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Reading Chronicle: Weddings

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A chimney sweep to bring good luck at the wedding of of Miss M. Axtell and Mr J. Gregory at St John's Church, Caversham.

Wedding photographs and wedding reports may be few and far between in local newspapers today, but during 1938 to 1964, the period covered by these images, they were a standard feature of every issue of the Berkshire Chronicle. Many of the photographs published were taken by Chronicle’s own photographers.

Compared with 361,768 in 1938, there were 439,694 marriages in England and Wales in 1939 and 470,549 in 1940. This high point has never been exceeded. The outbreak of the Second World War caused changes to the timing, location and lavishness of wedding plans. This was a matter of practicalities and also perhaps a sense of keeping things simple and quiet at such distressing times.

As the war continued in 1941, rationing and clothing coupons were introduced on top of price rises in clothes and fabric, therefore acquiring dresses for the bride and her bridesmaids became problematic. Wedding dresses became recyclable and it became popular to marry in a dress which could be worn again. Used wedding dresses were also sent from the United States of America by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President F.D. Roosevelt, whilst prolific author Barbara Cartland had a collection of society wedding dresses that were made available to be used by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. However, if men or women were in the services, they would most likely be married in uniform as a sign of patriotism and respect.

Most weddings took place in local churches around Reading such as St Lawrence’s and the Church of English Martyrs. Register Office weddings however, were less popular. Reading’s Register Office used to be on Thorn Street, opposite the Penta Hotel on Oxford Road.

GI weddings were also reported by the Berkshire Chronicle. The arrival of US servicemen in England during the Second World War had a profound effect on life in Britain. The US army tried to discourage marriages between GIs and local girls but for young British women who had endured several years of war and rationing, the GIs symbolised romance, glamour, luxury and the possibility of a new life in America. The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were among the dozens of requisitioned liners made available for Operation War Bride whilst the Red Cross provided hundreds of volunteers to look after the brides on the long voyages, entertaining and preparing them for their new lives in America.

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