Here Come the Brides is an exhibition of wedding attire, spanning 150 years of nuptial wear, on show at the Whanganui Regional Museum's Samuel Drew Gallery.

Collection manager Trish Nugent-Lyne has collated stories and photographs to display with the garments.

"I've had a blast," she said.

"Some of the backgrounds were difficult to trace but it was very satisfying when I found what I was looking for."


Rather than arrange the displays in a straight timeline, Nugent-Lyne has categorised them in settings.

The settings range from weddings held on marae, at home, in a registry office, in a church, outdoors and abroad.

The exhibition includes 21 bride dresses and groom outfits, ranging from a striped gown dating from 1861 to a pair of co-ordinated ivory and black satin dresses worn by a same-sex couple who married in 2013.

There is a beautifully woven contemporary two-piece outfit made from flax, a short 1920s dress and headpiece worn by photographer Frank Denton's daughter and a sari worn by Parita Bose at her 2015 wedding in India.

A tiny, blue dress worn by Annie Blennerhassett when she married in 1873 looks as good as new.

Nugent-Lyne said that is largely thanks to the efforts of Wellington conservator Sam Gatley.

"She worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and is really good at these kinds of displays."

Some garments are from the museum collection but a number of them have been loaned for the exhibition.


"The registry office category was a challenge - people who have chosen to marry in an office tend not to keep their wedding outfits it seems."

Dresses worn by brides in far-off locations feature in the Here Come the Brides exhibition at Whanganui Regional Museum. Photo / Liz Wylie
Dresses worn by brides in far-off locations feature in the Here Come the Brides exhibition at Whanganui Regional Museum. Photo / Liz Wylie

There are surprisingly few white dresses in the show and Nugent-Lyne said they have not always been fashionable.

"People tended to wear their best clothes to get married.

"Although white wedding dresses had been worn since the 1400s, they became fashionable during the Victorian era when people saw the royal family wearing them."

There is a black Victorian dress worn by a bride who was in mourning and a taffeta wedding gown worn by Olivia Costa when she married Scottish-born soldier William Wallace in Gibraltar in 1861.

"The dress was in the museum collection and discovering its history has been fascinating.

"Olivia was from Gibraltar which is why they married there."

Here Come the Brides is the second exhibition to be held in the Samuel Drew Gallery which opened along with the refurbished museum in March this year.

The exhibition is a representation of how the wedding ceremony and society have changed over 15 decades.

Nugent-Lyne will give a talk, Nice Day for a Wedding, about the dresses in the museum collection at the Davis Theatre in Watt St on Thursday at 5.30pm.

The exhibition will run for six months and the museum will be open every day (except for Christmas Day and Good Friday). Entry is free.