Sometimes you look back at events in the past and say to yourself “What in the world where they thinking?” Such was the case when I learned about Tom Thumb Weddings.
Popular P. T. Barnum Circus performer Charles Sherwood, known as “General Thom Thumb” was married in 1863 to Lavinia Warren. Thom Thumb, a dwarf, was 3.25 feet tall, his bride Lavinia, a diminutive 2.66 feet tall. A wonderful diversion to the Civil War, the wedding was attended by thousands and covered in newspapers around the world. “Tom Thumb weddings” staged for entertainment, and acted out by young children began appearing shortly afterwards.
At least two were held here at the First Presbyterian Church, one in May 1941, and one in June 1956. In both cases, the performances were fundraisers for the Women’s Association. A Tom Thumb wedding at Clinton Academy sponsored by the Ladies Village Improvement Society (LVIS) in 1909 was most likely the first held in East Hampton. Scattered Tom Thumb weddings still crop up here and there across the country to this day.
The 1941 affair was held on a Friday night at 7:30 pm, essentially a play, performed by the youngest members of the Sunday school. The wedding party consisted of: bride Peggy Nugent, groom Tyler Huntting, five bridesmaids, six flower girls, a “minister” and four “parents” of the couple, one best man, four ushers, and twenty-three “guests”. Ann Roarick starred as one of the guests. The event began with a young soloist performing two songs, backed up by the boys of the junior choir. A boy’s quartet, including Jane Talmage’s late husband Dave, who was 14 at the time, also performed. Advanced ticket purchases were encouraged. The night was declared a success bringing in $121.00. Daffodils and forsythia, from church member’s gardens, decorated the hall. Vetault’s Flower Shop donated the bridal party bouquets and loaned palm plants.
The Calvary Baptist Church in East Hampton held a Tom Thumb wedding in 1955, in that case the 5 year old groom ran to his mother, refusing to “marry” the bride. The best man stepped in, saved the day, and “married” the bride. The East Hampton Star reported the event in a front page article titled” “The Bride was Jilted”. Motivated by that cute story, I assume, the ladies of the Women’s Association couldn’t help but stage another Tom Thumb Wedding the following year.
The June 1956 Tom Thumb wedding was held on a Saturday afternoon at 3:30 in the Session House. The public was invited. The bride, kindergartener Naimy Hackett, age 5, and groom, Robert Suchy, age 8, were supported by one “minister” seven bridesmaids, three flower girls, one train bearer, one ring bearer and four “parents” of the couple. Guests were: “the minister and his wife”, “President and Mrs. Eisenhower”, East Hampton’s “Mayor and his wife” (played by Steve Talmage, age 4, and Linda Talmage, age 5), and “Princess Grace and Prince Rainer”. A silver tea followed the event. Ah, the good ole days…..
-Hilary Osborn Malecki