A Family Tradition

 These days, historic sites are popular places to hold weddings -- especially if there’s a site that’s significant in someone’s family history. From ancestral houses to famous gardens and hotels, museums and important cultural spots have become sought-after locales for that special day.

That wasn’t quite the case when longtime Historic Christ Church volunteer Nancy Clark was planning her wedding in 1955. “People thought it was terrible for me to be married at Christ Church,” she said in a 2015 oral history she gave as part of the Tidewater Main Street Development Project. The objections didn’t stem from the fact that she chose a historic church, but rather from the way the church was situated. “They’re high-back pews,” Nancy explained, and many of her guests “were afraid they wouldn’t see anything. They liked to go to a wedding where they could see all the pretty dresses.”

But Nancy was determined to be married in a church that meant so much to her family. Her mother was a member of the Altar Guild, while her father was on the vestry (“like many of the local families,” Nancy told the interviewer) – but most importantly, her grandmother, Ann Ball Carter, had also been married in Christ Church, over fifty years earlier in 1902. It would take careful planning, since at the time the church wasn’t in regular use and only opened for special services, but Nancy’s tenacity eventually won the day.

It was a beautiful wedding to make anyone proud. A relative sang, while all the music was accompanied by the church’s pump organ. “In those days,” she remembered, “the ushers would come in with this roll of white, what they call, tracking, and roll it down the aisle, so that when the bride came in, she would be walking on this white rug.” Two years earlier, Nancy had traveled to Europe with friends and had been convinced to buy a Brussels lace veil and a fan. She included both in her wedding day ensemble.

Nancy’s choosing to walk down the aisle at Christ Church created an interest that had far-reaching effects. Other women began choosing to be married there as well, leading to the creation of The Bride Book, the church’s pictorial archive of each wedding held thereafter. But more personally for Nancy, her own daughter decided to continue the tradition, wearing Nancy’s dress and veil in her own Christ Church wedding in 1988. (Contributed by HCC&M Research Committee Member Shaune Lee)

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