What else? Wedding preparations, part 2

Tontine Hotel, Greenock

Well, once we were all togged up in our wedding finery on 15th August 1956 we would need some transport to get to the Church. Unlike Cinderella, we had no Fairy Godmother so had to make our own arrangements. We solved this by calling on P.B Wright & Sons, Motor Hirers etc. It was a good decision and amazingly, on the day, every car got to the right homes and got everyone to the Church on time and afterwards to Greenock’s Tontine Hotel (shown above). The organisation was superb. All for £8-7/-! But remember, it was 59 years ago and Sterling was worth a lot more. People were still working 48 hours or more a week and we thought our Dad was rich when his annual wage reached £500 in the late nineteen-forties.

We spent a lot of time making the guest lists. There were all our crowd, John’s and Jim’s relations then many friends as well. We ended up with about 130 after all the RSVPs came in. Quite a few of the older relatives and friends who lived at a distance didn’t come. I can understand that, being old enough myself now to be more likely to say “no thank you” rather than “yes please” to anything that involves trains, planes or overnight stays! We had to arrange who sat where and so on. It was great fun. The whole process of arranging our weddings was great, we all enjoyed it: Mum, Annabel and I, plus at times Marion and Janette.

I think the next item was the music, and it was a no-brainer really. Charles Harkin and his Kit-Kat Band (Director Charles G. Harkin) were the best. Annabel and Jim had danced a lot to them. We booked four members of the band at the beginning of March from 7 pm until 11 pm. In the letter Mr Harkin sent he explained that he had quoted £9 but had found out the Musicians’ Union were raising the rates on 1st July so that would make the bill £10. He said he was willing to make the fee £9-10/-, but in the event of the increase not materialising he would keep the fee at £9! I do hope we paid the £10 but I don’t have the receipt.

Once we had all the replies we were able to make a more firm arrangement with the Tontine for 126 people. The cost was 10/6 per head (just over 50p) for a 3-course meal. Including apartments for several people, tea for the Band, minerals and tea and cakes later in the evening the bill was £90-6/-. Annabel, Mum and I visited Edmonston’s Home Bakery and chose our style of wedding cakes. Both 3-tiered, Annabel’s to have a steering gear on top and pink sugar roses decorating each tier, mine to have a church on top and golden roses. The symbols matched our fiancés’ occupations and the roses matched our bouquets. The baker would deliver them to the Tontine on the Day. For the two it was £22-3-6. They were perfect. The two top-tiers were taken to a Greenock Cannery and separately canned to be kept for the first Christenings. When they happened, the icing was like concrete but the cake inside was still very good.

It was quite complicated sorting out how many buttonholes, Alice bands and corsages we needed, plus two brides’ and two maids’ bouquets. Once done, the list was given to A.E. Campbell & Son Ltd, Florists and Fruit Merchants, Gourock, and we left it to them to prepare everything and deliver them on the right date to the various destinations. That cost £15-10/-.

So these important items for our weddings cost in total under £150. You may think it odd detailing this, but it is in such contrast to the way many marriages are arranged nowadays. Many young couples have a wedding planner who will organise it all for them, or they sign up for a package with a Hotel or Stately Home and all is cut and dried. We had such a happy, and occasionally hilarious, time planning our weddings – we didn’t seem to get stressed or worn out, we didn’t get worked up when something didn’t work out, we just changed direction and settled for a different way. I remember the evening of the wedding rehearsal. Mum and I were sitting side by side in a pew while Annabel and Jim and Janette practised. The Church Caretaker was standing in the aisle watching and she turned to us and started telling us how other bridal parties went about things. I could feel Mum’s hackles rising and eventually she told the lady that this was our wedding and we preferred to do it our way, thank you! She was right, it was our wedding. A great event and we did it all ourselves!

By the way, I googled £150 to find the modern equivalent and it worked out at something over £3,500. A lot less than most weddings cost now but also showing what inflation can do to a currency!

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4 thoughts on “What else? Wedding preparations, part 2

    • Thanks Marion. Just took a quick look at the iPad to check mail and found yours, before going up to the computer to write another entry! It is a dull sort of afternoon and autumn colours appearing on our trees. Love, Chris.

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