Search billions of records on

Washington County "Little Washington" Pennsylvania
Genealogy and Family History 




Genealogy 101 - Marriage Traditions or Trends

In Washington County PA between 1880s and 1940s or so


feather pen over white inkpot


Were there Marriage Traditions or Trends in Washington County PA?
By Judith Florian

Someone on the PAAllegheny Mailing List (Rootsweb) asked:  "My aunt/uncle were married in 1929; my parents in 1931. Both were married in St. Mary of the Mount church. All parties grew up on Mt. Washington. They came from working class families -- one grandpap worked in the steel mills, the other worked his way up to shipping foreman? at the National Biscuit Co. One set of grandparents did own a home up there on Mt. Washington, but lost it in the depression. Not sure if the other set of grandparents owned their house on Hallock St. or rented.

My question is -- what might their weddings have been like -- i.e., what were wedding traditions/customs (late 20's/early 30's) for people in this economic bracket? In addition to the ceremony/Catholic Mass, might there have been a small reception at the home? Brunch? Would people in this 'class' have invited only family & a few friends or neighbors? Would the traditional Wedding March likely have been played in the church?

My aunt/uncle & the Best Man & Maid of Honor are decked out in wedding finery for the portrait. My parents' wedding looks to be more 'low key' ('dressy short dress' for her & suit for him).  <portion edited out>

[Pgh. girl living in Phx. AZ]

Here is my response dated Oct 10, 2007 2:58 PM 
Subject Re:  wedding traditions 

I've been posting a collection of 3,000 McDonald PA area wedding notices from 1880s to 1950s (Washington County PA website Of the articles I've typed or posted so far, there were surprises (to me). 

1. Most brides wore dark colors - blue, navy blue, brown, black sometimes. Many married in the same travelling suit they would wear later to leave on their honeymoon. Very, very few brides wore white gowns. If you Google wedding history, it gives a date when the white wedding dress came into popularity. However, living in industrial ( i.e. dirty) coal and steel areas, brides still often opted for dark colors. It was easier to dress for the wedding / travel in darker colors in a suit for the bride, considering coal driven trains, black smoke from plants and homes, etc. Articles call them "traveling suits." 

2. Home weddings were mostly used. Articles describe the room and/or mantel being decorated -- again, often dark colors. Vines were often used. Lilies of the valley, mums, and small "bride's" roses were favorites choices for bouquets for brides and bridesmaids. Probably from home gardens. Reds, greens, and dark flowers or decorations were common. Some brides did marry in the church. For home or church "the wedding party" was often small-- bride, groom, bridegroom, 1 "attendant" or matron or bridesmaid for the bride. Parents often but not always present. Biggest wedding I've typed said 200, another said 50 "covers" at the bride's table -- covers meant place settings. Most all were small. Guests were local & out of town, and seemed to be mostly friends and family members. Few children were mentioned as guests. 

3. Many went to WVA to be married-- Wellsburg or Wheeling.

4. Some had a "wedding dinner" or reception after. Others just immediately left.

5. Most weddings were 5pm.  Most were NOT typically held on weekends, but instead, any day of the week.

6. Most couples left via train for "eastern points" or by "automobile." Some went north to Erie PA (oooooo--- a thrill - lol), or to VA and Md. Few (wealthier?) couples went on a "tour of western States." 

7. Most had a family member or friend who played the traditional wedding march-- if music was mentioned in the article.

8. Many, many newspaper notices in that era are very short-- 1 or 2 lines. Others were longer --- for more prominent couples? My mother's newspaper article was quite long though, and she used wedding finery, married 1948 Washington PA in a Catholic church, had a reception at the George Washington Hotel--a fancy place back then. By contrast, my grandmother 20+ years before, was married in WVA, no family present, her "witnesses" were the pastor of the church where they went to marry and the church's secretary. My grandma had no reception and no newspaper notice of their marriage-- after their wedding they only went to Grandpap's grandfather's house because the old man was very ill and then to Grandma's mother's house. As comparison, my grandma was 13 yrs old when she married.... my mom I think was 16 or 17. 

Hope these descriptions help.


P.S. As another person on that list pointed out, "If you can't find a record in Pittsburgh, try Washington, Pa. A lot of people went to Washington County to be married!"  As well, try counties in Ohio or West Virginia that border PA.

To subscribe to the Allegheny County, PA mailing list, send an email to with the word 'subscribe' without the quotes in the subject and the body of the message 



Other Genealogy-101 Pages:

Genealogy 101_Cite Your Sources

Genealogy 101_New To Research

Genealogy 101-Copyright vs. Credit Due

Genealogy 101-Use of Newspapers in Genealogy Research


Local Places to Research in Washington County PA (added Oct. 2007)


Separator barSeparator bar

Life in Washington, PA

Uptown Landmarks-1

Uptown Landmarks-2

Brethren and other Families of "Washpa"

(Long, will need to scroll down.)

All newspaper items posted with permission of the Observer-Reporter Oct. 13, 2005.

Email Washington.Co.Pa.Webmaster

(c) Judith Ann Florian
Copyright Notice - Data / info. for individuals and surnames may be reproduced for personal family histories only, but not for any commercial use or sale. Please give credit to Judith Florian and Catherine L. Caldwell for locating newspaper items and original documents. You may use J. Florian's research conclusions if credit is given. No other data or images may be reproduced without permission. August 2005-present, Judith Florian, Copyright All rights reserved.

Dates of Site updates and new content added: Dec 2005;  Jan to Dec 2006; Jan to Dec 2007; Jan to Dec. 2008; Jan to Dec. 2009; Jan to Dec. 2010; Jan-Feb 2011; Dec. 2012; Nov. 2013; Nov 2014
Instruction Force Upload