This is not a very consistent blog, I apologise.  
I currently live in London and I work in the Southbank Centre a mixed Arts Venue in the City Centre, with a wonderful view of the River Thames and lots of art and music. I therefore spend a ridiculous amount of money on talks and shows, including book launches by the likes of Lena Dunham and Stephan Fry, and the various orchestral offerings that I don't feel I need to understand classical music to appreciate.
In the meantime I am beavering away making things, writing things and occasionally sharing them here.
So welcome and enjoy....

The Establishment of the White Wedding

posted Mar 29, 2015, 11:00 AM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller

The Recent History of the White Wedding

This is the third and final part of a series of posts on the history of the wedding in Ireland and England. I have included books in the previous posts that I advise you to find if you want more, but please contact me if you need further information. I will list some books at the end of this if anyone wants to read about the contemporary wedding industry. This is going to be rather short as it is just going to trace the recent establishment of the stereotypical white wedding as we would recognise it today, but I want to quickly explain why I am referring to it as the Western White Wedding. I was about to give the original talk on the White Wedding that sparked off this blog series and I mentioned the title of it to a woman who appeared mystified, she had never heard of the term White Wedding before and for a

moment she thought I was talking racially, White weddings for white people. This point of view, that the word white as a description of one type of wedding would be invisible because the way the majority of people wed in the West is so taken-for-granted that it could cause such a misunderstanding only underlines how important it is to trace the history of these social rituals. I only read Roland Barthes Mythologies last week (why did no one put a copy in my hands years ago?) and even in France back in the 1950's he uses the wedding as one of his points of reference.

Anyway in the previous posts I described the different attitudes to weddings, and the different ways of having them up until the mid-nineteenth century. From couple-beggers, to only getting married on a Sunday, arranged marriages to wife-selling and from wearing your Sunday best to having cake broken over the brides head, in the nineteenth century however things are a-changing. The groom used to be as well dressed, if not better, than the bride, brocaded frock coats and rich coloured fabrics, his costume reflected his wealth and if his surname was the least distinguished of the couple, less wealthy etc he would take his wife's surname. The rise of the romantic ideal and the revolutionary idea of marrying for love in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came about with the raise of literacy, the industrial revolution, capitalism and the mass media. The development and establishment of the white wedding is a ritual reflection of these influences.

The watershed moment was the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at St. James's Palace London, Feb 10th 1840, this was an arranged match, however it was also a love match, and the public embraced it as such. Although the white dress existed in the upper classes as a display of wealth, silver and pastels were also favoured, after this period white became the established ideal. When it came to her dress the young queen chose British made fabrics and British made lace as a political act, bolstering the faltering lace trade and coincidentally establishing white as the colour to aspire to. The wedding was reported widely in the burgeoning media, and the wedding dress specifically described in detail in the press, and immortalised in paint, see image. By the end of the century some churches lent rings to people for the ceremony, and wedding clothes as distinct from daily wear became more important, here previously even in the upper classes the wedding dress was often worn again or adjusted for court wear. There was a period, at the end of the Victorian era, when mourning colours such as mauve were widely worn, but by the twentieth century white was the clear winner. The cut of the gown itself reflected current fashion so hems got shorter and sleeves and necklines altered with the year and dressmakers published pamphlets on the styles they offered, in tandem with the publication of women's journals these developed into the fashion and bridal magazines we know today. The journals reporting on aristocratic lives, such as Lady's Realm or The Queen especially from the 1870's onwards had the dual effect of creating an audience for royal weddings and a consumer base for similar experiences. Society weddings were a media gold mine and the reporting of them became the guide for lower classes to aspire to. This is the century where photography also came into it's own, and black and white images, which emphasised the dark suited groom as a foil for a white dressed bride (even if in reality the dress was a pastel shade such as lavender) also cemented the white dress as the norm, and the also encouraged elaborate weddings and groups of aesthetically arranged bridesmaids and wedding parties. In the U.K. and in Ireland it was in the 1930's that the influence of Hollywood and popular culture fixed the need for a specific white dress. As Monsarrat traces, many royal weddings of the last century happened before or directly after a war, and the link between the deprivations of World War Two and the desire to

have a lavish wedding are also reflected in its establishment during these periods. Throughout the twentieth century it was not unusual rent or borrow gowns or to marry in travelling clothes for the growing practice of 'bridal tour' ('going away' straight after the wedding breakfast). Prior to the 1960's the dress, now white, was often cut to reflect contemporary fashion, the historical look was not dominant until the late twentieth century with influence of royal fashions and recently Vera Wang for the wealthier brides. As Cox in I do-:100 years of Wedding Fashion points out, although...

“... the basic idea that the choice of gown reflects some personal choice on the part of the bride still pervades. It is, in fact, the least likely example of a woman's personal style, for most of the time completely unrelated to anything else in her closet.” Cox. pp.20-23.

Other elements involved in the running of the day were also first established in England, such as not marrying on a Sunday or the use of halls attached to the church for receptions after the wedding, or of hotels providing wedding packages. Most traditions date only from within the last 120 years, such as the wedding ring, music in the church, honeymoons, the 'something blue' rhyme, or the idea of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding. Other 'traditions' are even newer, like hen or stag events or groomsmen. Yet some shared patriarchal legacy between Ireland and the U.K., such as the parents bargaining for the 'match', continue in the tradition of the brides father walking her up the aisle, and his speech.

England became the first country to introduce civil marriage in 1836, and by 1970 half of all ceremonies were not religious, in contrast in Ireland because of it's Catholic ethos by 1990 only 3.5% weddings were by civil ceremony (94% Catholic) and divorce was still illegal. The advent of divorce in 1997 required a referendum, however there are still relatively fewer divorces in Ireland then there are in the EU and the various options for dissolving marriage in Ireland reflects this religious legacy; it is possible in Ireland to have a separation, or nullity or a divorce. It takes a minimum of four years to obtain a full divorce allowing a person to legally remarry, and this difficulty divorcing increases the significance of a wedding in the life course; there are relatively few remarriages in Ireland. Although civil ceremonies are increasingly popular there are restrictions on the times and areas covered and venues given licences to hold them, making them unsuitable for many couples.

The history of how people marry is also a history of how the laws affects who is allowed, and why they marry, and over the past few centuries the State has taken more control over what was once a private act. In addition to issues of tax, which can be beneficial to the legally married couple, the State also has a vested interest in legally recognising a wedding when it comes to issues of its ideological borders, as can be seen with the laws regarding citizenship; for example when the Irish state was negotiating its legal identity in the 40's and 50's Irish women lost their right to citizenship when they married an 'alien'. In fact the 1937 Irish Constitution prioritises the family as founded on legally recognised marriage, and explicitly ties the importance of this to women as a group.

Irish Constitution

The Family: Article 41

      1. 1. The State recognises the Family as the Natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.

