Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
Hi, Mark. Audrey Linkman's The Victorians. Photographic Portraits (Tauris Parke Books, 1993) discusses wedding photographs and although her examples are from the 1870s on it might be worth contacting her. She is very good on social photography. The last I heard she was at the Open University.
Mark - On behalf of John Hannavy...
I have been doing some research myself along similar lines, and the earliest datable wedding portrait yet discovered seems to have been a daguerreotype taken in Boston in 1854, although the popularity of stereo cards of 'brides' in wedding dresses in the later 1850s suggests the practice must have been widespread before then.
I have a stereo pair of a wedding couple from the same sort of period, bride in white dress festooned with flowers. The idea seems to have taken off and become very popular very quickly. The idea of the white wedding, with its lavish wedding dress, obviously also dates from about the same time, and like many Victorian innovations, was adopted first by the wealthy – perhaps to emulate the opulence of the ball gowns worn at court – and only slowly filtered down to the less well off.
From the late 1850s, and through the 60s and 70s, the popularity of both stereocards and cartes-de-visite influenced the progress of such new fashion ideas as the ‘white wedding’. What the photograph-buying public saw as ‘fashionable’ in the pictures they purchased, they presumably wished to emulate in their own lives. It would have been only a short step for a young girl to progress from admiring the commercially produced 'wedding tableau' pictures to imaging herself as the bride in such photographs.
Again like so many Victorian fashions, the practice of commissioning wedding photographs owes much to the stimulus given by Queen Victoria. While her own wedding in 1840 was well before the days of practical photographic portraiture, her children’s weddings were all photographed. What the Queen did, others copied.
Thought I'd add these two pictures, as they demonstrate my suggested link between ball gowns and wedding dresses, and the link between QV and white weddings. The first is obviously one of Fenton's royal portraits 1853/4, the other is a stereo card (I believe attributed to Silvester) and dated about 1856
If you want to examine one of the Southworth & Hawes bridal portraits mentioned in this thread, we have one you can see. As suggested above, there are a number of them illustrated in the Romer & Wallis catalogue raisonné. Also, we've got an obscure American exhibition catalogue called "Wedding". It shows portraits from all eras including a stunning daguerreotype of a bride I have always coveted, which once belonged to a Boston collector. I've seen many 'brides' in stereo and carte de visite format. Dating them precisely is always tricky but I think a number of stereos would be reliably pre-1860.
Mark ... Bit late in the day - both for my response, and the photograph! But I can't resist reminding you that the sainted Julia took a photograph of her prospective daughter-in-law in her wedding dress in November 1869 (JMC catalogue 193).
Cheers ... Colin