old wedding picture

Discover Engagements, Weddings, & More in Old Newspapers

Anyone doing family history research will inevitably search for weddings in newspapers. Many will attempt to locate an ancestor’s name, add the keywords wedding or marriage, and then spin the wheel of chance, hoping some results are returned. For some, that just might pay off; however, for most of us, it’s not that easy.

mr. and mrs. small picture

Weddings & Engagements
Marriages have been published in newspapers for decades. If your ancestor was a well-known member of society in the late 1800s, it’s possible their wedding was splashed across the page of a newspaper as a rich, detailed account of the affair.

“Flowers of Autumn” intricately described two society weddings with things like, “…the selected trysting place, was a floral arch, decorated with goldenrod, asters, and California sunflowers” and “the bride was beautifully gowned in cream silk with pearl and lace trimmings.” The “Personal and Social” section of the same page shared news of other weddings but with much less pomp and circumstance. These personal and society sections are worth noting. While they do list marriages, there are other nuggets of information to be found.

The Wisconsin State Journal published a more typical page of wedding and engagement announcements in 1953. The examples are a treasure trove of information, and the pictures are icing on the cake. It is also important to note the many variations of how a wedding or engagement was written – bride-to-be, takes vows, sets date, and to marry are a few of the endless possibilities when searching for these events in newspapers. 

Other Matrimony-Related Searches
Weddings and engagements weren’t the only newsworthy pieces published. “Here, There, and Everywhere” included a little bit of everything in a 1913 edition of the Jeffersonian Gazette. There were wedding announcements, an anniversary dinner, a list of marriage licenses, and even a “miscellaneous shower.”

matrimonial gossip

Bridal Showers
When searching for bridal showers, know that in decades of the past, they may have been listed as a “miscellaneous shower.” Several examples were showcased in the Lincoln Sunday Star from 1928. In comparison, a society page from a 1970 newspaper printed typical bridal shower announcements in addition to marriage licenses.

Did your ancestor elope? If so, it might have been big news of the day. Many stories of these scandalous events graced the pages of periodicals of the past. “Ellen Eloped” is the story of a young fourteen-year-old that met up with her lover, and he was not the choice of her mother. Another story,  “Margaret Eloped and Now Regrets It,” explained the stigma attached to elopement and how people thought the couple “had” to get married.

divorce listings

Divorces and annulments are more challenging to find in newspapers, especially going back into the early 1900s. Many can be found in the court section of newspapers. “Divorces Granted at September Court Term” showcased a list of divorces and the reason for each. Some even included which parent received custody of minor children.

Don’t forget vital statistics! Most of these sections included information about births and deaths, but some also contained marriage licenses, divorces, and annulments. “Bay Counties Vital Statistics” listed examples of each of these, but some items were county-specific to Contra Costa County and Napa County. Sections such as this are chock full of information – read carefully, or you might miss something!

golden wedding anniversary

Anniversaries that marked a significant milestone can often be found in newspapers. These events may include pictures and detailed information of the wedding that may not have been published at the time of the marriage.

Many older newspapers printed a year in review with things that happened in the community the past year. “Looking Back on the Year in New Britain During the Year 1930” captured highlights from each month like Mr. and Mrs. William E. Brown celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on January 1st, or Mr. and Mrs. Skidmore F. Seaman of 70 Monroe Street observed their 50th wedding anniversary on July 5th. That one even had an address!

Periodicals of the late 1900s were more apt to include detailed accounts of anniversaries like “Eastern Iowa Couples Celebrate Anniversaries,” with many of the showcased couples honored with their picture in the paper.

Don’t let a generic search for “wedding” or “marriage” stop you from finding fantastic information about your relatives. Do you have an ancestor with nuptials just begging to be found? If so, try a 7-Day Free Trial at NewspaperArchive.com to see what you can discover.

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