        2. The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.

      2. 1. In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.i

As can be seen the wedding has been subject to a great number of social influences, and the traditions involved have therefore changed over time, you could say the one constant feature of weddings is their flexibility. In recent years this has been evident in the legal issues with 'gay weddings' or marriage equality, as the resistance to their being allowed has exposed the way weddings are a visible expression of heterosexism and are a reflection of the society they are a part of. It is the state that validates weddings between one man and one woman with no allowance for polygamous groups or for transferring 'married' privileges to a best friend, flatmate or close relative, and these privileges are still of material benefit. Although there are no longer horrific pressures, such as Chalk Sunday, the constitution still prioritises the relationship validated by a wedding. The individuals today who marry are unlikely to realise how much is going on when they have a wedding, yet the history and context in which they marry is reflected in everything from their choice of partner, to their dress, whether it is public or private and its cost.

Phew! Done.

As mentioned my thesis is focused more on the contemporary wedding industry so I apologise for any mistakes I have made regarding the history, but I hope it was informative and a little bit fun!

Article; Currie, Dawn. 1993. “Here comes the bride”: the making of a “modern traditional” wedding in western culture. Journal of Comparative Family Studies v. 24 (Aut 1993) :403-21.

Boden, Sharon. 2003. Consumerism, romance, and the wedding experience. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cox, Caroline. 2002. I do-: 100 years of wedding fashion. London: Scriptum Editions.

Freeman, Elizabeth. 2002. The wedding complex: forms of belonging in modern American culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

Geller, Jaclyn. 2001. Here comes the bride: women, weddings, and the marriage mystique. New York Emeryville, CA: Four Walls Eight Windows; Distributed by Publishers Group West.

Ingraham, Chrys. 1999. White weddings: romancing heterosexuality in popular culture. New York: Routledge.

Otnes, Cele, and Elizabeth H. Pleck. 2003. Cinderella dreams: the allure of the lavish wedding, Life passages. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Tobin, Shelley, Sarah Pepper, Margaret Willes, and David Garner. 2003. Marriage á la mode: three centuries of wedding dress. London: National Trust.

iBacik, Ivana. 2004. Kicking and screaming: dragging Ireland into the 21st century. Dublin: O'Brien. 

Lost Irish Wedding Traditions

posted Feb 28, 2015, 7:13 AM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller   [ updated Feb 28, 2015, 7:21 AM ]

This post is a Part Two following on from my last blog on the history of the Western White Wedding. This was going to be a brief word on Irish wedding traditions that have been lost, but it seems to have ended up quite long, sorry, I kinda just copied and pasted from my thesis. At the end of the blog I have listed a few of the books and articles that I used and I recommend them if you wish to know more, I found them invaluable, in addition I really enjoyed the 'Symposium on Marriage in Ireland', by Professor Maria Luddy and Professor Mary O'Dowd, on their AHRC-funded project Marriage in Ireland, 1660-1925, held on 27th May 2011 as part of Women's History Association of Ireland Conference 2011 'Gender and Sexual Politics/the Politics of Sexuality' held in University College Cork.

To Start I will assume that you know a bit about Ireland's history as a colony of Britain and the famine of 1845 to 1852 which decimated the Irish population from 8million to 6.5million. These facts are important as the famine coincides with the industrial revolution and eventually leads to several attempts at self rule and culminates in the Easter Rising of 1916 and Independence in 1920. Part of the colonial policy was the suppression of the native Irish language, Gaelic, religion, Catholicism, traditions, community bonds and culture. So in the twentieth century as an effort to differentiate Irish culture from British Catholicism was embraced almost unquestionably and many pre-famine traditions were already lost and the white wedding came to dominate.

How did People Marry?

Anyway back to colonial time, post-Brehon laws, post-Norman invasion, and the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of the laws that were passed regarding marriage in Ireland were interested in preventing intermarriage between the natives and the colonists, i.e. between Protestants and Catholics when the Church split. Interestingly laws passed in England did not necessarily apply in other parts of Britain, and so when the 1753 Marriage Act in England set out very clear laws regarding a valid marriage, (there must be public Banns for three weeks before the wedding, it must take place in church, be registered by a clerk and there must be parental consent if an individual is under age) this act did not apply in Ireland and before the Irish parliament was dissolved in 1800 there were remarkably few laws passed regarding marriage at all. As research by O'Dowd and Luddy indicates, all legislation passed to this point concerned intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants of the landed classes, and these were more interested in defining what was not marriage. Weddings, therefore, were subject to medieval cannon law into the 1820's, which recognised a valid marriage as beginning with a private act, a promise between a man and woman, in the presence on a priest in holy orders, not necessarily in a church or even in front of witnesses. A priest in holy orders included Catholic priests, as the medieval laws recognised them as such, and remarkably included men who had been ordained but may have left the church, these became wandering priests or couple beggars. Couple beggars (or buckle beggars) married a wide range of classes, and were often found in cities and towns and at fairs where up to 10% of the couples they married did so on impulse, or even while drunk. (See image of “Father Harris, the Couple-beggar, and the Fair-Trader,” from a Drama, 1814 Irish Magazine, and Monthly Asylum for neglected Biography, (Jan.), Issue 7) These weddings were informal, often quite short and only recorded by the wandering priest (one was recorded as taking three minutes); they were a common choice as they were a lot cheaper than a local priest, for whom weddings were quite lucrative. The costs of a priest could be off-putting, as this account of a Kerry wedding from the mid-1800s shows;

“[B]efore he is married, [the groom] pays down to the priest the marriage fee according to his circumstances. The friends of both parties are also called upon to pay down something, and between their reluctance to meet the demand and the priest's refusal to marry them till he is satisfied, a scene, sometimes humorous and sometimes discreditable, often arises … The cost of the ceremony is … very considerable; and not infrequently, the bride and bridegroom have to begin life within empty walls, their savings barely sufficient to recompense the priest for uniting them.” (Ballard, Forgetting Frolic p.57)

A number of couples in each parish never had a wedding, and cohabited regardless, saving the cost of the priest, although most couples married in private in their home, a neighbours or the priests home, into the mid-1800s a wedding in a church was the exception. In the great majority of weddings, whether by priest or couple beggar, marriage was brought about by a promise, with only a blessing and no service as such. The Council of Trent was part of Catholic reform that attempted to regulate Catholic marriages and included the requirement of a church wedding and the reading of the Banns, unless the couple could afford a special licence, yet this initially did not apply in Ireland until the 1820's and was followed by Westminster’s Marriage Registration Act of 1844. Due to strong lobbying the marriages carried out by Catholic priests continued to be recognised, yet under the Act all other weddings had to be civilly registered in addition to their religious service. Therefore there was a gradual change throughout the 19th century as the majority of people married in church, often paying extra to avoid the shame of the reading of the Banns. The most common day for weddings was a Sunday and the blessing would take place before a regular mass.

Arranged Marriage Irish Style

The variety of ways of having a wedding reflected the variety of reasons to marry; some weddings were performed by the couple beggar at a fair and the couple then parted until the issue of bigamy was revealed; women with illegitimate children subsequently married; and many couples cohabited. The issue of class affected everything however, and the more property involved the more rules governed who married and how. The majority of marriages throughout these periods were influenced by economic reasons and the importance of the promise to marry cannot be underestimated. The promise of marriage was in many cases binding, with the difference between tenses, whether present tense or future being the crucial point; a present tense promise indicated that neither party were free to marry anyone else until the death of one, and future tense indicated an engagement, also binding but not as rigidly. The seriousness of this can be seen by the hundreds of Breach of Promise cases taken to the courts.

