I grew up with a framed, black and white portrait of my grandparents hanging on our living room wall. It was right by the family computer desk, where I spent too many hours playing, so I was very familiar with that picture. He was in a suit, she was in a white formal gown. There are hints of fancy decor around the edges. For the longest time, I figured it must be a picture from their wedding. I was wrong! Years later I learned that the picture is from their 1956 prom. But the thing you ought to know about the prom photo is….
… that they were already married!
He was senior class president, she was class secretary. Together they were a part of the morning announcements, senior prom committee, and were in the running to be King and Queen.
GRAMPS: My best friend was the king and Nana’s best friend was the queen. [But] of course, all the kids, all the members of our class, were all upset because they wanted it to be us. But the school didn’t want it.
Because, they were married.
In December, they had been married in a small wedding ceremony where Nana wore a white dress suit and the next month they attended senior prom where she wore a formal white gown. Since they were living together, there was no need for Gramps to come pick her up at the door of her mother’s home. They simply hopped in backseat of their friend’s car (they themselves carless) and made their way to Milford High’s “Stairway to the Stars.” They would have walked in to see the spiral staircase that Gramps’ recent stepfather Carl made for the event, complete with “wire netting and cotton candy stuffing for clouds” so that the seniors “could really walk up it into the clouds [where] we hung stars”.
Being the married couple at the senior prom wasn’t all hearts and stars. I asked Gramps if he had any particularly fond memories from the event (he said the afterparty) and then if there were any particularly negative memories.
GRAMPS: I think the only negative thing was [the papers] made a big deal about us being married, you know. They would come in... and want to take a picture of the married couple. They would try to get in there, make it a big deal, trying to capitalize on the event. We made the newspapers. I think my mother somewhere probably has an article from the newspaper (laughs).
Nana’s presence at the prom as a married woman did not go unnoticed and it did not happen in vain. In that time, married women had not been allowed to continue school. Using their connections in the community and being in the class presidency, Nana and Gramps petitioned for her to finish her senior year. They brought the issue directly to the Board of Education - and they agreed. Not only Nana, but another female student who was married that year was allowed to stay as well. One student who left to have a baby was permitted to return. The norms were changed.
GRAMPS: All because of Nana.
GRAMPS: The thing is that if you look at that picture, I think, mom’s hand, you can see the wedding ring on her hand.
And I am fortunate enough to be the recipient of that ring after Nana passed away in 2007. I kept her ring in the red, velvet mortuary bag since the day it was handed to me when I was sixteen. I always knew that I would use it as my own wedding ring one day. And I did! I should add that in true Gramps nature, he approached me after my wedding ceremony and said, “You know, I’ve been trying to remember what I did with that thing!”
We were able to use Nana’s original ring from that original prom picture in this photoshoot. To add another layer of connection between her marriage and mine, we used my original veil from my 2012 wedding in the shoot as well.
I searched high and low for the perfect vintage dress to go with these pictures. Something that felt “prom” just as much “wedding” like Nana’s prom photo does. I was only working off my memory off the prom photo, which I hadn’t seen in years, but when the listing for this dress came up on my screen, I knew it was the one. A month later I was able to track down that original prom photo and it truly was a perfect match.
If the thought crossed your mind, “My goodness this girl looks to young to be modeling a bridal look!” 1) you’re right but also 2) I purposefully chose someone the same age Nana had been when she was married in 1955.
We drove out to a quaint historic schoolhouse for the shoot. It’s all a little bit prom, a little bit bridal, and all at a little pink school house. This was the project I set out to do this summer and I’m so happy it’s all here.
INSPIRED BY GRANDMA | Grandma Kaiser and the nudists