BLOOMINGTON — While the world was captivated by the royal wedding across the pond on Saturday, a Central Illinois family was sharing their own piece of wedding history with the community.
While recently cleaning her grandmother’s home, Ripley-Gataric stumbled across an old box on a closet shelf marked, “grandma Wyman’s wedding dress and shoes.”
“Instead of immediately ripping into it, we decided to do some research,” she said.
Ripley-Gataric found that her ancestor Christina Wyman had worn the wedding dress during her 1906 marriage to John Herman Wyman in Livingston County. Her family had traveled from Germany to California before settling in Minonk.
Sadly, Wyman died in 1918 at 36 years old during the influenza pandemic of that time.
But her memory lived on Saturday in the Gov. Fifer Courtroom at the museum in downtown Bloomington.
Ripley-Gataric’s daughters, Nora, 5, and Tessa, 7, helped unveil the gown in front of a crowd at the museum.
Nearly 30 people watched as the girls opened the box to reveal the two-piece, faded linen dress with lace at the neck and sleeves, and black leather, high-heeled boots.
After the gown was laid flat on the table for guests to view, Nora said it “looked itchy.”
“I thought it would have pearls, but it didn’t. It’s still pretty, but not as pretty as my picture,” she said.
Before the reveal, Nora and Tessa created pictures of what they imagined the dress would resemble, complete with bits of lace and pearls glued to the crayon drawings of their great-great-great-grandmother.
Thomas Asis, 14, of Bloomington, filled the room with violin music, Ivy Lane Bakery provided treats, and floral arrangements from Vera & Buck Floral Studio decorated the space.
Hannah Johnson, education program coordinator for the museum, said the event’s goal was to create “intergenerational inspiration.”
“Being able to capitalize on the wedding fervor that happened this morning was great timing,” said Johnson.
Friends Karen Bergmann of Normal and Karen Starckovich of Bloomington said they attended the gown reveal as wedding dress admirers.
“I made my own wedding dress so it’s always excited for me to see different styles. This one was probably made by her family and it’s lovely,” said Bergmann.
Both women said they followed the events of the royal wedding in Windsor, England, on Saturday. Bergmann called it “a fairy tale experience.”
“I recorded the wedding to watch later. I want to see that moment when the bride gets out of the carriage and you get that first glimpse of the dress,” said Starckovich.
Ripley-Gataric, who hasn't decided what to do with the dress, said she was happy to see the family artifact attract local interest even during the excitement in England.
“It’s cool that this still attracted people, even this simple, plain, farm-family affair,” she said of the heirloom dress. “It was probably the least royal wedding you can imagine, but people are still interested.”