Love in the Time of War

This month, Virginia McIlhenny [Mrs. Edmund] has graciously shared her
wedding with us! Of course this is a major change for “Tying the Knot” and we are
so honored and grateful to her for giving us a glimpse into her wedding day.

Virginia Anne Smart and Lieutenant Edmund McIlhenny met at a dance during their college days at Newcomb and Tulane colleges. Virginia was a Kappa Kappa Gamma and Edmund, a member of the Kappa Alpha Fraternity; dances were held every weekend for the college set. It was World War II, and Edmund was completing pilot training in California, where he became a Second Lieutenant. Virginia and Edmund talked of marriage – completing the formalities when Virginia was asked to visit him in California by train. Of course, her mother and father accompanied her as chaperones. Edmund had Adler’s send three engagement rings for her to choose from before he asked for her hand in marriage. She said yes and the wedding was planned for January 8, 1944.

The wedding day was beautifully orchestrated – the evening ceremony was held at St. Georges Episcopal Church on St. Charles Avenue with altars and pews decorated with fabulous white flowers and palms. The evening hit an unfortunate snag when Edmund, who was to have arrived from California by train that day, instead was caught in a terrible blizzard in Texas. The word spread quickly that the wedding had to be postponed until Monday, January 10 – someone was even stationed at the church to alert unaware guests of the change! Everyone got the message and the wedding took place on Monday evening.

Virginia wore a stunning slipper satin dress made especially for her by Mrs. Doty (the seamstress of the day), as well as an heirloom seed pearl necklace that had been in her mother’s family for generations. In fact, Virginia’s granddaughter Avery Gardner wore it this past June. Virginia’s dress was accented with a bouquet of fragrant gardenias and stephanotis. The ladies in the bridal party wore faille taffeta dresses in blush and aquamarine and carried fully opened bright red tulips. Edmund’s close friends were all at wall and couldn’t attend, so the older generation filled in as ushers, with his father serving as best man.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds greeted friends and family at home on Hurst
Street at an informal reception. Of course the flowers and the cake were just fine and the celebration was perfect! Because of the war, their honeymoon was only one day and as close as “across the lake”; afterwards, Edmund went back to active duty in New Mexico and Virginia traveled with him.

Edmund and Virginia McIlhenny were married to each other for almost 50 years –though Edmund McIlhenny has passed away, Virginia is a lifelong New Orleanian
who continues to love this city. a

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