By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current

It’s summertime, and that means wedding time. Many modern couples opt for outdoor weddings with the reception in an upscale barn. No such idea would even have been entertained 100 years ago!

Today, you receive your wedding invitation via email or some Internet venue. One hundred years ago or more, there would have been a great announcement in the local newspaper. The society section of newspapers were filled with such fare.

Now, there are rarely society sections at all in local papers. And there are fewer and fewer local papers.

So today, let’s look back and enjoy those heady days of the past when weddings, and everything related to weddings, were an integral part of the American newspaper.

The Missoulian- Sun, May 19, 1907
The Missoulian- Sun, May 19, 1907

The choice of a wedding dress was among the most important decisions for the bride, and society pages of newspapers were filled with advice.

“A wedding dress wonderfully embroidered with silver – that is the sensation over which all New York ... is more or less stirred up just now,” according to a national report carried by newspapers across the country in 1911.

As for wedding gifts – Norma Talmadge, a nationally syndicated columnist, had more than a few mandatory manners to discuss. After all, “One’s refinement and culture are evidenced by the gifts one selects.”

Rule No. 1: Grooms: Hands off the gifts! Wedding gifts should be sent directly to the bride “and they are her personal, legal property.

Rule No. 2: Send gifts to the bride at least two to three weeks prior to the nuptials.

Rule No. 3: A groom’s gift to the bride must be “jewelry or some article for her personal adornment."

Rule # 4: “It is perfectly proper for the bride to exchange wedding presents when she has a greater number of some than she can possibly use.” For example: 20 salt shakers.

There were also choices to be made concerning gifts from the bride to the guests, like souvenir wedding cake boxes.

One major manufacturer of such things offered “fifteen styles and a half-dozen sizes, which cost $4 to $40 a hundred.” One popular cake box was described as “covered with fine crepe paper and opens like a casket.” Interesting choice of words!

Of course, regular readers know I can’t resist a bit of humor, so here goes.

In 1893, a London Truth newspaper columnist wrote, “Why is there no anti wedding present league? The nuisance has been aggravated of late by the pernicious practice of publishing in the newspaper lists of wedding presents received.

“This is, in fact, a highly ingenious method of stimulating the generosity of friends of the happy pair. The snobs are induced to give more lavishly by the knowledge that their names and their gifts will be proclaimed to all the world in the newspapers.”

The columnist suggested that perhaps a lesson could be learned from funeral announcements that ask for “no flowers.” How about “no presents” in wedding notices?

Then there was the Denver man, on the eve of his wedding and lacking proper funds for a honeymoon, finished his meal at a local diner, then pulled a gun and tried to rob the place. The proprietor and other diners quickly disarmed him, and police hustled him off to jail. Wedding cancelled.

The Missoulian – Oct 8, 1923
The Missoulian – Oct 8, 1923

On the other hand, a wedding ceremony can be used as a means of bringing rivals together. In Corvallis in the 1920s, following the Darby-Corvallis football game (Darby won, 13-6), the Darby girls prepared a chicken dinner for all the players. But they also had a surprise,

A mock wedding was performed in which Grace Hoblitt (“Miss Darby”) and Kenneth Popham (“Mr. Corvallis”) were united, typifying that "all enmity between the two schools was at an end.”

To all those planning summer weddings, we wish you the best. May your marriage last a lifetime and be filled with happiness and rewards. If only there were only a way to guarantee such happiness.

Well, there actually was, but it’s probably not available at drug counters anymore.

The Missoulian – July 8, 1923
The Missoulian – July 8, 1923

Mayr’s Wonderful Remedy, declared one regular user, took care of his “stomach and liver trouble that was making a regular grouch of me. I was sore at everyone, including my wife, and we quarreled every day since the wedding.”

“Since taking it, I have felt like a new man. My wife and I now get along beautifully.”

Hmm. I guess I could ask my pharmacist if they still have any.

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at