Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Hideously Expensive

I'm getting married in nine days. And so I've been thinking a lot about weddings and marriages. Admittedly, most of my time the past few months has been wasted accomplishing the little tasks inherent to a 450-guest wedding. But now and again, I've found myself researching the wider world of weddings. Here's what I've learned:

My all-time favorite marriage certificate comes from this apparently true story: Amidst a thunderstorm, Swift had sought refuge under a large tree. A man and his pregnant fiancee showed up soon thereafter, and Swift (who was, besides being the best satirist ever, a priest) offered to marry them quick before the baby popped out illegitimate. He then wrote them a marriage certificate:
"Under an oak, in stormy weather,
I joined this rogue and whore together;
And none but He who rules the thunder
Can put this rogue and whore asunder."

Long-standing rumor has it that Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw's 45-year marriage to Charlotte Shaw (nee Payne-Townsend) was never consummated.

And finally: Did you know that today in America, the average wedding dress costs more than a space shuttle?

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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