Thursday, 28 July 2011

Decorating the bride

The latest issue of Folk London (254, Aug-Sept 2011) contains this interesting little comment from the editor, Peter Crabb-Wyke:

'When I first started work in The City in the late 1960s it was customary for girls who were about to marry to be decorated by their work mates. It was a regular sight at Liverpool Street to see some poor girl on her way home on a Friday night with streamers pinned to her clothes and usually an "L" plate on her back. When I returned to work in the Square Mile in the '80s the custom seemed to have died out and friends who worked in the West End in that era have never heard of it. Do any of our readers have memories of this custom, or better still photos?'

At around the same time Peter recalls seeing girls decorated, George Monger documented the practice in some Essex industrial centres. Monger recorded the practice from Harold Hill and Ongar, places accessible to the City for commuters. Some other comments around the same time suggest the practice was probably widespread. (1)

Peter's call for memories or photos is welcome, and I hope he gets some results, but it would also be interesting to know if there is any connection with the current practice of the costumed hen night trip. Many of the costumes are almost standardised (pink cowboy hats, wings): this may reflect commercial availability, but it would be interesting to know if there's any understood connection with older traditions. The L-plates certainly remain popular, and have also become part of the commercial repertoire.
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1) George Monger, 'A Note on Wedding Customs in Industry Today', Folklore, 82.4 (1971), 314-316.

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