A particularly strong element of Irish wedding custom related to the need of women to have a dowry, many men inherited land from their parents and women were valued by the size of their dowry before attractiveness and sometimes even character. The need of a woman for a husband was unquestioned, and in many cases those who had property negotiated the marriage of their children and viewed them as business deals, with occasional help from a matchmaker. As in the case of Peig Sayers (1873-1958) the couple may first meet at the altar (Peig married a man arranged by her brother, and was well satisfied with the match, although it was on Great Blasket Island and far from her family. Luddy, Maria. edt. 1995. Women in Ireland, 1800-1918 pp.22-25), although in a great number of matches the couple would be known to each other. There is evidence that in Ireland gifts of rosary beads, lovers knots and lockets of hair were given in courtship, with a ring seen as a definite sign of engagement. The patrilocal need of men to inherit land also resulted in an age disparity between available men and women as a man may have to wait to inherit, and the dowry paid to the man's parents would often be used in turn as a dowry for a daughter sometimes the same £100 being passed through several matches. A traveller in 1914 reported a Cork wedding thus:

On Shrove Tuesday – the eve of Lent, during which, as I have said, marriage is prohibited – there were a number of peasant weddings in a chapel in County Cork. The brides and bridesmaids sat in the front seats, and some little distance behind them were the bridegrooms and their male friends, waiting their turn to go to the altar rails for the service. One of the boys was congratulated by an acquaintance: 'An' where is your intended, Joe?' asked the friend. 'Bagob, Mick, I couldn't tell you, ' said the unconcerned bridegroom: 'but Maggie Dunphy is her name, and she's up there above among the feathers and ribbons.' MacDonagh. 'Marriage Customs in Rural Ireland' pp.196-197.

When there was no money available, as with the labouring class, marriages were made young and informally, and were done to ensure survival.

The legacy of Anglo Saxon law affected the Irish landowning classes directly and by the 19th century trousseau and contracted dowries were well established. The example of the 'brides by abduction' is illustrative of the dowry system in Ireland. The daughters of landowning classes and wealthy farmers would be targeted and carried off, sometimes held for a few hours, sometimes longer, occasionally raped, and in order to preserve the family honour the father would have to pay the kidnapper to marry his daughter, in later years many of these were disguised elopements, yet in the early 1800s men were hanged for their part. The pressure of the dowry system cannot be ignored;

Depending on the state of domestic finance, it might also be used to cancel arrears of rent … or simply to fund a lavish wedding celebration. By 1880, small farmers in Connaught were frequently lodging bank deposits of fifty or one hundred pounds against their daughters' weddings, and their daughters 'naturally' became 'very furious' if the parents raided the deposits for other purposes since 'they cannot get married without money'. A modest Connaught match had become ten times as expensive as a passage to America.” (Fitzpatrick. 'Marriage in Post-Famine Ireland' p.121.)

Why Marry?

The interest of the community in marriage is evident in the stigma attached to being single. Traditions varied by region, mostly concentrated at the end of the marriage season (the weeks before lent, Jan-March) when popular disapproval of single status resulted in pranks like Chalk Sunday. Chalk Sunday, or Domhnach na Cailce, was when young and old would ambush single men and women and mark their coats with chalk on the first Sunday of Lent, or Tears Sunday, yet in some areas these forms of 'licensed aggression' were no more than harassment. “Thus in Waterford town, men and boys armed with bludgeons paraded through the streets on Ash Wednesday, accompanied by a piper and pulling a log; bachelors and spinsters were summoned from their homes to help them draw it through the streets”. Connolly. 'Marriage in Pre-Famine Ireland' p.92. These happened into the late nineteenth century, several other traditions include parading the unfortunate through towns, or publicly posting names of single people as passenger lists to Sceilg Mhichíl, where folklore said it was possible to marry after Ash Wednesday etc. there were also traditional 'taxes' of newly married couples by young people, called gathering May-Balls in Leinster and east Ulster. The community may express displeasure at an old man marrying a younger girl by 'horning' or 'kettling' the couple with loud noise and music at night. Ó Danachair. 'Marriage in Irish Folk Tradition' pp.101-102.

At times daughters could be discouraged from marrying until after their peak years of health, yet the motivations for marrying and being the mistress of her own home were strong and on getting married, at any age, a person became an adult. “A young married woman of twenty had all the independence, all the rights, all the privileges of a full member of the community, while her unmarried aunt of fifty was still called a 'girl', and, if she lived in the family home, was no more than a dependant, still subject to restriction and authority of the head of the family. In the same way … (an) unmarried uncle of fifty was still a 'boy', to be ordered around or set to menial tasks”. Ó Danachair. 'Marriage in Irish Folk Tradition' p.100.

Celibacy and delayed marriage were a characteristic of Irish marriage patterns at various times. After the famine especially, the mass emigration of young fertile women, in many cases motivated by a desire to earn a dowry for themselves, left a deficit of eligible women. The church and education also left a legacy of sexual aversion that even into the 1950s small rural towns in Ireland had inhabitants that knew so little about the mechanics of sex that they were unwilling to marry.

Irish Traditions

There were many regional differences in wedding customs, such as firing guns (See the image to the left) “In some areas, a way of expressing community involvement in a wedding was to fire gunshots after the bride and groom. This group waited to honour a bridegroom as he left his C. Antrim home at Killycoogan, near Portglenone. Early 1960s”. Ballard, Linda M. 1998. Forgetting frolic. Other traditions included the blocking of the road or the raising of particular flags on local fishing boats, however some customs were more widespread. The whole wedding party may set out for the church (if the wedding took place there) from the brides home, often on foot, later on horseback or by bicycle, and returned to their mutual residence or the grooms home (See the image below). “Young Kerry woman being led on horseback from her parents' home to the house of her bridegroom, mid nineteenth century.” Ballard, Linda M. 1998. Forgetting frolic. p.124

If the family was wealthy money would be thrown to children and “In many places it was customary to throw a handful of money, small change such as coppers and silver to the crowd. This was expected from people of means such as comfortable farmers or shopkeepers, and often was done by people who could ill afford it, as a way of gaining status. Formerly the beggars, who gathered from far and near scrambled for the coins.”Ó Danachair. 'Marriage in Irish Folk Tradition' pp.111-112.

