The Fairy Wedding of Charles Sherwood Stratton and Queen Lavinia Warren
Picture it: New York City, February 1863. Charles Sherwood Stratton (better known by his stage name, General Tom Thumb from his very successful career with his distant relative P.T. Barnum) marries Lavinia Warren in a lavish ceremony. Celebrity weddings have been a spectacle for generations and this one was no exception. Weary from news of the civil war a celebrity marriage served as a bit of levity from the ills of the country at the time. As the New York times reported it:
What lived on from this event for decades to come was the children's pageant-type activity and frequent fundraising performance, the Tom Thumb Wedding. I had not heard of this phenomenon myself until I discovered this print of a photograph from the 1930s:
Tom Thumb Wedding Sept. 14th 1939
Thankfully, the internet exists and it was easy to find out more about this problematic ceremony. Betsy Golden Kellem wrote a nicely detailed article about the history behind Tom Thumb weddings earlier this year. I love learning more about old timey things in an effort to sort out how we used to do things and how we as a society can do better in the future. While I like the idea of teaching children about manners, formalwear, and the value of making and keeping promises, I don't know if this is the best way to go. Surely there is a better way than performing a heavily misogynistic ceremony that infantilizes people with dwarfism and brainwashes kids into buying into the Wedding Industrial Complex.
I also found this story by the New York Times in 1991 that put a less creepy spin on Tom Thumb Weddings. While we aspire for young ladies to want more out of life than a fancy party that lasts one day, I can see many pluses. Perhaps we should teach the next generation what to realistically expect out of marriage instead of stopping at the wedding day. Maybe this is the way to lay out how to budget an event, learn how to respect each other more and/or how the greatest day of ones life probably shouldn't be the day they throw a Love Party.
I'm all for resurrecting the Tom Thumb Wedding. Fundraising for a good cause is always nice. It's a fun theme for a kids dress up birthday party. Plus, who doesn't like cake? I still think there is a better way to go. What improvements can you think of to make? Personally, I would start with two brides because all my favorite weddings have two brides and often twice the lovely gowns.
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