Going for the Gold
A look back to a time when Long Island weddings were really extravagant
You think weddings today are out of hand? They pale in comparison to those of the Gold Coast Era. In fact, many extravagant weddings are modeled after them today.
The details of the Gold Coast Era of Long Island are things of folklore—a level of wealth few of us can comprehend, opulence beyond our imaginations. Needless to say, the weddings from that period were no exception.
Planting Fields of Oyster Bay, home of the famed Coe Hall, is currently hosting an exhibit highlighting
those weddings and the stories behind them. The exhibit, called Gold Coast Weddings: 1890-1930, focuses on the wedding of Natalie Mai Coe, the only daughter of William Robertson Coe and Mai Rogers Coe, to Commendatore Leonardo Vitetti, an Italian diplomat. The location lends an extra dose of history, as the Coe-Vitetti wedding, which took place in 1934, was held in the very same room that hosts the exhibit today inside the Coe Estate. The exhibit features several intricate wedding gowns worn by Long Island brides around 1900, as well as original invitations and a reimagining of a period wedding cake.
In an age of designer lighting schemes and digital wedding albums, Gold Coast Weddings reminds us that when Natalie Mai Coe ordered her wedding invitations from Tiffany & Co., it was known as a “stationary and fancy goods emporium.” Visitors can appreciate that while some traditions have changed over the last century, others have not. For instance, the Coe-Vitetti marriage was arranged by the bride and groom’s families, yet Natalie Mai Coe still fussed over floral arrangements and place cards, just as brides do today.
The exhibit also sheds light on the origins of modern wedding traditions, which originated around that time, including the throwing of the bouquet, which replaced the tradition of bridesmaids ripping off pieces of the bride’s gown—a token of good luck.
Amidst the scent of the centuries-old wooden floorboards lies the centerpiece of the exhibit: a massive 16-foot archway ensconced in silk white flowers—a recreation of a wedding flower display from 1897.
Toward the front of the sun-soaked room is an anachronistic television that plays a film reel of the couple’s wedding: a silent film that was shown throughout theaters in America at that time.
Other items on display include an autographed picture of Pope Pius XI bidding the Long Island newlyweds a happy marriage and a large book filled with handwritten receipts of the wedding expenses. Sweet details that give the exhibit an intimate touch include original love letters written from the bride to the groom, weeks before their wedding, as she awaited his return from overseas, and a few of the couple’s first wedding gifts.
Even though Gold Coast Weddings boasts no shortage of history, elegance and lavish beauty, today’s bridezillas might do well to avoid the exhibit altogether. Because, let’s face it, while it’s hard enough keeping up with the Joneses, it’s impossible to keep up with the Coe-Vitettis.