If the bride were replacing the grooms mother as the bean an tighe (lady of the house) she might be formally handed the tongs or some such symbol of her domestic role. Sometimes races were held on the way back from the church, with prizes provided by the bride. Many of these traditions, such as the bride throwing a sock (sometimes containing bridecake) to indicate the next to marry were also seen in peasant communities in other countries in Europe. After the service the wedding breakfast was common, usually held by the brides parents where there would be food available, and many guests brought food or drink, or a collection might be taken to buy drink. Feasting and drinking were important throughout the history of Irish weddings and reflected the connectedness of the community to the couple. Bridecake, sometimes an oatcake, was often eaten with some traditions holding that it be cut above the head of the bride and the cake would then be shared among guests or parcelled and sent to distant relatives, the cutting in some areas was done by the grooms mother, and there are records of the priest charging guests for pieces of cake to augment his fee. Guests at a common wedding would wear their own clothes and, in the case of an early morning wedding in the twentieth century, the couple (sometimes with friends) may go for the rest of the day to the beach or to a city for shopping while their guests returned to work, and later in the evening all would join again for the wedding breakfast. Often each neighbouring family would have one representative and uninvited guests were generally allowed to participate.

Irish traditions such as the Straw Boys, or buachaillí tuí, masked single men from the locality who would 'crash' the wedding looking for revelry, gifts and flirtation with the bride reflect the importance the wedding feast had in the community and also the role of superstition as, if they were not pleased with their reception, they could ruin the wedding and cast their masks into neighbouring trees as an inauspicious omen. See the painting here of 'Wedding Dance at Rosanna, Co. Wicklow', 1815 by Maria Spilsbury Taylor (1776-1820) It was unusual for the tenantry to celebrate in this way with their landlords, however the Tighe family were model landlords and it made sense for the community to celebrate their daughters wedding. The painting also gives a glimpse of the brides white dress. “Taylor's scene seems to include the (straw)boys in a positive mood, with dancing that symbolised the integration of the couple in the community. … while just inside (the big house) a young women, who must be the bride in her fashionably low-cut white dress, looks out.” William Laffan from Rooney, Brendan, edt and National Gallery of Ireland. 2006. A time and a place: two centuries of Irish social life. Dublin: National Gallery of Ireland. p.76

See also the photograph below of 'Wedding Maskers', A Sligo Marriage Custom, c.1910, W.A. Green Rooney, Brendan, and National Gallery of Ireland. 2006. A time and a place: two centuries of Irish social life p.9 this shows that the Straw Boys were one of the last traditions to die out.

There were many superstitions that indicated bad luck, for example if a bride was not carried over the threshold by her kin, or anti-love spells that may be said by a

jealous person, as well as many spells of marriage divination.

The most popular season to get married were the weeks preceding Lent, as Cannon Law prohibited solemnization during Lent. Therefore Shrovetide (the months of February and March) were busiest for weddings. Yet this was also an economically sound decision, as it worked around the farming calendar, and “it prevented matchmaking from interfering with the serious business of potato planting.” (Fitzpatrick, David. 'Marriage in Post-Famine Ireland' p.124)

White Weddings

By the later half of the nineteenth century the influence of the white wedding as we understand it today had become more important. Some churches lent rings to people for the ceremony, or it could be for the occasion, or a key-ring may be used, and even when a woman had a ring she may have worn it on any finger, its establishment in the nineteenth century was encouraged by the church.

This is also when wedding clothes as distinct from daily wear became more important. Although the white dress was popular it was not the only colour to marry in and throughout the twentieth century it was not unusual rent or borrow gowns or to marry in travelling clothes for the growing practice of 'bridal tour' ('going away' straight after the wedding breakfast)

This photo is of James Heron and Sarah Harris, 'both of full age', married on 23 July 1874 in St. Peter's Church, Drogheda. The bride wears a brown silk dress, now part of the collection of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Ballard, Linda M. 1998. Forgetting frolic. p.79

In the next blog I will write about the Victorian Age and the establishment of the White Wedding as we would recognise it today.

        Article: MacDonagh, Michael. 'Marriage Customs in Rural Ireland' The Englishwoman 1914 vol 22 Apr-June :186-197.

        Selected Books:

        Ballard, Linda M. 1998. Forgetting frolic: marriage traditions in Ireland. Belfast London: Institute of Irish Studies                 Folklore Society.

        Cosgrove, Art. edt.1985. Marriage in Ireland. Dublin: College Press.

        Luddy, Maria. edt. 1995. Women in Ireland, 1800-1918: a documentary history. Cork: Cork University Press.

        Rohan, Dorine. 1969. Marriage Irish style. Cork: Mercier Press.

History of White Western Wedding Before 1840

posted Feb 4, 2015, 12:24 AM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller   [ updated Feb 25, 2015, 3:06 AM ]

Update: I am going to start re-reading and editing the novel I wrote last year, it's a thriller set in London but with a difficult narrator. Claire is early twenties, from Dublin (Northside, naturally) and stuck unhappily sharing with her big sister in a city of strangers. To let off steam she follows a doctor late one night and stumbles into something that involves drugs, homelessness and science gone wrong, so if any of that floats your boat cross your fingers for me.

This blog is more of a history lesson, in 2011 I finished a Masters in Philosophy, specialising in Gender and Women's Studies, in Trinity College Dublin. Man, I miss it, the excuse to spend hours studying, reading books and articles that would each spark off a thousand more questions! Anyway, I did my final thesis on White Weddings, (Uninvited Guests: An Exploration of the White Wedding in Ireland) and since then I have left all the research and data mouldering on my hard-drive. Until last week, when I presented a small talk on the history of the White Wedding at work, a perk of working for the Southbank Centre is their ethos for sharing knowledge with wonderful and sometimes off beat festivals, and this opportunity came up on a staff day. The staff day itself was a bit like a talent show with free food and sing-a-longs, and for some masochistic I reason volunteered to do a short talk, it was terrifying, public speaking is akin to facing a firing squad but you survive and are judged on how awful your death scene was by the gunmen. But I did it and as I was refreshing my memory cells I realised that I know a shit load about weddings, and perhaps someone out there will be interested in what I have to say.

Disclaimer: Not only is my research Irish focused my area of interest is in the Why? Of weddings, specifically in the women's role as 'bride', the ritual aspect, the

Wedding-Industrial-Complex and the wedding as an expression of conspicuous consumption in a Western context. I don't know if there is an interest in these areas so I'm not sure if I will blog about them yet.

Layout: Post One will be English based, a quick jaunt from the end of the Anglo-Saxon age (approx 1,000 c.e.) to the dawn of the Victorian Age, specifically 1840. Post Two will be an Irish History of wedding rituals. Post Three will be the Victorian Age and the twentieth Century until recent times (but not present times).

Post One: From Trade to Politics, A History of the English Wedding Before 1840

Most of this is stolen from And the Bride Wore (1973) by Ann Monsarrat a wonderful book on the history of the White Wedding with a wealth of information and I recommend it if you want to know more, especially about Royal Weddings, flowers, honeymoons, music and gossip. Page references are for that book.

1- Ceremony.

