Ellen G. White: The Australian Years: 1891-1900 (vol. 4)

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The Ethel May Lacey—W. C. White Wedding

Although the wedding was planned to follow W. C. White's three-month trip to New Zealand, with the two separated so widely there could be little detailed planning. In fact, when W. C. White arrived in Tasmania on April 20, he did not know whether the marriage would take place in Tasmania or on the mainland of Australia. In a letter to his daughter, Ella, he told what took place: 4BIO 194.5

When we found that her father and sisters wished it to be there, at their home, and that Sister Lacey and her daughters all united in wishing us to have the wedding in Glenorchy, we decided to comply with their invitation and so arranged to be married on Thursday afternoon, May 9, 1895.—7 WCW, p. 273. 4BIO 195.1

Ellen White described the wedding in a letter to Edson and Emma: 4BIO 195.2

Last Thursday, Willie and May Lacey were united in marriage. Everything passed off pleasantly. The children seemed very earnest that Mother should pray on the occasion, and I complied with their request. The blessing of the Lord was present. Every movement was conducted with the greatest solemnity. She was married from her father's house....

All, every member of the family, dote on May, and they feel highly honored to take in Willie to their family circle. They all highly esteem Willie. He is 40 years old and May is 21. 4BIO 195.3

There was no sentimentalism in their courtship and marriage. Immediately after their engagement, Willie was called to Auckland, New Zealand, camp meeting, and he spent three months visiting the churches.... 4BIO 195.4

Willie planned for two weeks’ vacation, but did not have any at all. They were married in the afternoon, and Willie had to attend a committee meeting in the evening. Packing was done Wednesday and completed after the wedding.—Letter 120, 1895. 4BIO 195.5

In writing to Ella about the great event, the groom told how the service itself was performed by a Methodist minister, Mr. Palfryman, an old friend of the Lacey family. There was no Seventh-day Adventist minister in that area qualified according to the laws of Tasmania. All went off well. The rooms in the Lacey home were nicely decorated with ferns and flowers. There were ten members of the family present, and eleven friends of the bride who were invited guests. As they were in a British country, they were married with the wedding ring. 4BIO 195.6

This was a point of some concern to the bride before the wedding. She was aware of Ellen White's counsel addressed to American ministers laboring in Australia, written from Melbourne on August 3, 1892, and published in a pamphlet. Ellen White had found a growing feeling among some of the American workers that the wives of Seventh-day Adventist ministers should, in Australia, wear the ring. She said Americans could make their position clear by stating that “the custom is not regarded as obligatory” in their country, and added: 4BIO 196.1

I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on among us, in the conformity to custom and fashion. Not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married. In countries where the custom is imperative, we have no burden to condemn those who have their marriage ring; let them wear it if they can do so conscientiously, but let not our missionaries feel that the wearing of the ring will increase their influence one jot or tittle.—Special Testimonies, Series A 3:6 (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 180, 181). 4BIO 196.2

In May Lacey's heart there was no problem relative to this counsel. She had no desire to wear the ring, and so she hesitated about having the wedding in Tasmania, where she knew her father would be greatly disturbed if she did not wear the ring, especially over the fact that she would be traveling on ships and trains with an American almost twice her age. Before consenting to have the marriage at her home, she talked it over with Ellen White, and then on February 13, 1895, wrote to William: 4BIO 196.3

I have talked with your mother on the matter of a wedding ring and showed her what you said on the subject. She says she has no objection whatever to my wearing one. 4BIO 196.4

To tell you the truth, I had not given that matter very much thought, but I believed that it would be better to have one, as without doubt, in the colonies, if I was to travel with you not wearing the sign that I was your wife, people would be led to imagine all sorts of things, and we should in many instances lose our influence for good that we might otherwise have over the minds of others. I am very glad you look at the matter in the way you do. 4BIO 196.5

