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A letter to the bride's parents by her bridesmaid, Emma Sullivan


"I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them."

Jeremiah 32:39


China Inland Mission

1531 Sinza Road,

Shanghai 23, Ku., China

Wednesday, September 10, 1947

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Davidson, and family and friends of Ella and Frank,

The wedding is all over, and nothing has marred the beauty and happiness of the day - except for the absence of those nearest and dearest. Ella and Frank will be writing to you, I am sure, but I thought you might like some details from the bridesmaid's point of view. Three weeks ago I did not know Ella, and only casually knew Frank from his having driven the Mission truck around Shanghai last September. Now I feel they are real friends, and have found it a privilege and a pleasure to share in their joy.

Several difficulties came up as Ella and Frank were making plans for the wedding after their arrival in Shanghai. They originally planned to have Arthur Mathews and his wife, Wilda, for their attendants, but then were told the Mathews would most likely be on their way to Kansu by that time, and were advised to make other arrangements. After one or two other unsuccessful attempts, they decided their attendants had better be folk on the staff who would be sure to be on hand! Mr F.W.M. (Bill) Taylor agreed to be best man - he is from New Zealand - and I was asked to be bridesmaid - because I had a bridesmaid frock from a Shanghai missionary wedding in which I took part six years ago!

There were various and sundry trips to the Consul. Ella and Frank would have preferred to be married in our Prayer Hall here on the compound, but because of Consular regulations, that didn't seem practical, so it was finally decided to have the ceremony in the Cathedral at 11 a.m. today. Then followed meetings with the Housekeeper, a lovely lady by the name of Miss Soderstrom, from England, and Mrs. Thompson, wife of the Northern Regional Director, and Mrs. Houghton, wife of the General Director. Together they worked out plans for the reception. It could have been arranged to have a small party in one of the flats, occupied by married couples on the Shanghai staff, but then there would have been the difficulty of whom to invite and whom to leave out, so it was finally agreed to make it a Compound affair, with sit-down lunch, in the dining room at about the usual dinner hour, and coffee and cake in the sitting room immediately after.

Ella and Frank and I had other discussions, and trips to flower stores and photographers and caterers. It was a busy time, but really everything worked together very well. Yesterday morning, we had a rehearsal in the Cathedral - a lovely setting for a wedding, with a long aisle down the centre. The Church of England service is really beautiful, and I am sure must make one feel thoroughly married. Tuesday evening we tried to make sure that no details had been forgotten, and after a walk around the garden with Frank, Ella retired early. It was arranged for her to have a room to herself for this last night, which I think she must have appreciated, for she was really tired.

This morning didn't dawn 'fair', but there was a beautiful sunrise, and the day has continued overcast, yet bright, with a slight breeze, and no rain. Ella and I had breakfast in my room - we made coffee in the percolator on an electric plate, and both of us had a good meal of fruit, corn flakes and toast! Ella had had a good night, and was feeling relaxed and refreshed. No doubt you were all following her through the day, and probably appreciated as we did the verses in the Daily Light portion.* Several of the friends also remarked on them. Arrangements for flowers, decorations, table settings, etc. were all taken care of by different friends staying in the Mission Home, or on the staff, and so we were able to give our full attention to getting ourselves ready. We just managed it in nice time.

Ella's dress and veil were beautiful. (She had a permanent, and her hair rolled up very nicely, setting off the coronet headdress.) What is called the 'Helping Hands' Department had been able to supply her with a really good and most suitable pair of white pumps**. She had made her own slip of white Loshan silk, bought in Szechwan while she was at language school. Her bouquet was of white gladioli and white carnations and trailing fern almost to the floor. Wilda Mathews loaned her pearls. My dress was of delicate peach sheer crepe, with lace panels in the very full skirt. The bouquet was of matching gladioli and carnations and I wore a row of peach gladioli around the back of my hair roll.

Mr. and Mrs. R.E. Thompson acted as the Bride's parents, and came up to our room at 10.15. At 10.25 Mrs. Thompson went downstairs, and that was the signal for the Groom's party to leave. Mrs. Thompson, Ella and I went down the elevator. Our taximan took us down Nanking Rd., the busiest street in the city and we were held up three or four times for three or four minutes each by traffic jams! When we did get to the Cathedral corner, he found he couldn't turn there, and so had to go up and around three blocks - meeting more traffic jams! I think it made us about five minutes late! Just before we got there, Mr. Harry Bailey, an MBI friend of Frank's, had sung, but I'm afraid I can't tell you the name of it. It was to the tune, 'Jesus is the Dearest Name I Know', they say. Ella and Mr. Thompson managed the long aisle walk very nicely - a red carpet had been laid for the occasion. When we all reached out places, the congregation sang 'O Perfect Love'. Then followed the ceremony. Mr Taylor and I, and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson followed the Bishop - I forget to say our General Director, Bishop Houghton, performed the marriage - and the Bride and Groom into the vestry. There were happy congratulations and then we turned to the business of signing the register. We each had to sign two big registers and the certificate, and another paper, a will or something, I think. It was quite a process! During this time, Mr. Bailey sang again, 'I Take, He Undertakes'. He has a lovely bass voice. Mrs. Crapuchettes, one of our missionaries from the States, with a deep contralto, was to have sung, but developed a sore throat, so Mr. Bailey, who had just arrived the previous day from Kunming, stepped into the breach. Mr. Eric Liberty, another CIM-er, played the organ.

