The Original Offbeat Bride

by Amy M.

When I was planning my wedding, I frequently referred to Offbeat Bride for inspiration.  If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a great website for planning nontraditional weddings (backyard weddings with Goodwill decorations, Star Wars-themed weddings, weddings incorporating two very different faiths, etc.).

If Offbeat Bride had been around in 1838, however, its biggest highlight would’ve certainly been the wedding of two outspoken abolitionists named Angelina Grimké and Theodore Weld.  I learned about these two while watching The Abolitionists on PBS (my evenings are super exciting).  Anyway, check out the offbeat-ness of these two:

  • “Angelina and Theodore’s friends received a wedding invitation adorned with an engraving of a slave in chains.”
  • The couple “improvised their vows.”
  • They “denounced a man’s authority over his wife.”
  • “They had a black minister and a white minister lead the congregation in prayer.”

Also, acccording to this historian’s website,

  • Angelina omitted the part about “obeying” her husband.
  • They hired a black confectionist to bake the cake with “free-grown sugar” as opposed to “slave-grown sugar.”
  • Angelina risked excommunication from her faith for marrying a non-Quaker.
  • The guests consisted of whites AND blacks, including a smattering of hardcore abolitionists, and everyone sat together in the pews (gasp!).


Then everybody did the Cupid Shuffle.

BONUS:  The wedding infuriated their violent pro-slavery opponents.  While the couple attended an anti-slavery meeting at Pennsylvania Hall two days later, an angry mob pelted the windows with rocks.  “The following night, a crowd broke into the empty hall and set fire to the building. Firemen stood aside and watched it burn.  Philadelphia’s monument to free speech lay in ruins” (transcript).

And I thought my tea-length dress was a bold choice.

By the way, you can watch the entire episode here.  It’s really interesting, and the historical reenactments are surprisingly decent.  Those abolitionists were incredible people.