Dear Friends: When our youngest daughter Melinda became engaged on Christmas Day, my thoughts turned to my simple yet elegant Thousand Dollar Wedding, held on New Year’s Day 1993.
Our Love Story
I met my husband in an unusual way – our two little girls were in Grade One together at an elementary school in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and they introduced us.
Heinz Drews is a German-born engineer who works in mining construction. He was a widower whose wife had died of leukemia, leaving him with three young children – Daniel, Janine, and Melinda.
Meanwhile, I was working as a copy editor at a daily newspaper, divorced, with one daughter named Katie. My heart went out to his three beautiful motherless children and one year later (with some trepidation), I agreed to become their stepmother.
We lived together before our wedding for just two weeks. We combined all our possessions and moved our four offspring into our new house on December 15, 1992; my future in-laws (who spoke no English) arrived from Berlin on December 20 to stay with us; we celebrated our first Christmas together as a blended and extended family; and we were married on New Year’s Day. As you can imagine, that month was a veritable maelstrom of activity!
Since this wasn’t the first wedding for either of us, we didn’t splash out. We are both naturally frugal so that worked to our advantage. Besides, we needed all our money to raise four children! We estimate that our wedding cost less than one thousand dollars (about two thousand dollars today).
TIPS FOR A THOUSAND DOLLAR WEDDING
1. Do not print and mail invitations.
We invited everyone by telephone, and enjoyed the personal contact. Today, of course, you can follow up with an email or text so guests will have a reminder of the date.
2. Host the wedding in a private home.
If yours isn’t suitable, you may have a family friend or acquaintance who will lend their house for such a happy event. If necessary, rent the necessary china, silver and glassware.
3. Make your own dress, or have it made.
My mother made my dress. Since it wasn’t my first marriage, I wanted a simple dress with long sleeves, which she modified from this pattern. The sleeves look so puffy – but remember it was 1993!
4. Sew the other wedding garb.
Katie and Janine, both aged nine, wore black velvet jumpers that I sewed myself. My cousin Marilyn sewed their pretty white blouses – Katie’s had pearl trim, and Janine’s had rhinestone trim.
My smallest bridesmaid, four-year-old Melinda, wore a recycled party dress of Katie’s that had been sewn earlier by my sister, using this pattern.
The biggest splurge was a rented tuxedo for my stepson Daniel, and a new suit for my husband. (That wasn’t really a wedding expense, as my husband has worn this suit for several important occasions including our own daughter’s wedding!
5. Keep the flowers to a minimum.
Our wedding was in winter, or else I would have picked flowers from the garden. We spent about $100 on a few bouquets to decorate the house, and wreaths for the girls’ hair.
6. Shorten the guest list.
We invited about sixty of our friends, family members and neighbours. By having an open house (what used to be called a come-and-go afternoon), not everyone was present at the same time.
7. Host a daytime reception.
Our ceremony took place in the living room at 11 a.m. and the guests were invited to our reception from 1 to 5 p.m. Our closest circle ended up staying for the whole evening, which was fine.
8. Make your own food.
This was the biggest effort. My husband-to-be (happily, he is a wonderful cook) and his mother prepared everything in advance and kept it in the garage overnight (remember, it was the dead of winter). At the last minute, we whipped out platters of food: cold cuts, salads, cheeses, bread, and plenty of desserts.
9. Limit the booze options.
We served red and white wine, and homemade punch in a beautiful borrowed silver punch bowl. Everyone else drank coffee, tea or juice.
10. Bake your own cake.
Homemade cake usually tastes better, and someone you know will probably offer to decorate it. My mother-in-law made this one.
The kids loved our wedding trolls, a nod to my husband’s German heritage.
The trolls even made another appearance years later, on the dessert table at Katie’s wedding on New Year’s Eve, 2011.
11. Don’t hire a photographer.
Our friends took photos of the wedding ceremony and reception. With today’s technology, anybody’s photos would be much sharper than these twenty-seven-year-old snapshots. We easily had enough photos to make a beautiful album. That’s all we needed to remind us of what was surely the happiest day of my life!
Now our oldest two daughters are married. Their weddings were more elaborate than ours, but they didn’t go off the deep end either, and incorporated some cost-saving measures into their nuptials.
Katie chose to marry her husband Tom on the day before our own wedding anniversary, New Year’s Eve, 2011. (She had her dress made, and I sewed the little faux fur cape).
Janine married Andrew in a lovely outdoor wedding in our own front yard in August 2014.
Now we are looking forward to our third family wedding, since our youngest daughter Melinda became engaged on Christmas Day!
And now for the sad bit . . .
Someone remarked recently that I lead a charmed life. It’s true that I am very fortunate in many respects, but my life, like everyone else’s, has had its share of deep sorrows.
You may wonder why I never mention my stepson Daniel. Just eight years after we were married, on January 5, 2001, he was killed in a car accident at the age of nineteen. This was a crushing blow to our blended family.
Many of you have also lost children, and you know that their absence is an open wound that becomes bearable in time but never truly heals. It is nineteen years since we lost Daniel, and not a single day goes by when all of us don’t think about him.
So the first week of January each year, in which we celebrate both our anniversary as a family, and remember Daniel’s death, always brings a blend of joy and sadness – just like life itself.
Rest in peace, Daniel Drews.
* * * * *
Farewell to Jean Hubbard
One of my dear wartime veterans, Jean Hubbard of North Vancouver, British Columbia, died on December 7, 2019. She joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps on her eighteenth birthday, met her future husband two weeks later, and married him after the war ended. You may read her story here: Jean Hubbard.
* * * * *
Wartime Wednesdays Flashback
Speaking of wartime weddings, there are some gorgeous photos on my website, including this photo of Eswyn Ellinor, a former member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and her husband Stu Lister of the Calgary Highlanders. They met and married in 1943, and Eswyn became one of the first war brides that sailed to Canada to rejoin her husband in 1946 — one of 44,000 English women who did so. See more photos here: Wartime Weddings.
* * * * *
My Exciting Event in England
My speaking event at the fabulous Danesfield House Hotel in England, the setting for my novel Bird’s Eye View, has now been finalized. It will be held on the weekend of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, from May 8 to 10, 2020.
There are two options for the public: stay at the hotel and enjoy the complete weekend anniversary package; OR attend the luncheon on Saturday, May 9, when you can hear me and other speakers, and tour the hotel and grounds; OR you can always do both.
The weekend package and the luncheon are booked separately, and you may see the details for both options here: VE Day 75th Anniversary Hotel Package.
I also have a digital brochure describing the beauties of the Danesfield House Hotel. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send it along.
And please pass this information to any of your friends, English or otherwise, who might be interested. Hope to see you there!
* * * * *
Friends, we are spending our usual two months of winter in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ironically, we have faster internet service here than we do in Canada. I can write my newsletter, conduct my correspondence, and plan my writing projects — all while enjoying the balmy weather. Don’t hesitate to email me, as I love to hear from my readers.