Although other older civilisations held their weddings in Churches and Temples under the authority of their priesthoods, in England under Anglo-Saxon and Christian rule this was not the case, marriage was seen as a secular, private matter, and marriage is vastly different to what we take for granted today. As the church took an increased role in the wedding the ceremony became more standard and the vows we would be familiar with now were established around the fourteenth century although with the thankfully forgotten, sexist vow by the wife to be “bonlich and buxum in bed and at burde” (To be meek and obedient in bed and at board) .p.29. Royal matches were usually formal occasions and these weddings would be celebrated publicly with much pomp and ceremony, in a church. The wealth of the Royal and aristocratic families would be on display, taxes were raised to pay for the event, and in addition to feasting the bride would wear this wealth, the day being her reward in anticipation of her uncertain happiness in future. White was not necessarily the colour of a bride, it was expensive however, being hard to make and maintain and so it symbolised wealth perfectly, it also indicated youth and innocence. Blue was a popular colour to marry in, as it indicated constancy, silver was a favourite of royalty, or gold, and yellow, pink and lilac were all also used, especially in later centuries. The dress would often be re-worn, and for upper class women they would be re-styled for presentation to court as a married woman. For lower class women, white, or the pale rich fabrics were an aspiration and many women married in their ordinary or nicest clothes.

The Church in earlier times had no real interest in the weddings of ordinary folk, and looked down on the exchange of money that it involved, but as the church became more involved in peoples lives they were asked to bless the union. Many weddings were an exchange of vows on the porch of the Church, followed by a nuptial mass. As time went on however the Church took more of an interest, and more of a cut, and the priest would be paid for his services in performing the wedding. They also took a great deal of interest in controlling who could and could not marry, declaring family three removes (i.e. cousins) out as relations, and included in this was family that had been married into, or God parents and their families, this was confusing for many, especially in small towns where most people would be related, or married into or in some other way considered by the Church to be of the same family. Years after a wedding, marriages could be declared illegal, and the children illegitimate on the final decision of a priest, this is the reasoning behind the part of the ceremony inviting objections, as this was a real moment of anxiety for the couple.

By law weddings were obliged to be before noon, to prevent skulduggery, for many centuries, until special licences could be purchased in the nineteenth century (linked to industrialisation and rail networks allowing couples to leave on honeymoons later).

The laws to announce an upcoming wedding three weeks in advance, each Sunday at a Church or public place, called the reading of the Banns, introduced in the thirteenth century to protect heiresses (and their property) from seduction (or kidnapping which nevertheless happened into the eighteenth century). This public announcement went in and out of fashion over the centuries and when special licences were brought in in the fourteenth century it was an expensive and therefore desirable part of the wedding. In the eighteenth century clandestine weddings were all the rage in high classes, and it became fashionable to have a wedding take place in a quiet back room while a party filled the rest of the house, oblivious to the event.

Over the centuries religious wars led to periods of austere weddings, while certain religious ceremonies were outlawed and moved underground, or in Puritan times when they became purely secular and many of the trimmings, including the wedding ring, were frowned on as “A Relique of Popery and a Diabollicall Circle for the Devil to daunce in” (p.46)

In the seventeenth century defrocked priests and dodgy clergymen gathered around the debtors prison of Fleet Street in London where they offered fast and cheap weddings for sailors, prisoners and the poor, not to mention a few nobles in disguise, but in the eighteenth century the chaos this caused for the propertied classes when their daughters eloped led to it being made illegal. (See image left of "Sailors Fleet Wedding 1747")

2- Who Married.

For Anglo-Saxons 'Bride by Capture', was nice way of saying that if a man fancied a woman he would plan a raid and take her from her home by force, until she submitted to his rule and was married to him. There was no expectation of mercy or joy in marriage and wives were literally the property of their captors/husbands. The more powerful the warrior, his clan and his family the easier it was for him to arrange this, however families, villages and even whole towns could be dragged into battles and trade disputes over these abductions, as the father would be loosing a useful asset. Girls worked hard, milking, herding, spinning and weaving, not to mention keeping the home and raising younger children, and their fathers were roused to anger and the loss of someone he could trade to cement a trade or alliance. Therefore it became custom to barter a price with the kidnapper, hence the dowry system, and so wives became more commonly bought than stolen, however the sentiment remained, as we will see. Laws were written forbidding the practice of selling the same girl multiple times, indicating that it was not uncommon for a man to accept several dowries before the girls came to marriageable age. Over time girls were raised less for use and more for decoration men had to pay to pass them off, and the dowry system shifted to the father paying the potential groom. Laws that governed weddings concerned these trades more than anything else, incidentally the 'wed' or pledge was were we got the name for the ring, often a symbol of this bargain. Betrothal was as important as the wedding and these promises were legally binding, making it impossible to marry another if the promise was in the present tense in front of witnesses, these laws carried on until late in the eighteenth century.

Children would be promised in childhood and the minimum age to marry until the nineteenth century was 12 years old for a girl, and 14 for a boy, although men were usually much older than their brides. Poor people were more practical and marriage was necessary for survival as two could work harder than one, and children provided labour if there was land.

3- Old Traditions

The Bedding was an important part of the day and in the fifteenth century and beyond the newly married couple would be joined in their chamber by the party (including royalty, King Henry VII enjoyed them), and perhaps a priest for a blessing (or bishop if you were rich), and often games and tricks would be played, including sewing the couple in, or tying a bell under the bed. One game involved the couple throwing stockings at their guest, where we get throwing the bouquet from.

Weddings could take place in the brides home and whether at a church or house the tradition was for a procession or journey of the wife to her home and, after breakfast, another journey to her new home. This became an opportunity for games as races would be held for the journey from Church to the brides house for the wedding breakfast (a pot luck supplied by the family and guests), or games and races to be held at a nearby green, perhaps on market day, with prizes for the winners supplied by the bride (or brides, as several weddings may happen in a town in a week, or in a church at one time). These prizes were often coloured ribbons, and over time these were called wedding favours and in later centuries they would be given by the bride to guests to be worn at weddings, turning white over the years. In aristocratic circles these favours could extend to large rosettes worn by men, and could be paired with flowers, in the nineteenth century the old fertility symbol of orange blossom became the flower of choice and at Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840 they were popular with all guests, some mixed with silver lace and white satin, “here and there were seen bouquets of huge dimensions of riband and massive silver bullion having at their centre what might almost be termed a branch of orange blossoms” (Quoted from The Times on p.133).

Games and races associated with weddings lingers on in the country until the early eighteenth century, however the extreme gaiety and carnival atmosphere of early weddings did not last. In earlier times it was common to host a bride-ale where, in the Church after the wedding, a cask (or more) of ale would be passed around and guests would put money in a box for the couple to set up home, this party over time moved from the church to an adjacent hall or tavern, and these drinking sessions could last until late in the night. Games could be quite rough, in some areas there was a tradition to mob the bride directly after the vows, and grab what you could of her finery, ribbons, gloves, decorations, even her garters, these were then worn as a prize for the remainder of the festivities, this trophy hunting could happen before the girl had even left the alter. For the richer classes however these games could take the form of tournaments, lasting days of feasting and revelry. But as with everything else over time and religious influences things became more restrained, especially after the Puritans, and these traditions only lingered in the countryside on in Scotland which had it's own traditions.(See Image to left of "Winchester Wedding 1682-3")

Breaking an oatcake, a bride-cake, over the head of a bride on the wedding day is an old ritual, and these only slowly evolved in Elizabethan times to a softer cake, and with Charles II into French influenced decorated bridal cakes. The breaking an oat cake over the head part still lingered and merged with fertility symbols and paper luck symbols into confetti, while the cake became more and more ornate.

