The idea for a wedding dress exhibit is not new. Previous staff members have carefully curated the collection of dresses over a number of years. Fast forward to the present where “Leelanau Weddings through the Decades”, which spans from the 1860’s through the 1950’s, has been on display for over a year now. This exhibit has drawn a mixed crowd of admirers. This exhibit isn’t just for the ladies who like to fawn over delicate lace or elegant hand gloves to match. This exhibit stands as a reminder of traditions, generational differences, family ancestors, of young love and of new beginnings. We have watched as young children ask questions about the items on display, husbands and wives reminiscing about their wedding day, and descendants marveling at how skinny their mother must have been to fit in that dress!
Pictured above: Dress worn by Harriet Greilick in her marriage to Dr. Joseph Slepicka. 1904.
“Leelanau Weddings Through the Decades” is an exhibit that changes and evolves the longer it stays up. Descendants have brought back photographs for us to hang next to the dress, provided names of members of the wedding party, and provided insight into the personalities of the women who once wore these dresses. One of the unforeseen consequences of this exhibit is that it has inspired individuals to donate their mother’s wedding dress accompanied by stories, and photographs.
Pictured above: Miscellaneous purchases in Luella Van Raalte household account.
One particular family, whose mother’s wedding dress is on display, even brought in a box of her belongings for us to sort through and archive important items. One of the artifacts is an account book, dated 1933-1934. We were astounded to realize the first entries were 3 days after her wedding day. It was a household account that she kept of her first year as a married woman. According to her accounts, her first purchases were, an account book, a sewing cabinet, and photographs. Not only does this book shed light on the activities of a new bride, but what life was like for a young couple living in Leland, MI.
Many conversations have taken place around these wedding dresses and artifacts. If you viewed this exhibit when it first opened in summer 2017; consider visiting again to take in the many additions, and new artifacts added.