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Wedding dresses old and new on show for village Valentine’s celebration

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on February 14, 2024

Love is well and truly in the air at Possum Bourne Retirement Village this week.

An array of wedding dresses, ranging from the modern to the traditional, were on display along with dozens of amazing wedding photos dating back to the 1800s in a nod to Valentine’s Day.

Dresses that had been packed away for years were dusted off to add to the village exhibition, prompting wonderful nostalgic comments about the different fashions through the decades as well as many memories of happy times.


Beryl Needham, 97, brought along the dress she made for her third daughter Glenys nearly 50 years ago as well as a photo of herself in her wedding dress from 1949.

“I borrowed my dress from my friend Val,” said Beryl. “I’m a dressmaker and would have made my dress myself but my mother was in hospital at the time so that didn’t happen.

“Val was married 12 months before, she had made it herself, and she said I could use her dress.”

Beryl married Wesley after meeting him at a dance in Pukekohe when she was 21 and they got married a year later.

“We were married for 53 years and yes we had our ups and downs but it was a happy marriage,” she says.

“We had four daughters and he gave them all away at their weddings.”

Beryl merged

Beryl with the dress she made for daughter Glenys (left) and holding the photo of herself on her wedding day (seen here up close on the right).

While she hadn’t been able to make her own dress, Beryl made up for it by making dresses for three of her daughters’ weddings while the fourth daughter made her own.

Beryl had high praise for Activities Coordinator Jan Farac’s efforts in creating the display.

“I think it’s wonderful, Jan worked so hard to make it look so lovely.

“All the dresses are beautiful, and every dress is different. I think it’s amazing how everyone has kept all these dresses.”

Residents Kay and Bruce Wiseman brought family photos of five generations of weddings with one dating back as far as 1897. The fashion then was a high frill-necked dress while the groom sported a large ‘walrus’ style moustache.IMG_9597 (Large)

Residents enjoyed the trips down memory lane, and marvelled at wedding dress fashions through the decades.

IMG_9598 (Large)As well as residents’ dresses, a number of team members had brought their wedding dresses along, including two beautiful Indian dresses in a distinctive shade of red, and Jan had brought her wedding dress plus her daughter’s pale pink dress which was complemented by hand-painted peony shoes, the groom’s peony tie and bridesmaid’s peony-covered dress.

Serviced Apartment Unit Coordinator Dronah Villarino, who only got married on 23rd January, had the most recently-used dress in the collection.

Being a summer wedding, Dronah had chosen a ready-made ankle-length white dress, with a plunging neckline and spaghetti shoulder straps. It was decorated with pretty stitching and sequins.

IMG_9603 (Large)

Newly-married Unit Coordinator Dronah Villarino, with her dress, the most modern on display (above), and wearing it on the day (below).

IMG_0464“I chose it because it was a beachy garden wedding and that’s my style, I like to have the neck open.

“I bought it a year before, that was the first thing that we prepared before anything else. It was a size 4 and I still had to get it altered to a size 2 and the length taken up a bit.”

Village Manager Wendy Stanton brought her wedding dress and two bridesmaids dresses that she wore at her schoolfriend Rachel and her sister Debbie’s weddings, all three made by her dressmaker mother Kath.

“I wanted a timeless, streamlined dress, no clutter, and nothing bouffy – those were my instructions,” she laughs.

“Because I’m short I told my mum I didn’t want to look like a crocheted toilet roll holder!”

Wendy got married in the middle of Cyclone Drena in 1997 so had to change the venue for the wedding photos from the top of Mt Eden to a more architectural backdrop.

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Village Manager Wendy Stanton (above) with her wedding dress and two brightly coloured bridesmaid dresses that she also wore, all made by her seamstress mother.

Now, having recently celebrated her 27th wedding anniversary, she is still pleased with her choice of dress style.

“It was exactly what I wanted. I like the dress and I like how it looked.”

Wendy said she was thrilled with the response to the wedding dress exhibition, with a gold coin donation for it going towards Ryman’s charity partner the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

“People have said ‘wow, it’s stunning, it’s exciting and it’s created such great talking points. And they love that the dresses are from so many different generations and cultures.

“With it being Valentine’s Day this week, we wanted something that would be inclusive of all the residents, those who are still lucky enough to have their partners but also those sharing happy memories of those that they have lost.”

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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