|Flowers from Pharsalia’s many gardens
What a wedding it was! This weekend I officiated at a beautifully planned wedding at a plantation home in Tyro, Virginia. Tyro. That’s about an hour and fifteen minutes south of Charlottesville. The plantation home, Pharsalia, was built by William Massie in 1814. It is on the national historic register. The plantation itself was once worked by slaves. Although I don’t know for sure, I am guessing that William Massie’s slaves grew tobacco and apples—which were cash crops in the area. Eventually poor soil conservation practices led to serious soil erosion. The plantation could not sustain itself, and the plantation was sold off piece by piece. Only in the last half of the 20thcentury, did Massie’s descendents pool funds to re-purchase the property, and restore Pharsalia to its original magnificence. We’re talking vineyards, orchards, cattle pastures and lots and lots of gardens–just the spot for a wedding with an historic theme.
The bride was of African American descent and a true history scholar. She definitely has found her calling in life, working for Colonial Williamsburg (as does her new history-scholar husband). Although the couple never stated so outright, it was obvious to all that the wedding was a close approximation of a pre-Civil War slave wedding. Of course, the state did not recognize slave marriages, but slaves often did exchange marital vows, and for all practical purposes, WERE married in the eyes of the slave community, and most assuredly in the eyes of God. They loved each other, took care of each other, had children together. Tragically, though, these common law marriages (and the families they produced) were often torn asunder by slave owners, who considered slaves, their property.
|Flowers in jar at end of row of hay bales
What will remain with me for years to come, are the many little details that made this historic wedding so true to form. It was an outside wedding, with the vineyards of Pharsalia as a backdrop, and beyond those the majestic Blue Ridge mountains. The guests sat on bales of hay positioned in rows. A jar of flowers hanging from a stick marked each row of hay bales. Pharsalia’s gardens provided the lovely flowers for the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets, and the groom’s boutonniere. Toward the end of the service—after the exchange of vows and rings–two family members positioned a broom across the aisle and the bride and groom “jumped the broom.” This slave tradition has it that the one who jumps the highest, will reign over the household. The bride hiked up her period gown with its multitude of flounces, and bounded high into the air. It was clear to all, who would be wearing the proverbial pants, or maybe better, bloomers, in THIS family.
What a lovely wedding. What an inspiration! Ideas for your own wedding perhaps? Pharsalia’s web page address is www.pharsaliaevents.com.
Happy planning! Gay Lee