Next Time I'll discuss Weddings After 1840, but I will add this for anyone who still has a rose tinted view of “traditional” white weddings, in the sixteenth century up to 33 per cent of brides in the village of Colyton, for example, were pregnant and even in 1880 poor people did not see the need for a wedding. The following quote is from Richard Meinertzhagen, Test Valley, 1880’s; Diary of a Black Sheep

When we first went to Mottisfort many of the villagers were living together as man and wife without having been through the ceremony of marriage. This practice was deemed perfectly honourable, but it shocked the new rector, Mr. Slocock, who consulted my mother on the subject. My mother was a practical woman, always facing facts and, of course, saw the comic side of it. She rather enjoyed the honest and practical manner in which a village can manage its own affairs without the help of the Church, but Slocock being an orthodox priest was outraged at promiscuous living in sin (hateful expression) in his parish. The people of Mottisfort were not immoral and this marriage without ceremony was partly due to Church neglect and partly due to poverty. It was the fate of old couples who, as young people, had been unable to afford the marriage fee of half a crown. Under Mr. Slocock’s persuasion, my mother offered to pay the fee and many old couples nearing the stage of a golden wedding became respectfully married.” (And the Bride Wore p.120)

My First Novel

posted Oct 17, 2014, 3:40 PM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller   [ updated Feb 2, 2015, 3:14 AM ]

Draft One is done, finished on October 6th 2014 at 122,763 words. Is it good? Not really, but it is different, there is a nugget there. No one else has read more than a chapter so perhaps it is gold dust and I am merely modest, but that is unlikely. This is a different look at my creative process than the post on Hungry Dress, so I will start at the end product, where it began, how it evolved, challenges and finally what I have gotten out of it so far.

Utopia, current title, bit optimistic and already taken by Thomas Moore, but it fits (plus they are hardly going to get mixed up on a shelf). It is Science Fiction and I think it falls under Young Adult (YA) but there is sex and suicide and later religious themes that I fear may make it uneasy reading for some, so how do I describe it? Every person I try to explain it to gets a different synopsis, if they ever compare notes I'm afraid they will think I'm lying, but it is a novel and there is a lot going on. Short answer: UTOPIA is like the Matrix but everyone knows they are inside, so there is no poverty, no fear, everyone is rich and happy, and it is divided into 'worlds' where people can spend their lives gardening or surfing or flying or travelling, whatever. Plus immortality! Instead of true death you can have your memory erased and just start again as a baby, this is called end-gaming. If you want to raise a child you must raise him/her on STANDARD so they learn the basics of life, but at the age of nineteen they go off for a year travelling the 'worlds', a small price to pay for immortality. Liss, the main character, is about to turn in nineteen when she falls in love but nothing is as it seems and this is what happens after.

It's basically Matrix meets Alice in Wonderland meets Romeo and Juliet part II. That shouldn't be hard to pitch to a publisher or agent, right?

Anyway it is only at stage 1, draft 1, I can worry about neatening the edges later. It began in 2012 when I was working Tesco. I was stuck not making art and I saw this three minute TED video by Matt Cutts titled TrySomething New For 30 Days which hit me at the right time and at the right stage in my life. I needed its simple idea of doing one thing for a month as it got me out of a rut and into focusing on what I wanted, it also introduced me to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month (actually International, but you know how Americans are with naming things). The plan behind NaNoWriMo is that you sign up, and make a personal commitment to writing a 50,000 word novel from the first to the last of November, there is no financial cost, no cost if you don't make it and not much for winning, beyond kudos in the NaNoWriMo community, and the personal knowledge that you can do it. I missed the first few days of it as I had signed up for a half marathon, but when I was free I started writing, with only a vague sketch for a plot. And I wrote. I did not go back and edit, and near the end I realised that I had changed one characters name half way through, but I found the characters surprising easy to bring to life, and they were quite happy to get on and live their lives on virtual paper. It was creatively freeing to write, you can invent anything, everything, as big or small in scale as you need and in a few words it exists! I had no training in creative writing, no teachers beyond the hundreds of books I have read, but Liss and her family and friends did not mind my clumsy dialogue or boring details. They did go off and do things I did not expect, but the plot stood and deepened as it went along.

And after 50,408 words I stopped. By February 2013 I had 60,903, by November 2013 I had 66,365, the characters stayed with me, you understand? The story still existed in my mind, but not in keystrokes, and it wanted to get out. But I let it slide, and let other things take priority. Then I moved to London, a new exciting city where I knew no one. I would not consider myself a social butterfly, but back home I could find myself booked up for weeks at a time, meeting people and going to events, shows, talks etc. So now I had time, and a need to return to something creative that did not require the tools I had left in Dublin, ergo novelling! I have surprised myself by working on it five days a week on average, on my lunch breaks at work, so averaging 1,500 a day, Woo!

The ideas for the characters come from my work in a secondary school (teenage girls ages 12 to 19), the same one I had gone to as a teen, as well as my frustrations with the Twilight books. It also took many of the themes I had explored in my Masters, so there is quite a bit of philosophy, which I think works well with Science Fiction as a genre. I did not intended for the story to be YA even though I love YA, although I only dip into it occasionally. I honestly believe it is one of the bravest sections of modern fiction, without the pigeon-holing of adult 'genres' and yet retaining coming-of-age, bildungsroman stories as a universal thread reaching back through the history of novels.

As to the story; I had a beginning, middle and end, I was just unsure what the route would be, so I was lucky that each character fit so well, and when one character, Rill, turned up unexpectedly it improved the story immeasurably. I took notes and towards the end I had a time-line. I won't give you spoilers but this is not a romance, although there are romantic parts, and it changes direction halfway through although I hope it is well signposted in the story.

I do not like the writing style, although it was the only one I had open to me. A big part of the world is that it is visually led, other senses are secondary and so I constrained myself descriptively, which is not a natural style for me. I could only mention smells or tastes if they were important, not as atmosphere, which has led to the world being quite flat. I have not read the first half in a few months, and I have not edited anything, only going back to add little bits in case I forget to do it when I do go back next month.

It needs to be re-read and quickly edited before I give it to anyone for a second opinion, after which I will start the intense editing process, wish me luck! Perhaps by next year it will be worth submitting to whoever publishes novels.

I learned a lot during this process, mostly that I can write a novel and that I can dedicate the time and energy to something as ephemeral as words on a screen. I was inspired to return to Utopia in a large part by going to the inaugural Young Adult Literature Conference (YALC) at London Film and Comic Con this July (2014). It was introduced by Malorie Blackman and featured lectures such as Heroes of Horror, I'm Too Sexy For This Book, Sisters Doing It For Themselves and It's The End of the World As We Know It; The Ongoing Appeal of Dystopia all of which were chocked full of amazing authors and industry types.

I have therefore found that authors are better at explaining the artistic process than artists,

although the steps are similar; from kismet to serendipity being only a fancy way of describing the subconscious fusion of marinating ideas which leads to a spark. The hard work, the actual writing and how that is a necessity, the doing. Then the editing, the showing to a trusted reader (audience) and re-editing, and again. That it is never finished to perfection, just until it is good enough to be let go. And the process of letting go, and giving your work up to public interpretation, change and it's metamorphosis to this other finished thing.


