Family law attorney Lynne Gold-Bikin claims that her drive to collect antique marriage licenses and other wedding memorabilia wasn’t an attempt to communicate a message about marriage – or about divorce, for that matter.
Today, 40 pieces from her collection are proudly displayed in the show “Till Death Do Us Part” housed in Albright College’s Gingrich Library. Pieces that were once hung in the corridor leading to her office at Weber Gallagher in Norristown, PA, now find themselves categorized and the subject of much attention within a permanent home at Albright college.
Her 300-plus piece collection includes the likes of wedding invitations, certificates, prints, and photos, and has left academics swooning as these historical documents communicate volumes about the history of relationships, marriage, and love, all tied to the time period in which they were issued.
The majority of her vintage collection is in black and white, but some pieces are hand-painted in color. Some feature handwritten calligraphy in several different languages – including German, Hebrew, and Polish – while others display portraits of the newlywed couple and their pastor. Gold-Bikin’s alma mater is using these certificates, some of which date back to the 1700s, as tools to educate students about history and society.
“As it turns out, the history and sociology department are so excited that they are incorporating the licenses into their educational program,” says Gold-Bikin. “Sociology students are coming and picking out a particular license, and exploring what they can about that particular couple and what was going on in the community at the time.”
She adds that the history department at Albright College is also using her collection to study the history of marriage, while inviting her to address students in person with lectures.
What she describes as a simple choice for a divorce lawyer to collect, her pursuit of marriage licenses began alongside her late husband’s own desire to collect medical instruments in Adamstown Pennsylvania, close to 30 years ago.
“When I had them hanging in the walls of my office I had one of my clients say, ‘when this case is over I'm taking you to my psychiatrist,’” she laughs.
Despite being in the field of divorce – she is a partner at – today she still believes in love and feels that her collection won't have any influence on a couple considering a divorce.
“I’ve been doing this for close to 41 years, and I have personally been responsible for saving 70 marriages,” she says. “I do believe in forever, I do believe in marriage, but there are certain things you just can't do. There are lots of things that can be done to make marriages last.”
Gold-Bikin points to examples of clients from years past approaching her for her services, but instead being sending them off to a local parish program to work on their communication skills. While instances of cheating, alcohol abuse, and violence doomed marriages regardless of the time period, she insists that the couples who claim to have grown apart can save their marriage.
“We grow apart, we live separate lives, and that's the issue,” she adds. “It’s not the marriage licenses, it’s the counsel. That’s why we are called attorneys and counsellors, we should be seeing what we can do, if anything, to get them back together again.”
As each piece of her collection tells a story to academics and students about the time and place of that marriage, she speaks honestly regarding how marriage has changed. She cites the influence of the online world, the length of marriages today, and how now more women are in the workforce.
“Never before did we throw men and women together working, where it used to be that men went to work with other men, and you weren't really working with a lot of women,” she says. “Today, you are.”
Her focus remains on pushing communication skills – which she insists should have been taught in childhood – to all couples that approach her seeking divorce. While she believes her collection won’t change the minds of a couple seeking divorce, she believes communication is where couples can reconnect.
“Make your spouse the priority,” she says.
The entirety of Gold-Bikin’s vintage marriage memorabilia collection is set to be published online through Albright College.Back To Top