Love stories recounted as wedding exhibition opens


The opening of an exhibition on weddings at the Jewish Museum in Camden afforded those featured the chance to reminisce.

Museum volunteer Rose Bentley, 92, has been married to Gerard for over 70 years and the exhibition includes an audio account of how they got together.

"It is quite exciting really to hear it," she said, before retelling the story for the JC's benefit.

"I was 16 and my friend and I had been to a show when a chap came along who she knew, so she introduced me.

"When we got to my house he asked: 'How old are you?' I said: '16 and never been kissed' - which wasn't quite true - and he leaned over and kissed me. Then he disappeared. Funny fella."

They met again during the war. "I was going home at Manor House tube station and saw an officer coming down the stairs. I looked at him and he looked at me. It was Gerard. He ran up the stairs, put his arms round me and kissed me and cuddled me. He said: 'Rose, are you married?' I said 'no', he said 'good'. And we got married three months later."

Asked the secret to a long and happy union by museum chief executive Abigail Morris, Mrs Bentley replied: "Red wine, and plenty of the other."

Another museum volunteer featured in the show is former wedding dress-maker Larry Ross, whose designs were hugely popular in the 1960s and 70s. A display dedicated to his work includes a photo of his niece Jennifer Ross in the dress he made for her in 1972.

"I call it my 30 years' hard labour because the mother of the bride was always nagging, saying it wasn't perfect here or there," he said. On the plus side, "I very much used to enjoy seeing the bride walk up the aisle".

Curator Elizabeth Selby said the exhibition drew heavily on the museum's own collection, although "lots of people offered us things on loan".

It takes visitors through the history of Jewish weddings in the UK from the early 19th century to the present day. Exhibits include 12-course wedding menus from the 1930s, a 1905 wedding dress and a flapper-style 1920s' outfit. A framed letter from the 1920s promotes the services of an A Frischman, a matchmaker promising dowries of up to £25,000.

A highlight is photographer Boris Bennett's "Big Bertha" Kodak camera from the same period, accompanied by a selection of wedding photos taken at his Art Deco studio. Mr Bennett was renowned for making ordinary couples look like film stars in their wedding photos.

His children were at the opening, among them Ruth Press, herself a photographer. "I wish he was here to see them," she reflected. "He'd be tickled pink. It's an elegant exhibition and that's how he was."

The opening of the JC-partnered exhibition coincided with the launch of the museum as a wedding venue. It can stage both the ceremony and reception and guests can peruse the displays.

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