A late 1970s Berkeley Wedding

I recently asked my dear parents about their wedding day – I realized I knew a few details about the wedding, but not much more beyond that. I knew that the reception and ceremony had taken place at my paternal grandparents’ home, a block away from the house I grew up in and my parents live in still; I knew that the man in charge of taking photos forgot to put film in his camera; I knew that the wedding cake was made by a man who would eventually become the father of my best friend through my entire childhood; I knew that Denali, my parents’ Husky, was at their feet during the ceremony; and I knew the whole thing was small, and organized in much less time than I have to plan mine.

My dad offered this:

In August 1978 my brother married his fiancée, Caroline Boyle, at my folks’ house down the street at 1212 Campus Drive. After the ceremony, I invited the younger set to repair to my house at 1288 Campus. Among the guests (a late arriver) was a lovely young woman named Mary. Caroline pronounced her last name Jurgensen. After we got to my house and poured champagne, I snuck to the telephone book to see if she was listed. No Jurgensen but a Jorgensen, Mary, on Oxford Street just down the hill. A week or two later I phoned, we went on a date, and the rest (including you) is history.

We were married, exactly a year after Hank’s wedding, by an episcopal minister, even though neither of us was, or is, religious. It may have been to please our parents, or to seem conventional. What say you, Mary? In any event, he was a wonderful guy and didn’t lean on the religious part at all.

One last thing, for now, at least. I had asked my good friend Lloyd to take pictures at the wedding, along with my dad, who always took pictures. I lent Lloyd my camera. I assumed he would have brought film; he assumed I had loaded film into the camera. Result: Lloyd took brilliant pictures of all the guests–with no film in the camera. Clunk.

Then, my mom dutifully typed up the following, a long and wonderful recounting of some of the major (and minor) wedding details, including how she met my dad, and I’m going to consider it the definitive narrative of my parents’ wedding story:

IRST THINGS FIRST. I am afraid my son, Bret Jorgensen Turner, is going to go totally mad (while providing great amusement for all who like and love him) in the process of becoming a male wedding planning expert. He is already showing alarming signs of loving premarital detalia after a bit more than a week of being wedding-scribe. Oh dear, where are the simple weddings of yore?

Second: I really did arrive for the wedding of your Uncle Hank and wife Caroline, AFTER their wedding. Bad me. But I did arrive. The reasons are private.

Mary & Tom cutting one of the three "piece montees" wedding cakes

Third: During the after-Hank/Caroline’s-wedding-young people’s gathering at 1288 Campus Drive (papa’s home then), that is, almost exactly a year before our own marriage, I had no idea your papa had learned my last name. He sat most of the time on the high stool by our living room telephone (yes, next to the phone books, I hadn’t realized, with full opportunity to look up my name and phone number) and I was, I think, on the couch near him. We certainly were eying each other and saying nice things, all of which I’ve forgotten now. So when I was leaving to go home, I was hoping he’d ask for my phone number. No such luck. I went home a bit sad. Hank and Caroline, who knew my name and phone number, had immediately gone off, after their wedding, on a honeymoon somewhere – that is, impossible to find. For about ten days I discussed with my friend Lani (and perhaps also another woman friend) what tactics I should use since he hadn’t phoned me. I was told to phone him and ask if he had found some stupid item of clothing or such that I might have left at his house. The problem: in those days, women didn’t ask men out. I finally realized I would never have the courage to phone him. Great suffering on my part. He’s still paying for it. Ha! AND HE WAITED ALMOST TWO WEEKS BEFORE PHONING ME!!! But he did phone and, yes, the rest is history.

The planning was mostly very disorganized since neither of us had much money and weddings were either hippy style or neo-pagan or very earthy or gushing, etc, and we were, quite frankly, lazy about the whole idea of the ceremony. Also, the pre-computer age handled things so differently. It was a different era. That did not mean we weren’t in love. We were too late to find a wedding site so your grandparents Turner offered their house and beautiful garden. We did some work on finding caterers (in S.F.) and each of us shopped for something to wear. Your papa handled the printing of the invitations and we also went to Gumps, in S.F. (a really neat store with fancy glasses, porcelain, “cutlery”, etc.) to register our choices, mostly Danish, by the way, except for the wine glasses which were Swedish. I managed, as you know, to find someone to make French wedding cakes (“des pièces montées”), the baker turning out to be Sylvain’s dad, pre-being Sylvain’s dad. A note: Apparently transporting those cakes in a car from Au Coquelet where Gérard worked to the wedding site was a true feat (look at the three cakes!). Grandmimi and Granddad were real troupers. The flowers, the arrangement of the furniture and tables, the inner patio, the whole large garden outdoors in the back, all  was all handled by the Turners. The furniture was also arranged for handling the caterer’s dishes, various small dishes, and wine (we forget completely what wine, by the way). We think there was champagne when the pièces montées were served. At any rate, the Turners must have had an enormous clean-up job, now that I think of it. P.S. My parents (Jorgensens) paid for the caterers and helped a bit to pay for my dress.

