Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
Having just joined this site/group/forum, it is fortuitous that I found this discussion about early wedding photographs, as I have a CDV wedding portrait which I am currently researching. The portrait is one of a group of three which I believe were taken at the reception of a wedding in the English Midlands in February 1870. A series of articles presenting the images and my research are presented here.
I'm a professional dress historian/portrait dating specialist, ex-National Portrait Gallery Curatorial Assistant and now a freelance consultant working mainly in the family history arena. I have done quite a bit of research into wedding images and there is a whole chapter on the subject in my forthcoming book, 'How to Get the Most from Family Pictures', to be published in January 2011 by the Society of Genealogists.
As far as I am aware, the earliest known photograph of a bride wearing a special white bridal dress is a daguerreotype taken in 1854 by a Boston photographer. The first known photograph to include bridesmaids is that depicting the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Princess Vicky, to Crown Prince Frederick in 1858: I haven't found a reference to the format, but perhaps an ambrotype?
I have personally seen an example of individual, paired ambrotypes, showing bride and groom in separate photographs, dating from the mid-late 1850s. This was common practice and followed the earlier convention of paired marriage paintings. The first double wedding photograph that I've come across is an ambrotype dated April 1860. The wedding theme progressed rapidly after the introduction of the cdv: by the mid-1860s even ordinary working-class couples were recording their wedding day with a studio photograph.
I hope this helps.
Of course, I see now that Mark has completed his research regarding Silvy and wedding photography, but this is an interesting wedding photograph that you have just found. It's a beautiful image and, from a fashion history point of view, 1850 looks absolutely fine; in particular the hairstyle and bodice give the date away. Assuming this a genuine wedding photograph (not, for example, an actress in a role), your find suggests that the 1854 Boston photograph that some of us have come across may not be the earliest depiction of a bride wearing white bridal wear.
The fashion for white (actually ivory or cream) bridal wear gradually developed over many years (especially from the late-18th century) and this vogue escalated following Queen Victoria's wedding and those of her children: a frothy white bridal gown, flowers and bridesmaids now became the ideal to which all brides aspired, but in the 19th century only the wealthy could afford a 'white' wedding and all the trappings associated with it. It didn't become the norm throughout society until the early-20th century. Because many Victorian brides simply wore 'best' fashionable coloured day wear - which could be worn again - a great many early wedding photographs surviving in collections today go unnoticed.
James Morley said:
I realise that this discussion started 2 years ago, but I'm hoping I might reawaken people's interest in the subject!
I'm embarking on a paper researching the cultural and social history of wedding photography, and trying to establish whether wedding photography could be described as a genre in itself or simply a mix of portrait, street and documentary photography. I've read all the comments related to this discussion, some of which are very helpful. Any ideas or pointers would be very gratefully received.