Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on October 8, 2011
Little House on the Prairie Wedding Dresses
As a long-time fan of the “Little House” series of books and the “Little House” tv series inspired by these childhood classics, I just love studying the costumes worn in the stories! Laura Ingalls Wilder gave articulate details on all her fashionable dresses in the books “Little Town on the Prairie” and “These Happy Golden Years“. Any Little House fan should know that due to a shortage of time, the real Laura Ingalls’ wedding gown was actually a black cashmere dress! But today I’d like to take a look at the Little House on the Prairie wedding dresses shown on the 1970s tv show.
Which of these three Little House girls wore white wedding gowns for their on-screen weddings?
Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson)
Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim)
Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert)
The correct answer? None of them! When you watch these girls’ wedding episodes, you will find it amusing that all of the weddings, even if the couples were previously engaged, had something sporadic or unplanned about the actual wedding date. All of them were either married on a different date than planned,were married outside of Walnut Grove, or were married by someone other than their minister Reverend Alden!
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls wore a lovely light blue gown, with long sleeves and a frill of lace at the high neckline. This wedding dress had decorative buttons down the front, and was handed down to Mary from her mother Caroline Ingalls who had supposedly worn it for her own bridal gown. (In reality, Mary Ingalls never married, and the evidence we have suggests that Caroline’s wedding gown was either black or very dark colored. )
Mary & Adam’s wedding took place right after a tornado, and though their local minister began the ceremony, Reverend Alden showed up half way through the speech and took over from that point. The episode in which Mary Ingalls gets married is aptly named “The Wedding“.
Nellie Oleson, one of television’s most hated characters, married her Jewish husband Percival Dalton/Isaac Cohen on very short notice. Their wedding episode, “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not“, suggests that they were engaged for possibly as little as one day, and they were married by Doctor Baker since Percival’s mother didn’t want him married by a “Reverend”.
Nellie (Alison Arngrim) and Percival (Steve Tracy) had had an interesting relationship for a short amount of time, probably a month or so, during which Nellie called him names and Percival poured raw eggs on her head. Since Nellie was such a terrible child all through the Little House series, it was only fitting that she also practically proposed to him!
But about her wedding dress! It was very hard to get a good still shot of the dress since their wedding scene was so short, but it was a lovely pink brocade gown which had a hidden hook-and-eye closure down the back. Nellie Oleson’s wedding dress had a low neckline filled in with white taffeta, and she wore an enormous pink bow in her blonde curled wig.
Laura Ingalls, perhaps the best-loved of all the Little House children, wore her sage green church dress for her unexpected wedding. It wasn’t that she and Almanzo Wilder (Dean Butler), hadn’t been engaged already, and in fact this whole episode shows the ups and downs of their long engagement when Almanzo’s wheat crop fails. But just when everything looks hopeless, Eliza Jane Wilder comes up with a plan to make it work, and Laura and Almanzo get married in the blind school that Mary & Adam work at.
Once again, this wedding takes place in an unfamiliar location (not one of the girls was married in the Walnut Grove church), and Laura and Almanzo were married by a preacher they’d never met before! (This episode is called simply “Laura Ingalls Wilder“).
Laura’s lovely wedding dress was a two-piece sage green linen or cotton, with a lovely pleated “peplum” in the back which revealed light pink insets. In the front, this prairie outfit had princess seams, a pink ruffle at the neckline, and pearly buttons down the front of the bodice.
She wore a shirred and ruched poke bonnet made to match, though for the ceremony itself Laura had baby’s breath flowers in her hair. After the wedding, this outfit was worn quite often by Laura Wilder for parties, church events, and important social functions.
Today the dress worn by Melissa Gilbert for the “Laura Ingalls Wilder” episode is on display at a Wild West museum in Arizona, along with another one of her “young lady” dresses and the gown her mother Caroline wore for the same episode. The dress appear to be in excellent condition, but is displayed without the matching bonnet.
So who did wear a white wedding dress on the “Little House” tv shows? After having the entire series memorized for a number of years, I can only think of two or possibly three weddings where the brides actually wore white.
The most traditional of these was Willie Oleson’s and Rachel Brown’s wedding, which took place in the Walnut Grove church with Reverend Alden performing the ceremony.
Rachel’s white gown was lovely, with lots of bustly bows in the back and ruffled frills of lace at her sleeve ends.
Another wedding that comes to mind was Hester Sue Terhune’s, who wore a spectacular white gown at the height of Victorian 1880s fashion.
Of all the wedding dresses worn for the tv series, this is one my all time favorite Little House costumes!
This one doesn’t count as an actual wedding gown though, because she and her ill-intentioned fiancee’ broke their engagement just moments before the ceremony!
The only other white wedding dress scene that comes to mind is Charles’ and Caroline’s! Obviously the Little House shows didn’t make an episode of their real wedding which would have occurred years before, but in season eight the producers put together a wonderful episode called “I Do, Again” that portrays the mid-life crisis stricken Charles and Caroline having a second wedding. Here again, this wedding takes place outside of Walnut Grove and planned on a short amount of time. Charles & Caroline Ingalls (Michael Landon and Karen Grassle), join a younger couple for a double wedding ceremony and two gorgeous Victorian wedding dresses!
Caroline Ingalls’ friend lends her an heirloom wedding gown which fits her perfectly for their last-minute wedding. While we have no record that anything like this ever occurred in the actual Ingalls family, it made for the most lovely episode!
I hope y0u’ve enjoyed these wedding dresses, and I’d love to hear which Little House costume was your favorite!