The Golden Wedding

Dear mother, as a testimony of our gratitude to God, and of affection for yourself, and as a further token of our abounding joy on this occasion, permit me to present to you this GOLDEN WEDDING RING, with the request that you will wear it on the same finger as the other wedding ring, during the remainder of your life. May your last days be your best days, until you enter that world where they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God.

Reverend George Duffield and Isabella Graham Bethune were married on September 11, 1817, in Greenwich Village, New York. Isabella was the daughter of a New York merchant, Divie Bethune, who immigrated from Scotland in the 1770s. What the bride wore:

Satins and thread lace having just then gone out of fashion, the bride was dressed in a silk skirt, with an over skirt of India mull and a broad flounce of elegant French needle-work, headed with a puff, and a broad bow of white ribbon at the side. The spencer was of thread lace insertion and French needle-work; the dress high in the neck, with demi sleeves; the gloves, long white kid; the shoes, white satin; the bracelets and brooch, of pearls. She wore her hair high, with a coronet of orange blossoms … Tradition says that she was more pleased with the coronet of orange blossoms than anything else.

And here was her groom:

The Reverend George Duffield, a Pennsylvanian, who came to Detroit in 1838 on a call from the First Presbyterian Church. That’s this congregation, by the way, although the church itself would not be built until 1880:

The groom was dressed in a suit of black broadcloth, with silk stockings and pumps; and according to the custom of the times wore fine cambric ruffles, white cravat and standing collar. His hair was curled on both sides, and how he looked we may have a pretty good idea from his miniature still extant, and which very appropriately is this day worn by the bride.

These excerpts come from the family record of their Golden Wedding, celebrated on September 11, 1867 (written by their eldest son, George). More than an anniversary, the celebration seems to have been almost a vow-renewal or reenactment — the family gathered, the Reverend selected a reading from the Bible, they sang a family hymn, and the groom gave his bride a ring.

There are times when the thought that God “searcheth the hearts of the children of men” is a trouble to them, but now, when the heart was too full for utterance, how exceedingly pleasant and how great the relief of the thought, that there was no need of expressions “Uttered not, yet comprehended/Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer.

Their anniversary monogram:

Reverend George Duffield died less than a year later, in 1868, after collapsing during a talk at the YMCA.

The book is beautiful. If you feel like escaping into the power of marriage and family for a while, I highly recommend it.

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