Photos: What did Vancouver weddings look like in the first half of the 20th century?
Some of these weddings from 1929 to 1950 are worth a look for timeless inspiration.
Planning a wedding in 2022 is a lot like staging a full-scale Broadway production. There’s set design, a soundtrack, lighting cues, costume changes, cast and crew—oftentimes there’s even a cinematographer.
If you’re lucky you have a wedding planner playing the part of assistant director but with the drastic increase in the cost of weddings these days it’s more than likely, that you’re playing the role of director, producer, designer, and props manager solo.
The average cost of a 120-guest wedding in Vancouver is estimated between $50,000 and $80,000 according to Genève McNally, the founder of Dreamgroup Weddings and Events.
And perhaps that’s the price you pay to keep up with the women on Instagram perfectly posed in matching silk robes or pyjama sets but these photos from the late 1920s through to the early 1950s give us a glimpse into the history of weddings and while some things haven’t changed the photos that survive from this era indicate that intimate celebrations that celebrate the bride and groom stand the test of time. So maybe skip the PJs, your bridesmaids will forgive you.
Different styles of wedding photography in history
Portraits of the bride and groom posed in front of a backdrop and not at their wedding were popular in the 30s and 40s and there was one local photographer in particular whose name appears on most of the archive photos from this time period.
Yucho Chow was one of the earliest photographers in Vancouver and his work ranged from family portraits to notable events to celebrity sightings.
He arrived in Vancouver in 1902 and little is known about his early years here after paying the Head Tax then imposed on Chinese immigrants to Canada as a mechanism for discouraging immigration. According to the city archives he offered translation and interpretation services and may have worked as a house servant before establishing his photography studio at 68 West Hastings Street in 1907.
Chow died in 1949 but was succeeded by his sons who continued to welcome clients from different backgrounds. Many of the historic wedding photos available through the Vancouver archives reflect a snapshot into the practices of cultures that were left out of the dominant narratives of Vancouver’s history.
Wedding fashion throughout history
The wedding fashion varies from short dresses to long dresses, intricate to minimalist but one thing that remains consistent is the veil. Regardless of the headpiece that accompanies the veil be it a tiara, Juliet cap, or floral headband, the veil persists.
Some of the bridesmaids are also wearing short veils or big hats which is a trend that has fallen by the wayside, although maybe it’s time to bring it back.
A few of the stunning Chow portraits feature bridal looks that would absolutely hold up at a contemporary wedding. Violet Jong’s 1938 dress and tiara are timeless and elegant, as is Edith (Woo) Chong’s 1948 dress with the sweeping train and cathedral-length veil.
Some looks on the other hand very much speak to the time and what may have been in fashion such as a large amount of tulle in 1949.
Wedding traditions that are worth holding on to
It’s heartwarming to see that even in 1930 or 1949 bridesmaids were a large part of the wedding and that getting ready photos have stood the test of time. Some of these shots could easily be recreated today just with updated silhouettes.
I particularly like the candid from the Clark-Wilson wedding which took place at R.P. Clark’s home at 1251 Connaught Dr in 1930. According to Google, this address is a mansion in Shaughnessy right across from Devonshire Park. Micro backyard weddings have been making a comeback since COVID and trends suggest they’re here to stay so this couple is one to emulate.
With files from Brendan Kergin