Beyond the White Wedding: Reinventing Tradition

2010, Culture, Robarts Library, University of Toronto, Temporary Exhibit
history, University of Toronto, wedding
About This Project

Date: March 25 – May 13, 2010

Partner: Robarts Library

Venue: 130 Saint George St. – map

Project Members: Marla Dobson, Nikki Jago, and Thomas Kessler


The purpose of our exhibit was to highlight couples who have chosen “non-traditional” weddings and to contextualize their choices within the framework of western white wedding practices. We achieved this by examining the historical origins of specific wedding traditions and compared them with contemporary examples.
Our intended audience were the students at the University of Toronto. We wanted to make them consider why we follow not only the white wedding tradition, but also invite discussion on other traditions.


Our venue was the main floor display cases in Robarts Library by the escalators and elevators to the stacks. This was a high traffic area that we knew a number of students would come across. There was a total of 6 displays we created in this space.


Our exhibit was sponsored by the couples we interviewed. They let us tell their stories and they shared some personal objects we could use to display. Our opening reception was sponsored by Catherine Lash of the Wedding Co. who was able to provide us with china and glassware from Chair-man Mills.


Planning for Beyond the White Wedding began in September of 2009. Our historical research on the white wedding was complete by the end of December while our couples were interviewed by early January. The next month was spent writing and designing our own text panels. From mid-February till before installation we worked on our wedding couple text panels. Installation took 2 days to complete.


Beyond the White Wedding relied mostly on the three levels of text panels (historical, wedding couples, object labels) and the wedding objects we were able to acquire from our couples. Our large historical panels set the context of the evolution of various white wedding traditions such as the honeymoon. Our couple text panels related to the historical panel and detailed what they did for the white wedding tradition. The objects in the case were often referenced by the couple text panels to complete the picture.


Our marketing involved poster advertisements, sharing the information with family, friends, colleagues and the couples we interviewed. We also created a Facebook page for the exhibit, which promoted our opening reception and invited people to come look at the exhibit and share their thoughts. We also wanted them to engage in the exhibit by responding to various questions posted in the display cases.


Beyond the White Wedding was well received. Our couples were pleased with the result and we got a number of wonderful compliments. There was no way to track how many people saw or looked at the exhibit as we did not watch and count visitors; however, given its location, we can assume a large number of students were exposed to it. We did notice some looking at the exhibit as we were installing it and were sharing the information they were reading with friends over the cell phones. This was a success to us.


We would like to thank all of our couples who took part and lent us their objects and shared their stories. We would also like to thank Catherine Lash of the Wedding Co. for sponsoring a wonderful opening reception.