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7 Creative Wedding Ideas From History

Grant and Amanda Engler celebrate in jet packs at their wedding ceremony in 2012 in Newport Beach, Calif.
Lenny Ignelzi
Associated Press
Grant and Amanda Engler celebrate in jet packs at their wedding ceremony in 2012 in Newport Beach, Calif.

Wedding websites today are aswirl with inventive suggestions, including 10 Unique Wedding Venues from Burnett's Boards; 23 Unconventional But Awesome Wedding Ideas from Buzzfeed and 21 Most Unique Ceremony Ideas from Emmaline Bride.

Couples are tying the knot in a treehouse, on a covered bridge, with a Star Wars theme, against a fantasy world backdrop.

Almost everybody who is getting married, it seems, is doing it in a different style. "It takes courage and a lot of work to plan a wedding outside of the box," says New York-based relationship coach Fran Greene. "Couples who select an unusual venue for the ceremony ... want to make a statement about what is meaningful to them."

"I Do" Ideas Of Yesteryear

Historian Carol Wallace traces idiosyncratic weddings in America back 50 years or so. By the late 1960s, she writes in All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding, nuptial ceremonies were marked by a "drive for couples to differentiate themselves from other couples as well as from their parents. The majestic predictability of tradition, which had been a selling point only a generation earlier, was now seen as tainted."

But even before the late 1960s, there were at least a few pioneering newlyweds. Here are some ideas for weddings, American history-style:

  • On Horseback, 1887: The Rocket of Rockingham, N.C., reported a marriage on horseback at a home in April. The preacher and witnesses stood on a porch while the bride and groom sat on their steeds. The reporter asked: "Is it proper to call the horseback ride that so appropriately succeeded the marriage ceremony a bridle tour?"
  • In A Lion's Cage, 1897: Some 5,000 people showed up to see Charlotte Wiberg marry Arthur St. Andrassy in a lion's cage at a zoo in Boston, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported in November. A boys choir sang outside the enclosure. A trainer — with a sharp stick — accompanied the couple into the lion's den.
  • After Hitchhiking, 1937: Two Iowa lovebirds staged a hitchhiker wedding in the summer by thumbing rides to a town in Missouri where they got, well, hitched. They told the Associated Press that they planned to bum a ride to Minnesota for their honeymoon.
  • While Water-Skiing, 1953: Off the coast of Miami, a couple got married on water skis in February. The officiant shouted the vows from the back of the boat, according to the Times of Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Under The Water, 1954: Mary Beth Sanger and Bob Smith, performers at an aquarena — an underwater theater — in San Marcos, Texas, announced in February that they would marry underwater, the Sun of Baytown, Texas, reported.
  • In The Altogether, 1964: In the spring of 1964, according to the Tribune of LaCrosse, Wis., Sissy Dawson and Charles Morrow revealed plans to get married — along with 200 guests, three bridesmaids, two flower girls and an 86-year-old best man — in a come-in-your-birthday suit ceremony at a South Florida nudist camp.
  • Riding A Carousel, 1969: Alan and Marilyn McConnell got married on a merry-go-round at the Los Angeles County Fair, the Associated Press reported. Every year the McConnells found a carousel to ride on their wedding anniversary — and repeated their vows.
  • So, by turning away from one kind of American tradition, couples may be embracing another — and one another.

    Follow me @NPRHistoryDept; lead me by writing lweeks@npr.org.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.