On the way to the photographer's, our taxi developed trouble, and in the middle of Shanghai's main business street, we had to change cars! Nobody seemed to take notice of us, however. The photography must have been rather an ordeal for Ella and Frank, for there were several big, hot lights. But it only took 15-20 minutes, and then we were back at the Mission Home. We were very pleased that we had been able to keep to schedule. There is big crowd of our workers in Shanghai just now, mostly waiting to get up-country, and it wasn't easy for the dining room staff to arrange this luncheon, so we did want to help as much as possible by being on time.

We formed a reception line in the living room - Bishop Houghton, Mrs. Houghton, the Best Man, the Bridegroom, the Bride, the Bridesmaid, Mr. Thompson, Mrs. Thompson. All the folks then came up and offered their good wishes to the happy couple, and passed on into the dining room. Then followed lunch. The tables were beautifully decorated, white cloths with green vines, and bouquets of tuberoses and gladioli. Very attractive little place-cards marked the Bride's table, and a second table marked for 'down unders'! - all the folk from Australia and New Zealand. These were the Aments, Baileys, Mathews, Mr. Kennedy, Miss Hunt, Mrs. Best, Miss Bunn, Mrs. Porteous, Miss Williams, Miss Day; the Taylors, Conways, Mr. Muir, and Miss Powell. Another friend had contributed some lovely paper serviettes, white with silver cathedral design in the corner. The menu was: lemonade, cold meats and salad and tomatoes; icecream with jelly; delicious homemade cookies, meringues, etc. It all looked and tasted very nicely. The tables had been rearranged, so that all could easily see the bride's table.

Coffee and cakes were served in the sitting room immediately after. This was really the 'reception'. There was a beautiful two-tier wedding cake, which Ella and Frank cut with appropriate ceremony. Mr. Taylor was Master of Ceremonies, (he had also officiated at the engagement party in Lanchow) and after the cake-cutting called on Mr. Thompson, who spoke on behalf of the bride's parents, and thanked all the friends for their help and kindness in making the day so happy. Frank replied - he said he didn't know what to say, and for a moment seemed really lost for words, and then said just the right thing. He said he had learned today that is was not the quantity of the words that counted, but the quality and he knew he and Ella would prove it in the days to come what each meant by those two words, 'I will'. It was short and to the point. Mr. Taylor followed with a few remarks about the engagement and then about the bridesmaid. Bishop Houghton presented the gift of the friends on the compound - a cheque, with a beautifully printed inscription, done by Marie Barham, another Canadian. (That is my home, too, so you can see it was quite an 'Empire Wedding'.) The reception came to a close with Bishop Houghton's prayer.

The wedding party had been asked to visit the hospital patients on the fifth floor, and then made a trip to the school, to the great delight of the boys and girls. They followed us up and down and around, and gave the bride and groom three cheers. When we came out again, we had to pose for sundry amateur photographers for another twenty minutes, and then it was time to go up and change. Ella wore her own printed crepe dress with the low waistline, white shoes, blue coat, white hat and gloves and blue bag. She looked very, very nice; and so did Frank in his dark 'clerical gray' wedding suit. Mrs. Conway came up to pack Frank's suit in the case they were taking, which was in my room, and she locked it for us. Then they were away, after a cup of tea the Mission House housekeeper had kindly provided, in a jeep driven by Mr. Arthur Kennedy. Someone had been busy in the interval, and when the jeep went off, it was to the rattle of various tin cans and old shoes, revealing the sign, 'Jest Married!' You may be sure Arthur Kennedy and Jack Muir (of New Zealand) had a hand in that! When I came upstairs afterwards, it was to learn that Mrs. Conway had managed to get confetti into the suitcase while being so helpful with Frank's suit! I certainly was caught off guard there! But people who will get married have to expect these things!

I think the story is nearly told. Ella and Frank are to have a week in Hangchow - about four hours by train from Shanghai, and will be staying with a very fine elderly American Baptist couple, I understand. They are both tired after all the excitement, and will enjoy the quiet and rest. You probably know that, afterwards, they expect to fly to Chungking and to go by truck from there to Kansu, before returning to their work in Shensi. Frank is to drive the truck. It won't be an easy journey, but I am sure they will be supported by your prayers.

I have learned that Frank is highly thought of by his friends of 'Chungking days', and we have all learned to love Ella. There was a lovely spirit throughout the whole day of the wedding, and a satisfied feeling when it was all over. It has been a happy day; everybody on the compound has done his and her share to make it so, and I think most of the arrangements went through smoothly. I should have said that your cable and other telegrams were read after the cutting of the wedding cake. We know how much you would all have liked to be there in person.

You will be seeing the photographs and snaps, and I trust they will convey something of the happiness and well-being of your loved ones on their Day of days.

With kindest regards and congratulations, and joining you in prayer for your loved ones as they commence their united service for the Lord in this land.

Yours very sincerely,

Emma Sullivan

(You will notice that the Mathews did not get away after all, but were able to attend the wedding, and help with some of the preparation.)



* 'Daily Light' is a devotional book with morning and evening readings of selected Bible Verse for every day of the year. That day’s reading started like this:

September 10 Morning

I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.

** Your Grandma talked about the 'Go Down' - a cellar you had to 'go down' to, where people left things they couldn’t take with them to the inland, that might be useful to others. Pumps are shoes a kind of light shoe usually of leather & without fastening, worn with evening dress & for dancing. [Oxford Dictionary]

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