18 July 2011

Eight Cousins

This year eight cousins in my parents' family have planned weddings. Some have already happened and some are yet to come. Two of these cousins are my sons. I’ve thought a lot about weddings this year, including my own. We have wedding traditions in our family—religious covenants, quilt-making, showers, invitations, food, cakes, and family gatherings. 

Medieval wedding: this was the theme for the
wedding of one of my sons
Thinking about these experiences in the lives of our sons and our nieces and nephews, my husband and I got out our digital recorder and recorded our memories of our wedding day—how we felt, where we ate, the family and friends that celebrated with us and our honeymoon. One of my nieces found an on-line site to record the story of her engagement and the dates and times of their planned celebrations. Another niece kept us updated each day on facebook. My sisters and I have relayed wedding news via email, phone calls and personal visits, as well as the traditional announcements. We even had a reunion-type sleepover party working on wedding quilts.

Hearing the thoughts and feelings of others has clarified some of the experiences I had as a young 20-year-old bride. Insights that I never had before have come to me. My love and appreciation for my husband of 44 years has increased. I looked back into my family history for accounts of family weddings to share. Here is what the grandfather of these eight cousins, Bert Whitney, wrote about his courtship and their subsequent wedding festivities.

When I decided to call a girl named Anne Christensen, I was very doubtful that she would accept a date with me, so I kept talking to her on the phone non-stop, and she didn't have a chance to answer me until I paused for a breath. She quickly said, "Yes, I'd love to go."  She later told she was wondering if she would ever get a chance to accept that date.  I had known Anne's older brothers for several years and also knew her father through church associations, but my friends and I referred to Anne and her friends as "The Cradle Roll." Now she was all grown up, very pretty, and had a nice friendly personality.

That first date was to go to the Lake Mead to swim and was on the 4th of July, 1946. We were together a lot from that time on, sometimes double dating or going places with church groups. There were also several dances at the church, which we attended. It was the custom at that time to fill out a dance card at the beginning of the dance so you knew who you would be dancing with for each dance (each had a number). It was also the custom for the Church leaders to exchange dances with the youth, so most of the time was spent dancing with the wives of the bishopric, the young men leaders etc., and usually only the first, last, and one in the middle with your date.
Wedding license application

On one occasion during our dating period, I was involved in the pouring of a sidewalk at a ranch called "Warm Springs," where I worked part-time. We were late getting it formed up and poured, so the concrete wasn't ready to finish until past time for a date I had with Anne that night. There were no phones in the area, so I couldn't call; we were planning to go to Charleston Mountain with a group for a cook-out. She told them to go on without us, and she waited for more than an hour for me. When I finally got to her house, she was there alone, and I was very unsure of how I would be received, but after I explained what had happened, she forgave me, and we had a fun evening playing games together.

All the time we were dating we talked about when we would get married, never if we would. We decided that I would go to school in San Luis Obispo, California and study electronic engineering on the G.I. bill (A veteran’s benefit which paid tuition and books, and a stipend of $120 per month).  We chose the date of August 20, 1946 to be married so we could pursue this goal together. The St. George Temple was closed at that time so Anne's parents and her brother Don drove us to Salt Lake for the event. We received our endowments and then were sealed (married) by Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Council of the Twelve. Elder Peterson was a friend of Anne's parents and grandparents.
August 1946: Bert and Anne Whitney at their reception

The trip to and from Salt Lake along with the other stresses of the occasion were very tiring for both of us, so it took a while to recover. We stayed about a week with Anne's parents and had a reception there in the meantime. Her parents gave up their bedroom for us so that was our honeymoon, I guess. When we loaded up our 1935 Chevy two door sedan with all our worldly goods and were on our way to a new adventurous life together, I finally had Anne all to myself. It was a great feeling. 

The experiences of Bert and Anne Whitney were different from those of their newly wedded grandchildren. Their courtship and their married life reflect their times, their culture, their families and their unique personalities. Yet this marriage had an influence on these eight cousins who have dated, played and planned with their chosen partners. A further heritage is the commitment these two grandparents had to recording their personal and family history. I think they would join me in extending best wishes to their descendants whose lives resulted from that marriage on 20 August 1946, including the families and marriage celebrants of 2011.


  1. I absolutely loved this post. It was very touching for me to read and I could feel the emotion. It is such a wonderful thing to think of the commitment of these two people when they got married. And what a gift to share their memories. Best wishes to the class of 2011.

  2. Thanks Kathy. Bert and Anne, both deceased, eventually had 10 children, all of whom are still living.