There were tears in her voice. “But, it’s not white.”

My mother joined us for the final bridal gown fitting. I didn’t quite get the significance of her tortured expression. The bridal shop owner did. She quickly stepped in and offered an explanation.

“Your daughter is like many brides, especially at this time of year. A pure white gown would wash out her complexion. Ivory is so much more flattering.”


Grace Kelly. Kate Middleton. In ivory.

Translation that my mother heard…It does not mean that she is not a virgin.

This was the 1970’s and those things still mattered to her.

She and my father eloped. It was said that her parents disapproved of him. She was 22 and still lived at home. He was 24, an army veteran.

They married in Maryland in a civil ceremony. She wore an aqua blue dress. She always regretted that she was not married in white. She talked about it. I remember the dress, as it hung forever in a garment bag in the attic closet.

The reason this was such a sensitive issue became apparent years later.

I found the letter.

It was among the few personal items that she kept locked in a cedar wardrobe.

It was a love letter from my father. It was also an apology. He told her how sorry he was for thinking that she was “that kind of girl” and promised that they could wait until they were married. She should have worn white.


November bride.

We had wanted a small ceremony on campus. We were talked out of that, and I’m glad.

My parents had 4 daughters, 2 sons, but mine was the only wedding that involved them.

My oldest sister staged her wedding in Philadelphia, where they’d made a home for a few years. My parents were guests.

The next sister was married in Las Vegas. My 2 brothers were married, years apart, in a small chapel in Maryland. My youngest sister never married her common law husband of 25 years.

So my wedding was their only shot at the big party.

I have no regrets. It was special.

And the bride wore ivory. So did the groom.

This entry was posted in Celebration, Family, home and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Ivory

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    That’s a lovely story, Van.

  2. Loved the recollection, Van. Families are so layered with stories that overlap and intersect. As if we carry around invisible mirrors and see our reflections in each other. I’m glad your wedding filled everyone’s wishes.

  3. It’s funny how emotionally invested people become in a wedding that is really about two people. We married when we were undergraduates and we paid for our wedding ourselves which allowed us to veto the “advice” of our mothers. Our compromise was in including our families in the wedding as we very nearly eloped. I’m glad we didn’t because of their 8 kids my parents have only been to 2 of our weddings.

  4. Erika Kind says:

    Oh, such a shiny bride!!! You looked beautiul and happy.

  5. George says:

    Great story. There are always stories about our parents we don’t know but sometimes make assumptions about why they think or feel a certain way. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Love this story. One never really knows what the thoughts are between the lines… ❤
    Diana xo

  7. markbialczak says:

    Thanks for this touching reflection, Van. The younger we’s think we know what makes the older generation tick, but, really, how could we? It’s quite warming how you learned about your mom’s concern by discovering that love letter. I’m glad your wedding was the one that made things right for her in many ways, my friend. One last thought: You were a beautiful bride, Van.

    • I was surprised she didn’t destroy the letter when she got really sick, Mark….maybe she wanted us to find it ? Thanks for a thoughtful comment, and the compliment…blushing Van.

  8. Amy says:

    How touching. I’m sure you weren’t meant to find that letter, but maybe you were “meant” to find it after all. 🙂

    • I had always suspected, but this letter was a definite eye opener. When things went badly for my parents…and they did…we children always wondered why they ever got married in the first place..they were so very different in important ways. It was a sign of the times…getting married to consummate the relationship. I’m pretty sure that they weren’t alone in that thinking. ❤️

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