Later life weddings are breaking the mold

By Ginger Manley | Posted: Thursday October 3, 2013

October 2013

Dear Ginger
I am engaged to my long-ago sweetheart and I want to have a pretty wedding and wear a lovely gown. I eloped (I was pregnant) the first time around and have always dreamed of having a big church wedding. My daughter thinks this is great but my son says someone my age would be better off wearing a tailored church dress and having a quiet ceremony. My guy is still a hunk who will look great in a tuxedo but I am a little droopy around the edges--he doesn't seem to mind, though. I wonder if there are wedding dresses for older ladies like me?
Grace


Hi Grace
Congratulations on finding (again) your great looking fellow and discovering anew later-life love. You are part of a big trend--couples over 55 who are marrying. In fact, from 2002 to 2012, the number of couples over 55 who were marrying doubled, a fact not lost on the news and wedding industry.


In August of this year, two major national publications featured weddings that had either just taken place or were in the planning stages. In a Sunday August 11 article in the Vows section of The New York Times, writer J. Gordon Julien detailed the eight year relationship and recent marriage of now-89-year-old Shirl Abbey and his bride, now-80-year-old Dorothy Rogers, who met via Match.com. It turns out they had grown up in Ohio fifty miles apart but they had never met and were living in Santa Fe when each posted their profiles online. Four days after they met, on the summer solstice in 2005, they moved in together and eight years later, across the breakfast table, Shirl asked Dorothy to marry him. Their wedding was on July 24, 2013. Dorothy is Shirl's fifth wife, he having had four brief marriages where he was abandoned by divorce or death. He reportedly never gave up hope of having a life-lasting romance and marriage. Dorothy had been previously married once, divorcing at age 52 and becoming a gallery proprietress and community activist. The couple and bridal party wore Nigerian ceremonial garb brought to Dorothy by her son after a trip to that country in 1997. The article states that she had worn them to three previous special events and she believes her ceremonial gown and head wrap would become more meaningful with each wearing.


The same month, The Christian Science Monitor headlined "Over 55 and in love: Seniors make up 8 percent of wedding business." http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/2013/0822/Over-55-and-in-love-Seniors-make-up-8-percent-of-wedding-business (Accessed 8/24/2013 8:34 PM). Among others cited in the story, Sherry Lynne Heller-Welles, a 64-year old retired registered nurse and widow, had always wanted a fairytale wedding. When she and her husband, Clyde, a 65-year old retired business owner, married in 2012, she wore a "flowing ivory gown with a long veil and lacey bolero jacket. Ten flower-toting bridesmaids and seven groomsmen were in the wedding party. And after the ceremony, 100 guests dined on beef tenderloin, clams casino, and a three-tier wedding cake. The cost, including a fireworks show during the reception, was $45,000."


CS Monitor credits the trend towards big weddings in later life partly to a wish to be like celebrity over-the-top events and partly to throwing tradition out the window. Later-life weddings are becoming big-business and wedding-related stores are catering to this lucrative niche, even as traditional weddings are being sized down. One store in Connecticut recently held a bridal fashion show at a nursing home, which "was a hit with the residents," according to the story. While bridal white has been the choice of most first-time brides for fifty years, today's older brides are choosing ivory or taupe. As the article concludes, Joan Hunter, a 76-year old long time widow, is planning to marry her 87-year-old guy, Guido Campanile in a lavish wedding featuring a grandson as ring-bearer and a DJ to spin the tunes. Hunter says her children wondered why she did not elope to Las Vegas, but Hunter replies, "I'm really young at heart. I just wanted to do something that everyone would remember."


So there you have it, Grace. I think a girl should wear whatever she wants at her wedding so I am coming down on the side of your daughter. In fact, I would suggest you and she go shopping together, this time with you as the focus. Bridal shops, and all kinds of retailers, are very welcoming of brides who are not size 0-2. You and your daughter should be able to have lots of choices--and lots of fun--finding the perfect dress for this big occasion. Then get your hair and makeup done and put on some fancy, but comfortable, shoes and float down that aisle and into the arms of your Prince Charming. I will bet that many of your single girlfriends will wish they were you on that day. Send me a photo and I'll post it in another column!
Ginger

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