Are you not working this evening sweetheart? It is Forthday isn't it?”

“Malkin wants me to work a full day on Sixthday instead, with the speeches and celebrations going on he is hoping for busy day.” Liss pulled a chair out and sat beside Janele at the dining table, plucking several thick and juicy leaves from a particularly odd lavender squatting beside them. She chewed the leaves slowly, tasting the tartness of raspberry blended with the expected lavender. “Are you home this evening?”

“No plans yet, why do you ask?”

“Rill wants to come over and see what else she can squeeze out of you.” Liss looked down at the workscreen that had extended to cover half of the table in front of Janele, “But if you're in the middle of something..” The screen was an indecipherable tangle of letters and numbers with the rare small diagram of a molecule that Liss assumed had to do with the genetic blueprints of the hybrid plants occupying the house, or perhaps of plants that had yet to be written.

“Of course she can join us, it will be a good excuse to have a sit down meal. Jaz will be home from soccer in an hour, so that gives you enough time to tidy your room, possibly even find enough space in there to sit down.” She smiled at her daughters reflexive grimace. “Do you mind working on Sixthday? It will be a big day for the town, I don't want you to miss it.”

Liss plucked a few more leaves to bring up stairs with her, pulling herself to her feet as she replied, “Nah, it's just another demolition, I'll take a break to see the winner for the replacement garden, I want to see if Rill gets it. But otherwise I'd prefer to help out in the café, I'll get to hear all the details and if we are busy Malkin will need me.”

“How is your own garden coming along?” Janele was cautious, unsure if Liss was genuinely happy with Rills creative successes.

“You were right, I got too distracted with the statue, the garden itself was an afterthought. I had an idea and it just, I just couldn't...” Liss shrugged. “I had this idea and I just couldn't express it. Anyway it doesn't matter, I already know I'm not going to make my way as a creator.”

“What was your idea?”

Liss turned back slightly, “Oh I wanted to have the statue made of stone and have it affected by time, you know by weather and it to get a bit worn and crumbly and stuff. Just for the people in the garden to come across this sort of faded and damaged figure, of like a person.” She sighed and continued up toward her room. “I just wanted to see something old in a garden.”

Janele shook her head at the retreating figure, something old, how odd. Her daughter had the funniest ideas sometimes.

I do not think of myself as a writer, I am trying to think of myself as an artist who also writes, which is quite enough of an effort some days.

The Hungry Dress, (Or a post on my creative process)

posted Oct 10, 2014, 3:35 PM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller   [ updated Feb 2, 2015, 3:17 AM ]

I am not good at pinning things down, but for this post I will try. To begin, some background, then a few tangents, then some academia, then some art, do I call this a process?

Background: After art college I got a job in a bookshop in Dublin city centre (Easons on O'Connell St if anyone knows it) with the aim of making some money after

the poverty of final year and saving enough to go travelling around the world for a year with a good friend. A few months before we left I met and dated a wonderful man, funny, smart, sexy but when it came to it I broke it off (nicely I hoped but clumsily in reality, and this is only the edited version, of course there is more, there always is) and set off for pastures new. Travelling is everything everyone says it is, it widens the horizons, but it also exposes you, everywhere you go there you are. Anyway week one and we are in a dreadful hostel in Hong Kong suffering from culture shock, wonder and jet lag when I have a dream. I am not much of a believer, I am pretty damn cynical, science is my security blanket and I leave the subconscious to Dickens, but this dream has stayed with me and when I woke up and read my scribbled notes I knew when I got back in a year, 2005, that this would be important.

I dreamt that a wedding dress was chasing me, mouth wide, ready to swallow me whole. It was terrifying. I imagined little gremlin size ones waiting around street corners, dresses with straps for sleeves, like lunatics were forced to wear, dresses with sharp teeth and drooling maws. The stark white of the dress and the red of bloody gums haunted me. And then I put it aside and travelled for a year, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, USA, Canada again, then London and home to Ireland where I had a loan to repay and a life to build.

Tangents: It is easy to become distracted. I got busy, first repaying the loan, then saving for stage two art career, then travelling and reading and friends and family and I still knew that I wanted to make the Hungry Dress, that it was important. Why was it important I have tried to answer ever since that dream. I knew it was my

own subconscious articulating my rejection of the traditional route of Irish (Western) womanhood – education > marriage > mortgage > children – and my decision to journey far in search of my own story, but it was also universal, a call to arms, or putting flesh on a common fear, either of the marriage machine or adulthood. A fear of ageing alone or maidenhood, dying an old maid, becoming a crone, marriage is sold as the cure, the salvation for all single women. Hungry Dress is that fear, the voluntary sacrifice of independence for the security of a (heterosexual) relationship (although we hope it is not that). It also ties in the fact that in Ireland Equal Marriage is still not available, although the genesis of this work covers the period of that changing.

But I worked on it/her. I decided early on to make the dress myself, as although I could use a ready-made dress, it would not be my vision, and it would be incredibly difficult to find a dress with all the practical necessities, long sleeves, tie's at the back, detail below the knee, a high plain neckline and a classical ageless style. Dressmaking is a beautiful and useful skill, and I would not say I have mastered it, but over the past few years I have taught myself the basics and beyond. I reached the point where I would have been comfortable making the dress, but life got in the way, as it has an awful habit of doing. Money was always a factor, and my lack of artistic courage, I did not take the risk of giving up a full time safe job for my art, and so I never made enough money to cover the cost of it's making. But that is story for another blog. Dressmaking was a beautiful frustrating expensive creative tangent which you will see in other parts of this website.

Another tangent is of course my changing relationship with the Hungry Dress, she would sit at my shoulder and peck peck peck at my thoughts. Friends were getting married, and my ideas about marriage tempered and adjusted, but still she would recede only to reappear stronger and angrier and more relevant. Other creative paths were not as sustainably interesting, and to this day I am not sure if anyone else would like her, accept her, or accept the part of me that created her.

In 2011 I left my job and took my savings and decided to do a Masters in feminism, something I had only the vaguest ideas about when I applied, but it attracted me

as a safe stepping stone back into art, that would not require an up to date current portfolio, and I had just enough money to get away with not working for the year, so I could find my creative feet while I was at it. That year changed my life. In the end I did my 20 thousand plus word thesis on the White wedding, she would not leave me alone even in this, or perhaps she led me to this. Where else would I find answers for the questions she raised?

My thesis is definitely grist for a different post, but I will give you the bare bones of it's layout here, and just add that a lot more was taken out than was left in. The first half was a historical exploration of the white wedding in Ireland, and this touched on the close relationship to English culture and Western culture. Irish wedding traditions such as the Straw Boys which we have lost, and the strata of classes and how they have evolved in tandem with wedding size and cost. The media and how the growth of printing and photography (particularly black and white in the early days) has influenced a growing middle class, and the establishment of the “White” wedding with Queen Victoria. So your basic post-colonial Westernised tradition with added ritual power. I touched lightly on the power of the wedding to “do” something in a community, to be a ritual of adulthood and changing the state of a person/couple from single to married in the eyes of their community. This ritual power is usually obscured and I will return to it another time. The white dress specifically is a symbol of the wedding as a whole and it could be said to exist outside the wedding in the particular, standing as it does for the idea and becoming the locus of cultural expectations, while also being a particularly female symbol.

