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She Never Went to Her Daughters Weddings
By Melody Lassalle


We have all heard the tradition that the bride's family pays for the wedding. Today, it's a matter of picking caterers, reception halls, and a host of other tidbits that must be resolved. It wasn't until recently that I thought about what this must have meant in the eras where these businesses didn't exist.

One day I received a letter from my Great Aunt's sister, Eva (Ventura) Nunes. She told me that her mother had never seen her daughters get married. I thought this was peculiar. This was a family of strict Catholics. Besides, Guilhermina (Clement) Ventura had five daughters, all of whom married. How could she have never been present at the church?

The answer lies in the times. Guilhermina's daughters all married between 1915-1930. They lived in Spreckels which was a sugar beet farming community. Not much existed in the town of Spreckels beyond what met the daily needs of the sugar beet laborers. Although I don't have a directory for that period, I can imagine there were no bakeries, restraurants, caterers, etc. Whatever a family needed they made themselves.

How would a family put on weddings in those days? As the Ventura's were expected to pay for the wedding of their daughters, someone had to do all the work. The reason Guilhermina never saw her daughters wasn't because she didn't want to or wasn't physically able to. Guilhermina was back home doing all the cooking!

Now think about this. There were no major grocery stores or anywhere to have a meal prepared for you. There were probably no bakeries to handle such an event. Guilhermina had to make everything from scratch. No doubt she was cooking for days on end to get ready for the event. Since the family was large and the plantation community was very close, I can only imagine how many guests she would have to prepare for.

I'd suspect she had some help. In fact, I would bet that an army of Portuguese women came together for these big events. Each would prepare their dish and drop it off wherever the reception was held. Many were probably on hand, well prepared, and very organized. They would ensure that Guilhermina did the family proud and that their was plentiful food for all.

This situation was probably the norm and not the exception in communities throughout America. Unless the family was well off, they had to handle everything themselves or within the community. Before the days of caterers and wedding planners, there were alot of Mothers who never saw their daughters get married. Instead, they were back home cooking, baking, and decorating. There job was to make sure the reception was something everyone would remember.

© 2004 Melody Lassalle


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