Today in American History…George and Martha Washington were Married on January 6, 1759

Leading up to her marriage to George Washington, Martha Dandridge Custis was a young, wealthy widow residing in New Kent County, Virginia (about 35 miles outside of Williamsburg) with her two small children.

George Washington was a dashing military hero who would make the long visits from his home outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia to visit the charming and accomplished Martha in 1758. Within a few months of their courtship, they decided to plan a future together.

The Courtship of Washington, engraved by John C. McRae, 1860. Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

Martha placed an order from London for beautiful purple slippers and a wedding dress that was to be “grave but not extravagant nor to be mourning.”

Martha Custis Washington’s wedding shoes, worn on her marriage to George Washington on January 6, 1759. Silk, linen, leather, metallic lace and sequins, and wood. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

They were married at her home, White House, in New Kent County, Virginia on January 6, 1759.

In the biography Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty, Helen Bryan wrote:

The wedding was probably a very robust affair. Most social occasions in the tidewater were. Martha would have known what to expect and would have made meticulous preparations in advance to feed and accommodate a houseful of guests who would be cooped up together in the house for an indeterminate number of days. Plantation weddings went on for a long time, and once guests had made the trip over bad, frozen, or snow-covered roads or up the icy Pamunkey River to White House, they would have had no inclination to go home quickly. Advance preparations must have involved making up endless sleeping pallets; preparing bedding; stocking up with firewood, extra soap, and candles; and an orgy of roasting, smoking, and baking; not to mention provisioning with cordials, brewing of beer, and ordering plenty of wine, Madeira, port, rum, brandy, and whiskey. Colonials were a notoriously hard-drinking lot. And in keeping with the custom of the time, Martha probably decorated White House with pine boughs, holly, mistletoe, and ivy.”

Life of George Washington, The Citizen, lithograph by Claude Regnier, after Junius Brutus Stearns, 1854, depicts the marriage of George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis at White House Plantation in New Kent County. Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

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