Brian Epstein was the best man, and George Harrison and Paul McCartney were also in attendance. Absent was John’s aunt Mimi, who disapproved of the union, although Cynthia’s half brother and his wife were there.
As soon as the ceremony began, a pneumatic drill outside the building opposite drowned out all that was said; when the registrar asked for the groom to step forward, Harrison did, which only added to the farce.
At Epstein’s expense, they celebrated afterwards at Reece’s restaurant in Clayton Square, eating a set menu of soup, chicken and trifle. Reece’s was where John’s parents Alf and Julia had celebrated their own wedding in 1938.
The wedding was booked for late in the morning at the Mount Pleasant register office and Brian, who proved himself a true friend and far more than just John’s manager, arranged to pick me up from my bedsit and drive me there.
That morning I got ready on my own. I’d have loved Phyl to be with me, but she was away on holiday. I couldn’t afford a new outfit so I wore my best purple and black checked two-piece suit with a frilly high-necked white blouse that Astrid had given me. I put my hair up in a French pleat, added black shoes, a black bag, a touch of pink lipstick, and I was ready.
Brian arrived, dapper in a pin-striped suit, and escorted me to his chauffeur-driven car. He looked so smart and the glamorous car made me feel special. He was kind to me on the journey, soothing my nerves and telling me I looked lovely.
The weather was awful. It might have been August but the sky was overcast and grey, and it looked as though it would rain at any moment. I prayed it wouldn’t – at least until I’d got into the register office because I didn’t have an umbrella. When we arrived, John, Paul and George were pacing about in the waiting room. They were all alarmingly formal in black suits, white shirts and white ties – the only smart outfits they had. George and Paul had made a big effort to look the part and clearly felt it was their role to support John, who was sitting between them, white-faced. I was touched by the effort they’d made, although their clothes would have been more in keeping with a funeral and so would their expressions: all three were horribly nervous.
When I came in John leapt to his feet to hug and kiss me and tell me I looked beautiful. Someone made a crack about the boys’ suits, which broke the ice – we all started to giggle. My brother Tony and his wife Marjorie arrived next, hurrying in at the last minute because they’d had to come in their lunch hour. Tony was there to represent our family and he played the big brother to perfection, putting an arm around me protectively. I know John would have loved someone to be there from his family, but Mimi had put paid to that.
Moments later we were ushered into the register office, where the registrar, a dour, solemn man, was waiting for us. As John and I stood in front of him, preparing for our vows, the whole thing took a ludicrously comical turn. A workman in the backyard of the building opposite started up a pneumatic drill and we stared at each other in disbelief. The noise was ear-splitting. Clearly the man wasn’t going to stop so we had no choice but to carry on.
There was another comic moment when the registrar asked the groom to step forward and George did so. But the registrar saw nothing funny in either the drilling or George’s joke, so we all struggled to keep our faces straight. John and I leant forward, straining to hear the registrar and shouting our responses. Paul, Tony and Marjorie signed the register as our witnesses, and a couple of minutes later we were outside the room. We all burst out laughing, overwhelmed by relief that it was over.
Tony and Marjorie hugged us, then went back to work. The rest of us looked at each other. What next? Brian suggested we go to nearby Reece’s cafe for lunch.
Outside, the rain was bucketing down. We ran along the street, laughing at the madness of it all, and burst into Reece’s, where we had to queue for the set lunch of soup, chicken and trifle. Reece’s had no licence so, when we finally got a table, we toasted ourselves with water. But we didn’t care: we were on a high. A full church wedding with all the extras couldn’t have made me happier. And despite the anxiety I knew he had felt, John wore a look of pride and pleasure that touched me. It was as though something had changed in him: he was a married man now, soon to be a father, and he liked it.
On their wedding night John played a show with The Beatles at the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester.
John and Cynthia met in 1957 while both were students at Liverpool Art College, and began a relationship the following year.
In mid-1962 she discovered she was pregnant – the pair had never used contraception. John’s reaction when she told him was: “There’s only one thing for it Cyn – we’ll have to get married”.
Brian Epstein thought fans of The Beatles might feel alienated to know one of them was married, and so the Lennons kept the wedding a secret.
Epstein allowed John and Cynthia to live at his flat at 36 Falkner Street free of charge, where they stayed until the birth of Julian Lennon in April 1963. Thereafter they effectively moved into Mendips with John’s aunt Mimi, although by that time John was spending much of his time in London with the band.
Also on this day...
- 2018: John Lennon’s Imagine to be reissued as super deluxe box set
- 1974: John Lennon: ‘On the 23rd Aug. 1974 at 9 o’clock I saw a UFO’
- 1968: Recording, mixing: Back In The USSR
- 1967: Recording: Your Mother Should Know
- 1966: Live: Shea Stadium, New York
- 1965: Day off in Los Angeles
- 1964: Live: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles
- 1964: Interview: John Lennon and Ringo Starr in Los Angeles
- 1963: Live: Gaumont Cinema, Bournemouth
- 1963: UK single release: She Loves You
- 1962: Live: Riverpark Ballroom, Chester
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1960: Live: Indra Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.