Centerville Historical Museum unveils The Wedding Exhibit in May

Forty-eight historic gowns are on display in"The Wedding" Exhibit at the Centerville Historical Museum in Centerville. Photo courtesy of the Centerville Historical Museum.

Through the ages, gowns have remained one of the most important components of a wedding. The gown adorns the bride--the focal point of the wedding ceremony. 

This month, a very special exhibit opens at the Centerville Historical Museum. "The Wedding" showcases 48 gowns from 23 distinct fashion periods. The exhibit spans 250 years, according to the museum's executive director Randall Hoel. 

Hoel said "The Wedding" will appeal to both history buffs and brides-to-be. "A bride-to-be seeking to select her own contemporary gown can view myriad styles and types here that may assist her in her own selection," Hoel said. Ladies with an eye for vintage styles will surely swoon over the intricacies and craftsmanship of the gowns on display. 

To heighten the experience, Hoel said the museum even brought in two hair designers to create coifs to match each period. 

"One of my favorite gowns is from 1910, made of Battenburg lace," Hoel said. "It is custom-made and fitted to the bride, in late Edwardian style." The executive director's second favorite? A custom silk and satin gown with Alençon lace made from the style of Paris designer Charles Frederick Worth in 1885. 

"The Wedding" isn't just about fashion through the centuries--it is about tradition, family and history. In fact, many of the gowns have their own history. Five of the gowns on exhibit are from the same family--worn by five generations of women from 1833 to 1975--all related to Massachusetts master shipbuilder Donald McKay. Some of the gowns have been passed down through families and worn by granddaughters and great-granddaughters, according to Hoel. 

The exhibit, which includes historic photographs and objects associated with marriage, also sheds light on commonly-held wedding beliefs and traditions including bridal showers, garters and bouquets. Did you know bridal showers began in the 1890s? "Friends placed gifts inside a Japanese parasol and let the presents 'shower' over the bride's head," Hoel said. "It was reported in the fashion pages and became an overnight tradition."

An opening reception will be held on Friday, May 13 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Katherine Becrelis on piano and wine tasting by Cape Cod Package Store. Admission to the reception is free. 

In June, the museum will host the Osterville Garden Club Flower Show (June 24, 25 and 26 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.). The flower show will feature period bridal bouquets, centerpieces and floral design--more wonderful inspiration for brides-to-be. Admission to the flower show is $12, $8 for students (9-21) and $6 for members of the museum or the Osterville Garden Club.

"The Wedding" Exhibit runs from May through December, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Centerville Historical Museum, 513 Main Street, Centerville. Call the museum at 775-0331 or visit their website for more information.

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