by April Helms
Special Products Editor
It's June, a very traditional month to be wed. Picture a typical wedding. It's most likely set at the family home, which was festooned with colorful flowers for the occasion. The wedding would start at noon, the most fashionable time. Invitations, delivered about 15 days before the happy event, were probably hand-delivered. After the wedding, guests would throw their shoes at the carriage, and it was a sign of luck if a shoe -- particularly the left shoe -- landed on the roof of the carriage. At the reception, guests would dine on a dark cake, almost like a fruit cake, with items like a penny, thimble, or a ring baked inside. Small pieces of cake would be given at the end to single men and women, and if they placed the box under their pillow, they would dream of their future husband or wife.
Doesn't sound familiar? Well, if you lived more than a century ago, some of these wedding activities would be commonplace.
These tidbits and more can be discovered at Perkins Mansion in Akron, which has set up "A Garden Wedding." This display, which opened June 6, highlights fashions and customs for weddings from the 1860s to 1970s.
The display was largely the work of two longtime volunteers, Betty Rolenz and Ruth Wright Clinefelter, said Leianne Neff Heppner, Summit County Historical Society curator. Assisting them with the exhibit development was Ellen DeLong, UA Masters student intern.
"They've been going through the clothes," Heppner said. "We found we had a lot of wedding dresses, up to the 1970s. Ruth had the vision of the white dresses, the garden dresses in the hall, and that's how we came up with the theme."
Clinefelter said that she and Rolenz had been inventorying the clothing at the historic Greek-revival mansion for "more than two years." Perkins mansion was the home of Col. Simon Perkins, son of Gen. Simon Perkins, considered the co-founder of Akron.
"It's been very interesting work," Clinefelter said. "I was astounded about how rich the collection was. We've never done any display this extensive before."
The bridal gowns are not the only items on display, Heppner said.
"We wanted to show a variety of items, not just the bride's dresses," Heppner said. "We have the guests, dresses from the mother of the bride, the flower girl and more."
All but one of the gowns is from the Perkins Mansion's own collection, Heppner said, but she credited other entities, such as the staff at Stan Hywet Hall and Hower House, with assistance in other areas. The one exception, a 1950s wedding dress by designer Oleg Cassini, is on loan from The Discovery Shop, operated by the American Cancer Society. There are about 60 items total on display.
The display was initially going to limit itself to items from the 1950s and older, Heppner said.
"But we had lovely pieces we thought people may recognize," she said. "One of our themes is that history is closer than you think. We may think of the 1970s as recent, but we need to start saving and preserving these items now, because soon they could be considered historical."
Exhibit times, dates
The exhibit, which runs through July 28, is open to visitors Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Tour prices are $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, and free to SCHS members. Parking is available on site for no charge. For details, call 330-535-1120.
Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3153