I have wondered sometimes what you thought about it. I feel sure that, as you say, God will not be displeased with me for wearing it. [Years later, W. C. White, on Ellen White's request, responded to an inquiry from a Minister's wife in edinburgh, scotland, on the point: “Now regarding the question raised in your letter. The wearing of a gold ring as a matter of ornament is a useless practice, and contrary to the Bible instruction regarding the simplicity of dress and apparel. The wearing of a ring as a token of loyalty in those countries and among those people where such a custom is so thoroughly established that departure from that custom will be universally misunderstood is, in my opinion, quite another matter, and I think that if you should follow the counsel of men and women of experience who have labored in great britain and in india, the Lord will not count it to you as a violation regarding the simplicity of Women's apparel. “Possibly you may be interested in the story of my Wife's experience with the wedding ring. While she was attending Bible school in australia, I became well acquainted with her, and when the time drew near for our marriage, I proposed that it be in tasmania at her Father's home. Regarding this she was not enthusiastic, and upon inquiry, I learned that her father had very decided opinions regarding the duty of the wife to wear the wedding ring, and my wife, knowing that americans looked upon this matter differently than the British People, supposed that I would object.” She did not care for it personally, but I purchased a ring, and we were married with it because her Father's family and all her friends regarded it as essential. After we had been married a few months, and had settled down in our home where we were well known, she laid aside the ring, and when I asked her why she took it off, she said it was in the way when she was washing. I don't know what became of the ring, but she has not worn it since. I think that in this experience it was her desire to follow the instruction of paul when he wrote, ‘whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ “By the wearing of the ring during that portion of our experience where its absence would have been wondered at, and caused unnecessary prejudice, and by laying it aside as soon as that experience was terminated, she has felt that she was doing that which would best serve the cause of our master.”—DF 121, WCW to Mrs. W. E. Ingle, April 14, 1913.]—DF 121. 4BIO 197.1

After the wedding service everyone was ushered into the dining room, where an attractive wedding supper was waiting for them. By six o'clock most of the friends were gone, and the bride and groom changed from their wedding garments. The bride finished packing, and her husband attended a committee meeting. At eight-thirty, with Ellen White, the couple took the train north to Launceston en route home (7 WCW, p. 274). A profitable weekend was spent in Launceston, the traveling workers meeting with the seventeen newly baptized Sabbathkeepers there. With the children, there were about forty at the Sabbath service who listened to Ellen White speak with freedom from the first chapter of Second Peter. She also spoke to the group on Sunday (Letter 59, 1895). 4BIO 197.2

While on the steamer en route to Melbourne she reflected on the work of the past two or three weeks and wrote in a thirteen-page letter to O. A. Olsen: 4BIO 197.3

I am glad I have visited Hobart and Bismark. We are now planning to keep the work alive in Tasmania.... If anything is to result from our work in Tasmania, the people must have patient instruction, line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. What precious light and clear evidences we have concerning the truth for this time!—Ibid. 4BIO 197.4

Good weather attended the traveling group as they left Launceston, but in the open ocean they encountered rough seas, and they arrived at Melbourne two and a half hours late. Ellen White was entertained in the Israel home and the newlyweds at the Faulkhead home. Mail from Granville told of the arrival from America on May 5 of W. C. White's two daughters, Ella, age 13, and Mabel, age 8. The fond grandmother wrote: “Both are pronounced pretty, but Mabel is, they say, very pretty. We have not seen them for three years and a half, so they must have changed greatly. I wish to see them very much.”—Letter 120, 1895. But the reunion with the girls had to wait until committee work in Melbourne was completed, and speaking appointments were quickly made for Ellen White in Melbourne and its suburbs. 4BIO 198.1

On Wednesday, May 29, the committee work was finished, and the little party of Ellen White and W. C. White and his wife were on the train bound for Sydney and home in Granville. What a happy reunion it was that Thursday when, after more than three years, Ella and Mabel could embrace father, grandmother, and their new mother, May Lacey-White! Exclaimed Ellen White a few days later: 4BIO 198.2

You cannot think how pleasant it is to have my family once more reunited. I have not seen more capable, ready, willing, obedient children than Ella May and Mabel.... They seem to have excellent qualities of character. W. C. White is more and better pleased with his May. She is a treasure. Mabel gets off such strange, original remarks. She says, “When I heard Father was to marry one only 21 years old, I thought I should see a little bit of a woman. But I did not expect to see such a tall, large woman. And I just said to myself, ‘Father has picked out just the one I can love and respect.’” Dear little children. May is proud of them.—Letter 124, 1895. 4BIO 198.3