At the rehearsal

As to the episcopal preacher who married us, we found his name somehow through a friend of your dad’s, we think, for the preacher had no church. He was instead a professor of religion at the Pacific Divinity School, a really neat guy. The episcopal wedding service is, in my opinion, simple, short, and beautiful. We wanted the “obeying your husband” part cut out and he agreed fully. In fact, when we met him and talked with him a week or so before the wedding, we had quite an enjoyable chat together, even learning that he knew an episcopal minister my parents knew, a man who became one of my father’s good friends (he had died before our wedding, sadly). And he was, as your dad said, completely at ease with the fact that we did not believe in god.

Mary & Denali

We got started on planning the wedding way too late to rent a venue (hate that word) and so we got married, with about 20 people witnessing, in the small inner courtyard of 1212 Campus Drive. Denali, our dog, lay at our feet, sometimes on our feet, during the short service. Obviously she approved but felt she needed to make sure it all went well. And obviously, our cat, Nigel, still mostly a kitten, did not attend.

The wedding was an afternoon/early evening affair (it was daylight for the ceremony and reception), not an all-night deal. That is, we didn’t have dancing though that would have been nice. We didn’t have the money to handle the whole shebang that often happens in weddings these days, though I’ve never regretted it. Instead, your grandparents Turner bought us a brand new car as a wedding present (the noble Honda), a car that would, it just so happened, be very nice for transporting future grandchildren :o), there being none in the Turner family as of that date. All the other guests (there were about 125 in all) were invited to the reception an hour after the little ceremony was scheduled. I had been back from France for only three years, did not know that many people in the Bay Area, so I would guess that 1/2 of the people attending were above the age of 65, mostly friends of your paternal grandparents. Your dad had some very nice friends but the main memory I have of the wedding party, after the ceremony, was being introduced, for at least two hours, to many white-haired (very nice) people, all friends of Grandmimi and Granddad. It was happily exhausting, and I was completely dazed most of the time (except for the moment when I realized that your dad and I were actually married!). We eventually managed to flee out the front door, people threw bird seed at us, and we ran down the street to change our clothes and race off to a lovely two-night stay at a place near Jenner up the coast. The backpacking trip with Hank and Caroline was later sometime, I’m not sure when, and was less a “honeymoon” than an adventure.

Throwing birdseed at the newlyweds

Another note: the actual day of the wedding, the ceremony starting at 3:00 p.m and the reception at 4:00 p.m, had your dad and me wandering around our house not quite knowing what to do all morning and early afternoon. I washed my hair and dried it twice, Melinda, the woman who rented the downstairs apartment, finally came and pinned the flowers in my hair, your dad spent hours cutting his toenails and fingernails. We were nervous and excited and, no doubt, a bit out of it.

No, I’ve another detail: my “family members” consisted of my parents, my Aunt Kathleen, some people from Solvang including Uncle Karl, Aunt Helen, and the Sorensens, and two people from the UCLA English Department whom I knew well. My sister, her husband, and Sarah were in Germany. I have no cousins and my two dear grandmothers, Grandmother Sarah and Bestemoder had died about 5-6 years before. I do wish they could have been there.

A final note: Your dad and I remember, though not in detail, that we had a rehearsal the day before (Aug. 3, 1979) at 1212 Campus in the courtyard, and, that evening, Great Aunt Kathryn, who lived lower down in the Berkeley hills, hosted a rehearsal dinner party, quite casual as was her style, with my parents, Aunt Kathleen, Grandmimi and Granddad, we don’t remember if Hank and Caroline had arrived yet, and maybe that was all. I can’t remember if we sat with plates on our laps or sat at a table.

A good time was had by all.


4 responses to “A late 1970s Berkeley Wedding

  1. Pingback: Wedding » Blog Archive » A late 1970s Berkeley Wedding « All Things 'Zilla

  2. Thank you thank you thank you to you and your parents for sharing this. What a lovely story — everything from the first encounter to the husky at their feet is gorgeous. (You should really submit this to Meg at APW — it would be a perfect Wedding Graduate post and people are often clamoring for stories of the way weddings used to be.)

  3. I have been thinking about this story all day, and had to come and tell you how much I love it. What a wonderful love story you have shared with us. Thank you! I have been smiling about it all day!

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