Retro column: love and marriage no longer go together automatically now

This is usually the time of year when shops are festooned with hearts and flowers. This year I wouldn’t know about that as it’s ages since I actually went in a shop.
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Our grocery delivery man isn’t big on decorating his van!

Valentine’s Day used to be a popular day for marriage proposals. But it is amazing how family structures have changed over the decades with engagements and weddings having less importance than they used to.

It’s quite common for couples to tie the knot when they have lived together for many years, often with their children as bridesmaids or actually giving their mother away!

Youngsters having s giggle at funny Valentine's cards in 1967Youngsters having s giggle at funny Valentine's cards in 1967
Youngsters having s giggle at funny Valentine's cards in 1967
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And, although Frank Sinatra sang ‘Love and marriage, they go together like a horse and carriage,’ it seems that it is not always the case with many couples choosing to enter into legal partnerships instead.

A leading family lawyer recently said that, in her opinion, marriage is as important to the nation as climate change or poverty.

She said that the growing numbers of families without fathers was doing more harm to the next generation than factors such as smoking, alcohol, poor diet or lack of exercise.

It seems that the present pandemic won’t help matters much!

Things seemed to be very different in the 50s and 60s. I wonder if the high cost of weddings today are a good enough reason for young couples to choose to remain unmarried at a time when marriage levels in the UK are at an all-time low.

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Cohabitation has risen 64% in a decade with almost half of all children now born outside of wedlock.

Back in the day, you did not live together. You got married from your parents’ house after a courtship that certainly did not involve sleeping together under your parents’ roof!

It was unheard of for any young person to buy a house on their own and as a woman you would have had to have a male guarantor to even rent a flat which was an unlikely occurrence anyway!

Courtships were long and included ‘saving up to get married’, together with a ‘bottom drawer’ of useful household items like sheets and towels.

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In those days there wasn’t the obsession with designer chic that there is today and it didn’t really matter if things were all different colours. The important thing was to accumulate as much stuff as you could.

In the absence of wedding present lists at stores like Cole Bros or John Walsh, when it came to gifts, you could end up with several of the same items like toasters which were always a popular choice.

Traditionally, the bride’s father paid for the whole wedding and a long engagement could give him chance to prepare to bankrupt himself, especially if he had more than one daughter.

He would have been officially asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage by the nervous prospective groom.

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I’m not altogether sure what happened in those days if the father said ‘no’, as going against the wishes of parents wasn’t something that really happened.

The wedding and reception would have been booked at least a year in advance and always on a Saturday.

Also, as it was of paramount importance that it did not clash with a home match of the grooms chosen team, there would be a request by him that the wedding was held in the close season.

However, that would be overruled by the bride and, more importantly, her mother.

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Most of the wedding arrangements were a mystery to the groom, especially the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses.

There wasn’t the choice in reception venues that there is today with no master of ceremonies, no wedding planner and no evening reception.

Just a sit-down meal at somewhere like the local Co-op which was quite plain and simple.

No favours, chocolate fountains, photography booths or mock magazine covers, just a meal, toast and speeches.

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After the meal, the bride would change into her ‘going away’ outfit’ and the happy couple would depart, usually from the local train station if it was the 50s, to somewhere like Scarborough!

As time went on and when more young men acquired a car, they set off for exotic climes like Torquay!

It also wasn’t until the 1960s that an evening event became popular to accommodate all those people who hadn’t been considered important enough to attend earlier!

Even then weddings were an expensive business but the cost of hen and stag dos were minimal compared to those held of recent years.

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They usually took place then somewhere like The Locarno or Black Swan (Mucky Duck).

No weekends in places like Magaluf with fancy cowboy hats, customised tee shirts, L signs or bridal headdresses. And definitely no stripagrams!

And when it was all over and the happy couple were living happily either in a home of their own or with in laws, it started, didn’t it?

"When are you starting a family then” with pointed looks at the bride’s stomach. “You don’t want to leave it too long, you know!”

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Remaining childless by choice simply was not an option in those days!

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor

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