There are some couples whose names are so synonymous with each other that it is hard to imagine them apart. Romeo and Juliet; Marge and Homer; John and Yoko.
Yoko Ono was second wife to John Lennon after his earlier marriage to Cynthia. As an artist, peace activist, musician and poet, she certainly is an incredibly creative woman. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were one of the most infamous couples around. They were constantly in the media and limelight for their efforts to spread peace and end wars.
Her unusual dress, and the heavily broadcast honeymoon, is going to be the focus of this article as we look back at the wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
At first sight
John Lennon later described Yoko as “the world’s most famous unknown artist. Everyone knows her name, but no one knows what she actually does.” She was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1933 to a classical pianist and a wealthy banker. She played piano from the age of four and had a great education. However, war struck and soon Yoko and her family had to beg to eat.
After the end of World War II, she enrolled in college and was first introduced to the bohemian lifestyle that would soon shape the rest of her life. She married a pianist, then a film producer. She had separated from her second husband, although wasn’t yet divorced, when she met John Lennon.
While she finished setting up a conceptual art exhibition in London, Lennon came to look around. He was expecting everything to have an “anti” undertone which he saw a lot in conceptual work. However, upon exploring the piece Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting he was happy to see the word “yes” on the ceiling. The two kept in contact but did not yet start a relationship.
John divorced wife Cynthia and became engaged to Yoko in 1968. He even made reference to the translation of her name, “ocean child” in the song “Julia”. John was besotted with Yoko. She was a strong, determined and liberated woman and they never spent much time apart from each other. Yoko even came along to The Beatles’ recording sessions which clearly angered other members.
John intended for them to wed in Paris or on the cross-channel ferry. However, this was difficult because of their nationalities. Instead, someone suggested they try Gibraltar instead, a British Overseas Territory.
They took a private plane and swore everyone involved to secrecy. They married in a small ceremony on 20th March 1969, just eight days after Paul McCartney married first wife Linda. The ceremony itself was very low key, lasting only ten minutes at the British Consulate Office.
Always sporting a very distinct look, Yoko was never a person to be conventional or play by the rule book. Her chosen wedding outfit for the special day was iconic in its sidestep from convention. Yoko went for a casual, laid back look to reflect their modest wedding ceremony.
While many celebrity weddings feature big gowns from renowned designers, Yoko did no such thing. She did quite the opposite, in fact! She sported a white crepe mini-dress with elbow-length sleeves and a ruffled skirt. Meanwhile, she wore oversized, dark sunglasses and a large, floppy felt sunhat. Finally, on her feet, she wore knee length socks and white tennis shoes!
She left her dark hair down and overall epitomised the late 1960s hippie bride. Although the press were not aware of the wedding, the couple hired a private photographer, David Nutter, to take shots of them on the beach and in the consulate office.
This easy, waste-free vibe was also worn by her husband. John wore all white with a suit and turtleneck and, of course, his signature glasses. The two, perfectly coordinated, looked ready for their photoshoot.
Subsequently, the happy couple flew straight from Gibraltar to Paris after the ceremony. On 25th March, they drove to Amsterdam and booked in at the Hilton presidential suite. Here, they staged a seven-day bed-in advocating for world peace, reminiscent of sit-in protests. This was during the time of the Vietnam War, which the pair objected against.
Using the publicity from their recent marriage, they opened their door from nine in the morning until nine at night to the world’s press. On the windows above them, they stuck signs which said “hair peace” and “bed peace”. They wore pyjamas and promoted world peace. They recorded interviews they had and later mixed it into a sound collage, “Amsterdam”, which became the B side to their LP Wedding Album.
Afterwards, they hosted a second bed-in in Montreal in May. They invited countless activists and celebrities and recorded the song “Give Peace a Chance” here.
In 1969, Lennon crashed his car in the Scottish Highlands. Yoko injured her back and so John insisted that a king-sized bed be brought into the recording studio. While The Beatles recorded the album Abbey Road, Yoko reportedly gave feedback. This is the origin of the alleged reason of how she broke up the band.
Of course, like any story, we are sure the tabloid press had more than a little to do with this version of events. Because of her nationality, and John’s status, the British press did not favour her. As it turns out, John had already planned to leave the band.
The couple spent a decade together (and apart) performing and writing. Their son, Sean, was born in 1975 and John immediately became a doting father. Meanwhile, Yoko continued to produce work.
Since John’s death, she has started many charitable causes and unveiled multiple memorials, including Strawberry Fields in Central Park. More recently, Secretly Canadian and Chimera Music have rereleased the Wedding Album in its original state. This includes their favourite wedding photograph on the sleeve, a copy of the marriage certificate, and an image of a slice of wedding cake.
Finally, what is your favourite collaboration between Yoko and John, and what do you think of the dress? Let us know by commenting below!