Throwback Thursday: Wedding Traditions in the John Martin Smith Collection

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, let’s take a look at two of the fun—and interesting—customs surrounding love and marriage in DeKalb County history.


When a couple got married in DeKalb County, it wasn’t uncommon for their friends and family to surprise them with a “shivaree,” or “belling.” A few weeks after the wedding, friends of the newlyweds would gather outside the couple’s house at night and wake them up by ringing bells or banging on pots and pans. What happened next varied from area to area. In Auburn, the couple might then be driven around the town square several times while their friends made some more noise. In Butler, the groom might have to wheel his bride down Broadway Street in a wheelbarrow.

Fair Wedding

Another interesting tradition was the “fair wedding.” According to John Martin Smith, one couple was married every year at the DeKalb County fair during the 1930s and 1940s: “Couples applied to a committee for the honor. The couple chosen was married from the stage at the fair on Saturday.” Although the tradition doesn’t appear to have continued after WWII, it does seem to have existed before the ’30s. This 1906 post card tells of a wedding “that actually took place here in the band stand during the fall festival.” The aforementioned bandstand is marked with a faint “x.”

Want to hear more? Please join us at the Willennar Genealogy Center this Saturday from 2-3pm for “DeKalb County Love Stories,” and learn more about couples from our county’s past.


About Jenny

I am the Associate Director of Eckhart Public Library. My office is in the Administrative Annex, but I can often be found roaming the Eckhart Public Library Campus, performing acts of librarianship in every department! I love to read and learn about history. I'm also a huge fan of movies, TV and pop culture in general, and I love to read books of all types. Currently, I'm working my way around the romance section, with some historical fiction and graphic novels thrown in for variety! But you never know what I'm going to pick up next.
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