The second half of the thesis was a study of the wedding industrial complex, in the Irish context. It involved interviewing people who worked in the wedding industry in a variety of roles, but my aim was to find people who had dealt with dozens, perhaps hundreds over the years, so photographers, wedding co-ordinators and a solemniser (in Ireland this is the person with the right to perform a legally binding wedding). It was a fascinating window for me into the industry which touches peoples lives so rarely and I will perhaps return to the data I gathered. I do not think I used it as well as I could in the thesis, but I was able to draw out several clear themes such as fashion, expertise, the bride and her role, etc.

Then it was over, thesis done, and I could feel the hold she had over me recede, doing it was cathartic Uninvited Guests: An Exploration of the White Wedding in Ireland in on a shelf in Trinity College Dublin, and so back to life, back to reality. When I made the decision to leave and later to move to London, I knew I had to finish her, give her body. I had listened when she spoke to me and I had to repay that.

There were other tangents, the dress from Medea, the British Royal Wedding, celebrity weddings in general, the Equal Marriage movement, the backlash re: religious and 'traditionalists' and their lament on the death of marriage in the West (gah), television shows even channels devoted to weddings, Disney. Plus it is fucking funny, it's a Hungry Dress after all, but I hope this humorous element stems from the visceral nature of the piece, it's punch to the gut action/reaction. And lets not forget Bridezilla, a term combining bride with Godzilla, a monster woman, the butt of jokes and very real experience, a horrific term that combines the idea of a specifically female role, bride, with monstrous unrestrainable destruction, anger and misused power. Vagina Dentata would I hope be an immediate touchstone.

I know I will return to her, fix the mistakes I made in her execution. But not yet. She has released me and I can move on creatively to pastures new and far.

I Moved to London

posted Oct 7, 2014, 3:17 PM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller   [ updated Feb 2, 2015, 3:36 AM ]

This is no excuse for being really bad at blogging, but it is the one I am using, that and the simple fact that I am really bad at commitment. I'm working on it, as my sister says (in a totally different area) 'the aim is progress, not perfection'. In my defence I have been getting better at finishing what I start, I moved to London, got a job, I finished Hungry Dress, I don't have any current sewing projects, and I just finished the first draft of my first novel. That is quite a lot to have done since last November. I have also been keeping busy in London, doing everything that takes my fancy, Young Adult Literature Conference (YALC), London Film & Comic Con, Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican, Stephen Fry at the Royal Festival Hall, an academic Conference on Race in UCL, The Wedding Dress exhibition in the V&A, among a hundred other things.

So yes that whole blog about my shed/studio does seem a little bit redundant now, but that is where I gave birth to the Hungry Dress, finally. I miss it, I miss having my own studio, my own tools handy, all of the little things I have saved over the years, waiting for that perfect project, bolts, varnishes, carving tools, wire, metal paint, dozens of fabrics, red spray paint, glass bottles and white spirit. I miss Dublin, a place I knew like the back of my hand, but which still kept throwing me surprises. I miss my favourite tea and cake spot, favourite bookshops, favourite alley ways, favourite walks. I miss my family and friends.

London has been a gift though, lots to learn and not much time to fit it all in. I arrived on March 23rd 2014, and I got a full time job in a shop at an arts venue in the city centre two months later, so I have been juggling full time retail hours with everything else, and so far I have been busy but not stretched. Phew, it could have all gone horribly wrong. My sister is to be thanked, she has lived here for three years so when the opportunity came to move in with her that is what I did, and she has helped shave off London's rough edges.

My medium term goal is to get making again soon, now my novel is in the editing stages I should be able to invest some creative juices back into my sculpture, so cross your fingers for me.

Welcome to My Studio

posted Nov 16, 2013, 12:34 PM by Anna-Lena Dubé Fuller   [ updated Feb 2, 2015, 3:15 AM ]

Where do I start a blog? So I am going to take advice from a dear friend, and basically the only blogger I know, David Minogue. He said that the best start is just to write a few lines every day, no matter on what, but just to write. Therefore I am going to aim for brevity, fingers crossed eh?

                I may as well start at a beginning, so welcome to my studio. The garden shed was my father’s domain and this is not the time to go into the complicated nature of my relationship with my late father, but I have always loved and wanted it. The garden is a quarter acre stretched out in a narrow band between a glasshouse on one side and un-developed private property (I.e. a field) to the other, and the shed was a hand-built brick construction all the way down the far end, as far from the house as possible. This distance from the house, the lack of insulation, and over time the deterioration of the window frames leading to rot and insect infestation all counted against it being a practical studio.

Let me paint a picture; the famous Irish weather alternately freezes or forcibly enters through the numerous cracks, the unpainted grey cement is hidden on one side by the interior remains of an old hardwood wardrobe. Ivy creeps in over the corner of the wardrobe where it meets a set of three salvaged presses mounted high on the back wall. All this is packed tightly with all the rotted boxes, jars and plant pots of screws, nails, hinges, nuts, bolts and sundry other bits of rusted metal, dads old photographic equipment, large mirrors, useless tools, ancient audio devices and other parts of the life he left after the divorce. When I went travelling around the world in 2005-6 I packed up twenty-something years of my life and layered all that on top: action figures, VHS tapes, postcards and memorabilia that seemed oh so precious, and four years of art-college: notebooks, carving tools, oil paints, a plaster face mould, giant glass jars, and finally my heavy wooden king size bed frame. On the right, under the main window is an old kitchen chip-board press with a decent counter space that became damp from the rotted window frames and swelled to accommodate an extended family of woodlice. The windows themselves were merely short glass pieces in the same slotted style found in glasshouses, a pane already missing. The view spans the bare cement back wall, an abandoned vegetable patch (with foundations for an extension all that remained of my aborted attempt to make it into a studio several years previously), up to the house in the distance. The spiders begrudge the few last feet by the door where the lawnmower can just about fit.

In 2012 I challenged myself to finally get off my arse and make this shed into a useable studio. I was frustrated with my lack of progress in my own artwork, I had been comfortable with my sewing skills, I had finished my masters and had run out of excuses. Although I would have loved to have joined a studio system I could not afford to leave Rush and rent a studio as well, the shed/studio was my best chance. To add quick context at this point I had started working for Tesco, less than full time (one of the many under-employed in the Irish recession, thankful for a job but unfulfilled) in November 2011. So I did.

I gave away and threw out boxes of stuff, cleaned, cleaned and cleaned. Then I saved my pennies and got a carpenter in to replace all the windows and doors, which I painted in Dr Who Tardis Blue (that should be the official name of oxford blue). So I welcome you to my studio, still freezing in winter, possibly haunted but I have room for shelves, tools and me. And the lawnmower.

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