedding dresses in the museum collection before choosing gowns that would display nicely and were in suitable condition to showcase, she said. Those selected gowns cover the time period from 1896 – 1997.

This photo shows the details on a 1950s dress.

This photo shows the bead and lace details on a 1950s wedding dress.

Missing, though, are wedding dresses from the 1980s and more from the 1990s. People are still familiar with those bridal gowns and those brides are not giving away their dresses, including to the museum, Ost noted. That explains why I didn’t see 1980s dresses reflecting the royal influence of Princess Diana’s wedding gown. I was married in 1982 and my $80 wedding dress definitely did not have beads, sequins, puffy sleeves or a long train like that of the princess.

Margaret Ringhofer wore this dress at her August 25, 1931, wedding. It reminds me of my Grandma Josie's bridal gown.

Margaret Ringhofer wore this dress at her August 25, 1931, wedding. It reminds me of my Grandma Josie’s bridal gown.

As I studied the gowns, grouped by time periods, it was easy to see the period influence. In the glass encased Depression era dresses, conservatism shows in neck lines, fabric choices and style. I spotted a 1931 gown that looks a lot like my maternal grandmother’s, a simple style I considered wearing on my wedding day until discovering I was considerably taller than Grandma Josephine.

Wedding dresses from the 1960s.

Wedding dresses from the 1960s.

In the 1960s, bridal gowns reflected “anything goes,” according to a posted sign. How true of that decade.

These three dresses were designed by Scott Nylund, a 1995 graduate of Owatonna High School. He once worked for music superstar Beyonce'.

These dresses worn by Maggie, Genny and Anne were designed by Scott Nylund, a 1995 graduate of Owatonna High School. He once worked for music superstar Beyonce’.

Three dresses from the 2000s are also included, specifically sought out for the exhibit. Owatonna native and fashion designer Scott Nylund created the gowns. They are luxuriously stunning with laces from Paris, a brooch from the East Village of NYC and fabrics of silk chiffon and silk duchess satin.

The invitation to the wedding of Charlene Newman and Stuart Ost is displayed in a case.

The invitation to the 1959 wedding of Charlene Newman and Stuart Ost is displayed in a case.

Char and Stuart Ost's 1959 wedding cake topper.

Char and Stuart Ost’s wedding cake topper.

You’ll find other wedding related items displayed, including an invitation, napkin, cake topper, photo and hand-sewn apron from volunteer Char’s 1959 wedding.

Portraits, too, tell a story about styles, traditions and even photography.

Portraits, too, tell a story about styles, traditions and even photography.

Many wedding portraits are interspersed with dresses as is information about traditions like dowries, engagement rings, feeding of the wedding cake and even the bunny hop.

Even handwritten vows are part of the exhibit.

Even handwritten vows are part of the exhibit.

The display gets as personal as Jason and Angie’s wedding vows hand-printed on recipe cards.

Volunteers worked hard to assure that descriptions of the dresses were accurate, team member Char Ost said.

Volunteers worked hard to assure that descriptions of the dresses were accurate, team member Char Ost said.

It’s clear the organizers of this exhibit invested a lot of time in gathering and sharing of information, from the genealogy associated with each dress to the descriptions of the dresses right down to the type of fabric, neckline, sleeves and more.

Some dresses could not be fully closed on the fuller forms.

Some dresses could not be fully closed on the forms.

Once all that research was completed, the crew faced one more challenge. “We did contortions to get some of those dresses on (the forms),” Char said, noting that perhaps corsets also should have been shown.

It was then that I suggested a follow-up exhibit, Wedding Traditions of Steele County II. I loved the exhibit that much.

FYI: Wedding Traditions of Steele County will be on display until the spring of 2017. Museum hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursdays; and from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturdays. Closed on Sunday. The history center is located at 1700 Austin Road on the southeast side of Owatonna. Admission is charged. While there, you can also peruse an exhibit on disasters in Minnesota and in Steele County.

On Thursday, June 9, the history center will host Toss the Bouquet: The Wedding Professionals Spin from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Wedding industry leaders will share their thoughts on wedding trends and also talk about wedding planning details.

Check back tomorrow for Part II in this series on the Wedding Traditions of Steele County exhibit.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Snapshots of a small-town wedding day May 10, 2011

TWENTY-NINE YEARS ago this coming Sunday, my husband and I were married in my hometown of Vesta, a place marked, like so many other prairie towns, by grain elevators and the water tower and a one-block-long main street.

Our wedding reception was held at the community hall, an unassuming, nothing-fancy brick building with a stage, wood floors and military uniforms encased in glass. HyVee in Marshall, 20 miles away, catered a chicken dinner as wedding guests pulled up metal folding chairs to rectangular tables angled under crepe paper streamers and white tissue paper wedding bells.

Thoughts of our small-town wedding lingered this past weekend as our nephew Matt married Amber at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in Foley. The reception was held in Duelm, a cluster of homes, a church and a restaurant attached to a new event center, smack dab in the middle of the country about 10 miles to the south and west.

There were no crepe paper streamers here or folding chairs or military uniforms. We dined at round tables draped in white cloths and decorated with centerpieces of swimming goldfish and floating candles. (One fish, I should mention here, wiggled between the candle and the vase rim and leaped onto a table.)

While weddings and receptions have gotten much fancier than the simple rural weddings of decades past, some traditions remain unchanged.

Members of the wedding party and guests still decorate the bridal vehicle. That is where I focused my attention Saturday after the wedding service and before the bridal couple emerged from the church.

First I watched the attendants and others decorate the vehicle with words and balloons and beer cans.

Then I watched the kids check out the Durango from afar…

move in close for a peek inside…

eye the Michelob Golden Draft Light beer cans tied to the vehicle rear…

and, finally, enthusiastically, engage in a pick-up game of Kick the (beer) Can.

They had no idea I was photographing them in a perfect moment of childhood play and wedding tradition in a small, central Minnesota town.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling