Our photo dating expert, Jayne Shrimpton, analyses your family photos.
Ian Johnstone sent us his photo and asked:
‘This wedding photo was sent to me by one of my cousins, asking if I could identify the bride and family. Regrettably I don’t recognize the people in the scene. Could you please put a date to the photograph, which would help me check for family marriages in the correct period?’
‘We decided to feature this image as some findmypast.co.uk blog readers have asked for more wedding photographs to be covered. All family picture collections seem to include one or more old wedding photographs. Sometimes the date and names have been carefully recorded but in a surprisingly high number of cases there are no details attached. This means that today’s generation of researchers have no idea who was getting married, despite the importance of the past family weddings that brought together several relatives all in the one picture.
Here we see a fairly small wedding party, photographed outside a domestic building that is likely to be a family home – probably the bride’s parents’ house, or that of whoever gave her away in marriage and hosted the wedding. It’s a modest gathering, although the group is carefully composed, so the photograph was almost certainly taken by a professional photographer – a representative from a local studio hired to come out to photograph the occasion.
Possibly several different photographs of bride and groom and their family members and guests were taken on the day, but in this surviving image we see only the bridal couple, bridesmaids, a page boy, the best man and an older gentleman who is probably the father of the bride or groom. Unusually, no older ladies are present, which may suggest that both the bride’s and the groom’s mothers were deceased when they married: this could be something to bear in mind when trying to work out the identities of the wedding couple.
Everyone is well dressed for the occasion, the older gent dressed in a smart, conservative frock coat and top hat (perhaps hired for the day from a firm like Moss Bros, who hired out suits by the 1890s), while the younger men wear the working man’s ‘Sunday best’ three-piece lounge suit and bowler hat. All sport buttonholes and the white ties reserved for formal functions, including weddings. The little page boy wears a picturesque velvet suit ornamented with white lace in typical late-Victorian style. The bride, seated centre, wears a fashionable pale-coloured day costume set off by a stylish feather-trimmed hat – a popular choice in the days before the special white bridal gown and veil had become established as the norm throughout society.
The bride’s adult attendants, carrying bouquets, and the two young flower girls in the front of the group are also attired in contemporary modes. Essentially, pinpointing female fashion details is the most accurate method of dating an unidentified wedding photograph and here the women’s and girls’ ornate hats and the shape of their sleeves provide a close date range for this scene. In particular, their narrow sleeves display the epaulette-style frills and/or neat puffs at the shoulder that represent the final phase of the 1890s full ‘leg-o’-mutton’ sleeve. This late style was worn broadly between 1897 and 1901 but is usually seen in photographs taken between 1898 and 1900. Hopefully the firm timeframe, and perhaps also the make-up of the group, will enable you to discover which family marriage is pictured in this late-Victorian wedding scene.’
If you’d like to send your photo to Jayne Shrimpton, please register or opt to receive newsletters in ‘my account’. Jayne only has time to analyse two photos each month, but if yours wasn’t chosen this time, you could be lucky next month!