WA History

Married by Hoyts

Determined to help during the depression, ‘The Daily News’ established The Golden Apple Appeal as a way to raise money for single unemployed women, children of the unemployed, and orphanages. The Appeal involved selling apples (provided by Western Australian growers) in Perth. Each apple was wrapped in paper and cost one shilling. The paper had a number printed on it, which the buyer kept until the officials conducted a raffle. There were two prizes, and the people with the winning numbers could win either £50 or £100.

A stand during the Golden Apple Appeal.

The Appeal was popular, and interest only grew when Hoyts Theatres Ltd agreed to help. On the 18th and 19th July 1931, apple sales exceeded expectations, and funds raised totalled over £2,000. For the following weekend, the publicity manager of Hoyts, Bert Snelling, came up with a novel idea to generate further interest: an open-air wedding.

The ceremony was to take place at 1 pm at the railway reserve in front of the Perth Train Station. Couples eager to get married and interested in being publicly married were encouraged to visit Hoyts Theatres to put their names down. Hoyts was to fund the entire wedding and provide everything associated with it. They would receive a travelling case, bridal shoes, bridal gown, suit, wedding ring, wedding cake, bouquets, and photographs. On top of that, there was a cheque for £25 and a year’s pass to Hoyts Theatres. Temple Court Cabaret would host the wedding breakfast, and the newlyweds would also receive an aerial honeymoon trip provided by W.A. Airways and a week’s stay at Rottnest Island.

Dozens of couples applied to be married publicly. One couple was so eager that they contacted Bert at 1 am, while another waited outside his office at 9 am. In the end, they selected Mary (May) Whiteman and Stephen Styles. In case there was doubt relating to the authenticity of the stunt, ‘The Daily News’ printed a copy of their special license for marriage in the newspaper.

May Whiteman and Stephen Styles

Poor weather on Friday, 24 July 1931, affected the final wedding plans. Organisers cancelled the open-air wedding. Instead, the Regent Theatre threw open their doors and made their premises available to the couple. Between 11 am and 1 pm, an estimated 4,000 people travelled to the theatre to see the bride and groom. It quickly reached its capacity of 2,500 people, and the doors closed at 12:45 pm. The remainder gathered outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wedding party’s arrival. For those who could not make it, radio station 6ML broadcasted the ceremony.

Inside the crowded Regent Theatre. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call number: 101599PD).

Before it got underway, Reverend Saunders stressed to the audience that despite the unusual circumstances, he was still conducting the ceremony with “reverence and decorum.” He would not tolerate flippancy. He requested silence from those present. The audience obeyed.

As James Miller played the wedding march on a Wurlitzer organ, May walked down the aisle of the theatre to the decorated stage. She wore a white satin dress completed with a bolero lace jacket and a train three yards long. A reporter described her as the “cynosure of all eyes…” Her bridesmaids, Ruby and Evelyn Whiteman, were dressed in apple-green frocks and wore cartwheel hats.

The wedding party: Stephen and May Styles and Ruby and Evelyn Whiteman.

The ceremony ended, the photographer snapped photos, and the bride and groom exited the theatre amidst cheers and clapping from the large crowd outside. Hopping into a car, a driver whisked them away to Temple Court Cabaret for the wedding breakfast. Greeting them inside was a “colourful scene.” A prettily decorated table was in pride of place in the middle of the floor. Seated and watching from the gallery were members of the public. Raffle tickets were on offer and gave those in attendance the chance to win the top layer of the wedding cake, with the proceeds going to the Golden Apple Appeal. Throughout the breakfast, the Temple Court Cabaret orchestra provided the music.

And so perfect were the arrangements made by Hoyts Theatres Ltd., who organised the function as a Golden Apple Appeal attraction, that from first to last proceedings ran as smoothly as could be desired by the most exacting.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 25 July 1931; Page 10; Happy Newlyweds
The wedding breakfast at Temple Court Cabaret.

On the following day, Stephen and May went on a shopping tour in Perth to express thanks for their gifts. Organisers carefully coordinated everything. For the public who wanted to see them in person, ‘The Daily News’ printed a schedule of all the businesses they would visit and the approximate time of their arrival. They spent the entire day travelling around Perth. In the afternoon, they appeared on stage at the Capitol Theatre. Officials presented them with gifts, including a cheque for £25 and a year’s pass for Hoyts.

It was an exhausting, overwhelming couple of days for Stephen and May. When questioned by a journalist, May did most of the talking. She stated, “Everything has passed off splendidly. The ceremony gave complete satisfaction, and we cannot thank too much the celebrant, the Rev. B. Saunders. The marriage was attended with all possible reverence.” On top of the couple’s pleasure, the decision to hold a public wedding resulted in increased funds for the Golden Apple Appeal. All in all, it was a complete success. The couple, and their wedding, were essentially goldfish in a bowl for an enthusiastic public. Despite that, even when asked if they regretted their decision, May declared, “We have no regrets whatever.



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