The Coomber wedding in Brisbane in 1883. The groom was a tobacconist with shops at 157 Edward Street and 160 Queen Street. Click for more photos

A marriage of fashions

The Coomber wedding in Brisbane in 1883. The groom was a tobacconist with shops at 157 Edward Street and 160 Queen Street. Photo: State Library of Queensland

Contrary to popular belief, getting married in Queensland is more popular now than it was 10 years ago, based on the number of unions registered in the state.

In 2009, there were 27,005 nuptials recorded with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages compared to 22,842 in 2000.

But while the custom may be alive and well, local wedding expert Rhonda Bannister said the culture was very different.

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Mrs Bannister, publisher of Queensland Brides magazine, said modern marriages bore little resemblance to time honoured tradition.

From the invitations to the honeymoon and who pays for what, the Queensland Brides Wedding and Honeymoon Expo director said weddings were more complicated these days.

“Weddings used to be simple, you'd find the man, book the reception hall, get the cake, get the flowers, the gown and that was it,” Mrs Bannister said, reflecting on her 1971 wedding when she was 21.

“And of course, being a bride was about learning to be with just the two of you, cooking, you probably wouldn't return to work, unless you had a career – it was totally different to these days.”

Ms Bannister described the typical seventies bridal experience in terms that could make a modern day bridezilla shudder – no professional make-up, no expensive hairstyles, photographers, videographers, DJs, jet-setting honeymoon or $30,000 price tag.

Instead, brides would DIY beautify, having already organised the bulk of the ceremony together with her parents (who “naturally” footed the bill), and honeymoons were usually restricted to a destination reachable by car.

Her experience is similar to that of Nell Pedrazzini, who married in post-war Brisbane at a time when housing was short, reception destinations few and you were lucky to find Chantilly lace.

“Things were harder in the forties during the war – you had less access to materials,” Mrs Pedrazzini said.

“In 1952, when we were married, we didn't have half of the fuss that goes on these days – though brides did have a 'going away' outfit which was quite special.”

Married at 18 (“our parents thought we were too young”), the 79 year-old grandmother feels much of the simple beauty of marriage has been lost in the pomp and ceremony of today.

In the fifties, she says, ceremonies took place early in the morning without the lengthy periods of pampering en vogue for the 'big days' of now and the emphasis was on life after the big day.

Mrs Bannister shares her point of view, adding that the trend of people living together before marriage may contribute to a desire for a larger celebration.

“Perhaps people spend the thousands of dollars they do today to really make a point of the fact they intend to live together always,” she says.

“The idea of living together used to the be the big deal, now I suppose it's the wedding itself.”

Modern bride-to-be Kellie McNamara said living with her fiancé ahead of their wedding was a deliberate move.

“We want to give our marriage the best chance at success and living together is a big part of that,” the 25-year-old medical student said.

“My grandmother actually gave me a 'bridal handbook' and I had to laugh when I saw that the front pages said, 'number one: save yourself for marriage.

“I thought, I won't be needing that.”

Ms McNamara, who was among the first of her friends to be engaged, said she was not sure whether she would take her fiancé's surname, Kazmirowicz, which she admitted was is a big shift from the matrimonial habit of old.

She was also planning and paying for her wedding together with her partner – a move she hopes will diminish “family politics” on the day.

“It's strange because I grew up with the option of it not being as important,” Ms McNamara said.

“But I guess, when you meet that person, it's like the only way forward in a sense.

“There's a celebration about the fact you want to build a life together and the wedding is an important part of demonstrating that, no matter how you choose to do it.”

The Queensland Brides Wedding and Honeymoon expo is on at the Brisbane Convention Centre from October 8 to 10, comprising over 150 vendors, fashion parades and more. Tickets from $8 available via www.queenslandbrides.com.au.

To have your wedding featured in the brisbanetimes.com.au weddings section, please contact Katherine Feeney, kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au.