Tying the Knots at the IMA

A double wedding on a fine June evening nearly a century ago graced the IMA grounds.


omance was in the air on Wednesday, June 2, 1920, at what is now the campus of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Even before the Lilly family moved there, the first nuptials on that property celebrated two marriages. Double weddings were rare even then, but sisters Alice and Margaret Landon exchanged vows with their WWI wartime loves in a joint ceremony at Oldfields.

Hugh McKennan Landon, father of the brides, had moved his family to their new home at 43rd Street and Michigan Road in 1913. Once a tract of farmland, the property became one of the city’s finest estates. Landon collaborated with Scottish landscape architect George M. McDougall on the original layout of the grounds (the landscaping work of the famous Olmsted firm would come later). The chateau-inspired abode was built on the northern part of the acreage on what had been a gravel pit, and a rose garden was created south of the house.

At 6 p.m. on the big day, a fabric-covered pathway stretched from the home into the rose garden. A suspended strand of electric lights lined the lane, with flowers adorning each light post. The popular local Schellschmidt Quintet played Wagner’s “Lohengrin Wedding March” as ushers and then the grooms—David P. Sawyer and John W. Delaplane—descended, followed by pairs of bridesmaids; the brides’ father; and, finally, the veiled ladies, side by side.

Both gowns were satin, though Alice’s dripped with pearl trim on the bodice and cap sleeves. Margaret’s dress and veil were embellished with imported Belgian lace. Each bride carried white orchids, gardenias, and valley lilies bound with narrow satin ribbons.

IMA weddingPassing a small fountain filled with floating peonies, the betrothed gathered beneath a bright white pergola to exchange vows. However visually idyllic the setting, the ceremony was cacophonous. Fellow aviators and friends of Margaret’s fiance, Delaplane, were not invited to the small wedding, so they pranked their pal. The drone of airplanes passing overhead drowned out the devotional pledges—the noise was so loud that the minister had to nod at each person to prompt speech. Perhaps even more distracting: Rice and flowers rained from above, making the antics of wedding crashers today seem tame by comparison.

The newlyweds exited to the sound of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” and on they went to their reception, first dance, and futures together.


Tiffany Benedict Browne runs historic indianapolis.com. She was recently married by her favorite judge in Indy’s most beautiful courtroom.