The Wedding Historian

Hometown Heroes, Odd Collections, People
on January 20, 2002

9 June 1874 — Mother Dearest, Leo and myself wish to send you and father our wedding photograph. We hope it will not fade but, then, pray tell, one hundred years from now, who will notice?

Well, Eve Faulkner would. The founder of the House of Victorian Visions Bridal Museum, Faulkner exhibits not only this antique note scrawled by the bride, but the photograph of which she wrote. This compelling nuptial relic and other nostalgic wedding paraphernalia and mementos are on display at Faulkner’s 1894 Victorian cottage in Old Towne Orange, Calif. (pop. 8,600).

The photo keeps company with wedding gowns that date from 1835 to 1935 (of the 50 or so gowns in the collection, nearly all were purchased privately by Faulkner), courting and wedding accessories such as fans and waxen orange blossoms, and lingerie of the discreet Victorian variety. Other contemporary items such as a Masai bridal collar and headdress and a Pakistani groom’s crown are also showcased.

“What we’re teaching is international,” Faulkner says. And teaching—not the ultimate fairy-tale wedding—is what this museum is all about.

“My whole passion is to tell the younger women about social history,” she explains. Faulkner achieves that by educating them on the evolution of courtship and wedding traditions. Though she came to the wedding business in a backward fashion, Faulkner has been at it now for more than 15 years. Strangely, it all started with the kids.

She and husband Rick, a retired Los Angeles police officer, were parents to 15 foster and three biological daughters. In 1982, to accommodate their growing horde, the couple bought a home in Upland, Calif., where they soon began hosting weddings as a fund-raiser for their church.

Over time, Faulkner’s interest shifted from wedding planning to courtship rituals and marriage traditions, and from there into wedding finery—particularly the Victorian era. Just as gradually, she embraced the idea of a move to Old Towne Orange, where today her museum resides within walking distance of the square-mile town’s hub—The Plaza—a cluster of antique shops, tiny restaurants, and art galleries. When the Faulkners finally made their decision to relocate to this 114-year-old Southern California city four years ago, they didn’t just move the contents of their house.

“We moved our hearts,” she says. “It was like this was where I belonged.”

Faulkner also lectures on wedding and courtship traditions, bringing many items with her from her collection. In her talks she might demonstrate “fan talk,” in which drawing a fan across the cheek meant, “I love you”; conversely a drop of the fan indicated “we will just be friends,” much to the chagrin of would-be suitors. Faulkner also will share her own experiences on these occasions, such as the time she discovered a tiny pouch sewn into the seam of a gown in her collection. Cautiously unstitching the pouch, she found a 1903 penny, placed by the bride into this secret pocket above her heart (for good luck, of course).

The museum houses a wealth of history, as well as individual stories, making Faulkner’s role part historian, part hopeless romantic. She professes to be neither.

“I think I’m a nut,” she laughs.

Nut or not, Faulkner has tapped into an area of women’s hearts that is simply irresistible.

“Women are little girls in disguise, and they want to play,” she says, glancing at the vintage gowns.