“With this thing I thee wed,” my husband-to-be said, causing almost the entire wedding party to break out in laughter. Fortunately, this happened at the wedding rehearsal and not during the actual ceremony. I was the one who almost didn’t make it through the vows, as I was fighting back tears the whole time until Walt started to put the ring on my finger. I couldn’t help but think of what had transpired during the Friday evening rehearsal, so that took care of my tears.
Our wedding was small, each of us having only one attendant. Joan Wass Porter – my nursing school roommate and friend was my Matron of Honor – and Walt’s brother Bill was his best man. My brother David Swisshelm and Walt’s friend Dick Kost served as ushers.
When we became engaged in May 1954, I received my ring in church. Walt had wanted me to choose my ring, which we had done earlier in the year. He then told me he was going to surprise me with the presentation of my ring at a date and time of his choosing. Church was very important to Walt. In fact, when we started dating, one of his “requirements” was that I attend church with him. As a student nurse, I was working and studying 6 days a week, so I rationalized that I “deserved” Sundays off. I had changed churches the previous year from 2nd Presbyterian to South Avenue Methodist – just across the street – because the Methodist Church had a college age group, and I preferred the Methodist way of taking communion (at the altar rail instead of in the pews.) Because I wanted to keep seeing him, I did consent to go to his church, Swissvale Methodist Church.
I wanted a “real” wedding complete with white gown, flowers, organ music and a reception with a beautiful tiered wedding cake. Because we were paying for our own wedding, we figured out how many paydays we each needed to save enough money to cover our expenses. Believe it or not, we felt that the cost of $25.00 for a small reception in the church was out of our price range. Because of family obligations – a wife and 3 small children - my dad could not help financially. Mom was not working; I bought her dress to wear to the wedding. We even considered not having a reception, but were “rescued” by Walt’s mom and sisters. They provided the place - Mom and Pap’s apartment - and the food –tea sandwiches, snacks and punch. We bought our wedding cake at a bakery in East Pittsburgh; I still have the top. Compare this to the planning and cost of today’s extravaganza affairs!
Choosing the wedding date was based on our paydays. Walt was paid every other Tuesday, and my paycheck was on the 5th and 20th of each month. We finally came up with the Saturday following my November 5th payday. So that’s how we came to be married on Saturday, November 13, 1954.
Recently I heard from our pastor that every wedding needs something to “go wrong” in order to provide memorable recollections. That is what makes each wedding unique to the couple. I believe he is right, as I do treasure my own unique memories.