The Island Wedding of the Century!
Leah Sasso and Bill Stevens
The island of St. Thomas was and still is the most romantic location for a wedding.
It was also home to a beautiful, teenage girl, endowed with musical talents, who would meet her future husband in the classroom of her Catholic high school.
Leah attracted considerable attention from her peers as well as the local community as an accomplished pianist.
She learned to play the piano as a child and then perfected her performance under Miss Aimee Estornel.
One of her favorite renditions that she mastered quite young was Rachmaninoff’s Prelude.
In a 1952 school benefit, her technique was described as superb.
The Wedding of the Century
Leah and her classmate, Bill Stevens fell in love and tied the knot in 1955.
It was the wedding of the century and their union was the talk of the town!
Leah was named for a great-grandmother who passed away in 1916 at the age of 76.
The earlier Leah Sasso, who resided near the Harmonic Lodge, was married to Abraham I. Sasso, Leah’s great-grandfather.
Abraham had ties to Panama and Colon and was very involved with the Jewish synagogue on St. Thomas.
Leah or Aunt Lee as I used to call her as a child, kept a beautiful photo album of her first marriage to William Stevens, the father of my classmate and friend in middle school, Mark Stevens.
She described in detail how she met Bill, as well as the details of her beautiful dress and all the special memories one keeps of their wedding.
Inside, are the most amazing photographs and memories of her special day that took place sixty-six years ago.
You may recognize an ancestor among these treasures.
If you do recognize someone, kindly let me know so that I can add their names to the images.
Here are the details of her grand affair that were recorded in Leah’s own hand.
Leah and Bill’s Engagement
On the night of December 24, 1954, our engagement was announced.
It was then that I received my treasured diamond ring.
While I was engrossed in conversation one evening, he quickly slipped the ring on my finger.
My parents and other close relatives were present and congratulated me on the wonderful occasion.
How We Met
My cousin, Joy Sasso (now Brenner) was celebrating her birthday on January 12, 1954, and Bill was among her invited guests.
We had known each other casually a few months prior to this encounter since we were both attending Sts. Peter and Paul’s Catholic school.
Up until this point, he had never exchanged more than a mere glance, so it was a big surprise when towards the end of the evening, he approached me and asked me to dance.
We continued dancing until it was time to leave for home.
That is how it all started, Leah said.
From that night on, we became a constant twosome.
We hired a classmate of ours, Michael Nicolas Echenagucia to take our photographs.
My trousseau consisted of a full-length wedding gown tapered in the back with the sleeves forming a finger-tipped glove.
The veil, which was trimmed in lace to match the grown, flowed until the midsection of my back.
To this veil was attached a crown studded with delicate pearls and gently tinted sequins in green and pink.
The jewelry I wore was a simple-designed rhinestone necklace and matching earring set.
On my right hand, I wore my engagement ring, reserving the left solely for the wedding band that would momentarily be placed on it.
The bouquet, carried on my left arm, consisted mainly of white gardenias and ferns.
The shoes of white satin were three-inch heeled pumps, also simply styled. They made me feel very tall.
My Wedding Dress
My wedding gown was beautiful, made of white, French lace with a fine nylon net and a V-shaped neckline.
Two inches below the neckline, the front fell into scallops following the outlined shape of my neck.
On the back were many little satin buttons that fastened it closed.
The lace continued from the fitted waist and stopped at the hips where a thirty-yard wide maze of netting began.
This made the full-length skirt seem larger than it was.
It was so grand and beautiful that I felt like a princess!
Arriving at the Church
Walking down the Aisle
At the Altar
Sts. Peter and Paul Church
The Wedding Party
Arriving at the Reception
The reception was held at the Grand Hotel.
Toasts were given by my father, Ernest D. Sasso; my uncle, Rabbi, Maurice D. Sasso; my cousin Governor Morris F. De Castro and various well-wishers.
Special toasts were given by Government Secretary, Daniel Ambrose; the Master of Ceremonies, Leon A. Mawson (the author’s grandfather), and the Fire Chief, Omar Brown.
Champagne was then served.
The Jeppesen Band orchestra played the first waltz to which Bill and I danced.
We cut the cake and then I threw the bouquet, which Maria Cancel, one of my bridesmaids caught.
Then, we made a hasty exit and headed for the Flamboyant Hotel.
The Flamboyant Hotel
Our Wedding Day
On the day our wedding, we spent most of the morning receiving gifts, cards, and flowers.
We opened them carefully, duly recording the givers in our book.
Our honeymoon was spent at the Flamboyant Hotel, located on the eastern tip of the island. Frenchman’s Reef now occupies the same location.
We stayed in the honeymoon cottage overlooking the ocean which was heavenly.
Only once during our stay did we venture down to Morning Star Beach.
Most of our days were spent swimming in the hotel’s pool.
We also toured the island in our rented sports car and in the evening, we danced until the wee hours.
We tried to drink a bottle of champagne by ourselves, but weren’t too successful.
The last night was spent at the Virgin Isle Hotel where we watched a floor show and attended a party given for us by my friend, Viola Edwards.
It was such a magical time for both of us, made special by all our family and friends who lavished us with love and warm wishes for a happy life together. 🌺
To see the guest list and those who sent beautiful gifts, visit this link.
You may recognize a name or two! 🔎