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Weddings and Marriages at NYPL: A Research Guide


In Sex and the City: The Movie, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) ascends the iconic marble steps of The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street wearing a stunning Vivienne Westwood wedding gown. Her bridesmaids Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) — all wearing vibrant designs by Zac Posen — are at Carrie's side as she enters the landmark building and prepares to exchange vows with Mr. Big (Chris Noth). Once inside, Carrie's pupils dilate as she marvels at the Library's majestic architecture and design.

As a romantic dreamer, Carrie knew NYPL was the perfect venue for her wedding, but something happens that dramatically threatens her happy ending. For the movie outcome of Sex and City, consider placing a hold for the DVD at NYPL. (Already seen it? Check out Robert Armitage's blog post on the love letters in our collections, also inspired by the movie.)

[A marriage certificate with illustrations of flowers.]484285
A marriage certificate with illustrations of flowers. Image ID: 484285

Weddings have been a long intimate tradition in human history: a ceremony to celebrate people united in marriage or a similar institution. Marriage is a little more complex: a social institution or legal contract that recognizes the interpersonal relationship between two people; it is possible to have a marriage without a wedding; to be married more than seven times (read about the late Elizabeth Taylor); and in some cultures, to be married to more than one person; to be in an arranged marriage; to be married before becoming an adult; to be married under dowry payments; and to be "married" to an animal (a real animal; not legally sanctioned anywhere).    

This blog post briefly examines and explores how one can conduct research in weddings and marriages using the Library's traditional and new media collections!

The Wedding Dress. Image ID: 817769

Whether you are planning your own wedding or researching the history of marriages from the first U.S. President George Washington's marriage to Martha Dandridge to the more recent one: Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton or researching your great aunt's marriage certificate, we have resources that will help you get started in researching: wedding gowns, religious marriage customs from the traditions of Judaism to Hinduismthe history of weddings, the social history of marriage, civil unions, same-sex marriages, polygamy, and the "D" word — divorce in history.

A wedding bouquet. Image ID: 98F1727

According to Brides magazine, June may be the most popular wedding month, while December is the least — due to the holidays and winter chills. However, if you are planning a June wedding — six months from now — we have enough resources to get you started and prepared. Explore more wedding periodicals at the Library, or for additional resources, check out these NYPL blog posts: Gettin' Hitched," "Wedding Readings from Children's Books," and "It's a Nice Day for a White Wedding."

The best way to look for books and other resources about the history of cultural weddings or marriages is to search in the Library's BiblioCommons catalog: switch keyword to subject and type in or copy/paste: "weddings --" or "marriages --" or "marriage -- religious aspects" or "same-sex marriage --" or "polygamy --" or "divorce --".

This should give you an idea of the collections we have relating to the subjects. For scholarly articles relating to the evolution and history of marriage as an institution, the rise of divorce rates in American history, and the anthropological study of polygamy, check out the following databases: JSTOR, Project Muse, and Academic Search Premier, all of which are great scholarly resources to kick start your research process. 

The marriage proposition. Image ID: 835529

Some of us may be familiar with this old wedding adage: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."  Apparently, this came from the Victorian era — it is suppose to bring fortune to the marriage if the bride carried all of these items. The "old" symbolizes continuity with the bride's family and the past, the "new" means optimism for the bride's new life ahead, the "borrowed" reminds the bride that she can depend on family and friends, and the "blue" symbolizes love and modesty tracing back to ancient Roman history.

American wedding march. Image ID: g99c776_001

Here at NYPL, we can do a lot of things, but controlling the weather is not one of them. However, we have the Old Farmers Almanac, a reference book that can predict the weather on your wedding day or any date next year. 

From 18th century Victorian wedding dresses to 20th century Hungarian grooms' attire — if you are looking for fashionable wedding dresses from different cultures in history, consider searching the Berg Fashion Library database to discover images, ideas, and inspirations. Read more about the Berg Fashion Library database >>

For wedding music themes, the Library for Performing Arts provides access to most of the collections on this list. In the Library's classic catalog, you can also type under subject: "wedding music --" and this will give you other wedding music from different cultures.

For anyone doing genealogy research or exploring history of weddings — such as specific peoples' weddings — consider searching The New York Times online database. There are wedding announcements from affluent or well known couples, reports about polygamy and bigamy, and the current states and debates of same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships in America and in the world. For other historical online newspapers, check out this list of articles and databases and this list for e-resources on marriages. For other primary sources, consider NYPL's Digital Gallery to look for postcards, posters, prints, photos, and other ephemera related to weddings and marriages. In addition, the Manuscripts and Archives and LPA's Music Divisions and the Schomburg Center collect papers, photos, and scores of weddings and church documents on marriages from individuals. See more here >> 

Armenian Marriage Procession. Image ID: 82955

Another resource to consider is the Ancestry Library Edition, which is a great place to start searching for the marriage licenses of your great or great-great grandparents! Issued by a church or state, this historical document is a key source in understanding when people got married, which could give you a closer estimation of their ages as well. Explore current Marriage Certificates issued by the New York State, or for more advanced genealogy research, consider contacting the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy.

If you are a major fan of celebrity weddings, check out the Library's popular magazines covering contemporary celebrity weddings. These resources include People, National Enquirer, Star, and US WeeklyForbes magazine is one publication that can tell you the most expensive weddings in the world! All current issues are available in Room 108 in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

Typically in movies, the happy couple either gets married at the end for a happy ending or in the beginning when the bride or groom utters, "I'm sorry, I can't do this" and then dashes out of the chapel with another, leaving the committed one weeping in agony and embarrassment.





Here is a list of movies that may make you think twice about the tranquil beauty of weddings and matrimony:

Portrait of bride and groom. Image ID: 835436

No wedding to plan yet? Need help buying a diamond?

Or, the wedding may be over — but wait, there's still time for the honeymoon. If you are planning for a trip, read this blog post to get started in finding travel periodicals!

They were on their Honeymoon. Image ID: 67538

At NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Special Events Team has created, catered, and presented wedding receptions and parties for people who are romantic dreamers like Carrie Bradshaw's character in Sex and the City. Explore a selection of captivating wedding images at the Library in the image gallery below!

If you are interested in creating a magical moment for your wedding, consider the iconic beauty of The New York Public Library and inquire about its event spaces.


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