On Saturday, May 17, 2014, Friends of Maple Grove hosted a Victorian Wedding Tea.
Saturday May 17 was blessed by an incredibly beautiful, mild and sunny day. On that day we celebrated life and love! It was during historical research on Mary and Jonathan Coward that we learned their heartwarming love story. Pre Civil War teen sweethearts they were separated by the war and reunited 50 years later in 1911 and married. In our desire to honor their love we created the youthful wedding that they missed so many years before.
Celebration Hall at Maple Grove was crowded and the event began with a gracious welcome to guests by Bonnie Dixon, the Executive Director at Maple Grove. She introduced Carl Ballenas, the President of The Friends of Maple Grove, who gave a PowerPoint presentation about the old wedding traditions of the Victorian Era. He continued and told the story of the members of the wedding party. He related that Mary Coward was a direct descendant of Priscilla and John Alden of the May Flower. A letter that Jonathan wrote to his mother in 1861 about his experiences in the Civil War was also read. The marriage was to be performed by Reverend Charles Camp who helped lay the cornerstone for the foundation of the Statue of Liberty. The Best Man and Maid of Honor were Jacob and Elisabeth Riis. They were selected due to the fact that on May 26, 2014 we mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of Jacob Riis in 1914.
Jacob was one of America’s celebrated reformers, journalists, authors and photographers. His body of work made him a legend in all these fields. President Theodore Roosevelt, his lifelong friend, held Jacob in very high esteem calling him “the most useful citizen of New York”. All, with the exception of Jacob, are resting at Maple Grove Cemetery and well cared for.
Jacob suddenly entered Celebration Hall and invited the guests to the wedding of Mary and Jonathan Coward that would take place at Presidential Circle and the 9/11 Memorial which was a short distance away on the hill overlooking the lake and Center. A procession formed and when the guests arrived they were greeted by the nervous groom and Reverend Camp. The crowd was instructed to look back at the Center and they were able to watch as the rest of the wedding party, including the bride, made their way to the site. All performers were dressed in beautiful period costumes of the Victorian Era.The Wedding Ceremony was solemn and sacred and a sign of True Love. A beautiful song was sung and the crowd burst into a round of applause as the wedding party led the guests to the wedding reception back at the Center.
Celebration Hall was decorated for the event with floral centerpieces and a long table covered with trays of sliver and crystal filled with food. A dais for the wedding couple had also been set up and decorated with satin, lace, china, crystal and elaborate silver pieces.
All dined on wonderfully prepared homemade delicious foods with a cup of piping hot tea as they were serenaded by music on the grand piano. There was a toast by the Best Man, the singing of an old Victorian song by the Maid of Honor and the cutting of the wedding cake.
True Love, was celebrated at Maple Grove Cemetery and the story of Mary and Jonathan was told. We will never forget those who have gone before us when we say their names and tell their story over and over again.