A Look Back at Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Micro-Wedding and Rowdy Honeymoon

By Cathleen Freedman
Photo: Courtesy of BETTMANN/CORBIS

The term “micro-wedding” might be relatively new to our ears, but there were plenty of historic and public figures who tied the knot in ceremonies we’d now classify as micro-weddings. Arguably the most iconic couple of the Roaring Twenties, Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald married in a shockingly intimate ceremony with fewer than ten guests in attendance. Jay Gatsby would blush at the thought!

The story begins in 1918. A young lieutenant from Minnesota was stationed in Montgomery, Alabama. Clad in a Brooks Brothers-tailored uniform, he spotted the judge’s daughter dancing across the room at a country club party. He approached her. They exchanged addresses and began a letter-based courtship. He would later become one of the most quoted and revered authors of all time, and she would eventually be considered “America’s first flapper.” Together, they’d come to symbolize an entire decade of decadence, glitz, and excess.

The Ring

While most gentlemen get down on one knee, Scott sent Zelda his mother’s engagement ring through the mail. In letters to Scott, she bragged about the stir her Art Deco dazzler caused at the country club. Unfortunately, the original ring is untraceable today.

Interestingly, in addition to being a supermodel, Kate Moss is a Zelda Fitzgerald super-fan. When her fiancé Jamie Hince knew he wanted to propose, he looked for Zelda’s exact ring everywhere and couldn’t track it down. Instead, he discovered sketches of the ring and designed a copy for his Zelda zealot.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Zelda Fitzgerald (@zelda.fitzgerald)

The Engagement

F. Scott and Zelda’s tumultuous marriage began with an equally volatile engagement. Even though Zelda wore her engagement ring on her fourth finger, she continued to see other men. It’s rumored that she called the engagement off after accidentally sending F. Scott a flirty letter…while it’s clearly not a crime to send your fiancé a love note, perhaps you should try addressing it to him. The letter she had sent was addressed to another man.

Even though she was clearly in the wrong, F. Scott took the first train to Montgomery from Manhattan and begged Zelda to take him back. Having reached a detente, they seemed to agree that their relationship would not move forward if he couldn’t provide the lifestyle they both felt they deserved. He quit his job at an advertising agency in New York, moved back home to St. Paul, and penned his first novel This Side of Paradise—as one does when in love.

The moment F. Scott Fitzgerald found out his novel had been purchased, he wrote to his editor, imploring him to speed up the release. “I have so many things dependent on its success—including, of course, a girl.”

This Side of Paradise was promptly published on March 26th, 1920, and Zelda met F. Scott in New York four days later for their wedding.

The Fitzgeralds’ wedding portrait.

The Micro-Wedding

On April 3rd, 1920, Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Only eight of the ten invited guests were present because F. Scott was so eager to start the wedding. He insisted the minister begin before the noon ceremony—and before all of their attendees had even arrived!

Always an iconoclast and never one to stick to tradition, the bride wore a navy midnight blue suit with a hat. She carried a bouquet of orchids and dainty white flowers. As a wedding present, F. Scott used the money from his book publication to present his bride with a gem-set Cartier watch. Loosely-based on Zelda herself, Mia Farrow’s Daisy Buchanan would wear a similar watch in 1970 film The Great Gatsby.

The Biltmore Hotel in NYC.

The Honeymoon

The newlyweds honeymooned at the Biltmore Hotel in New York, racking up noise complaints and wreaking havoc wherever they went. They often summoned room service to bring them midnight snacks like fresh spinach and champagne. One night, Zelda took a dip in the Washington Square fountain fully-clothed. The Biltmore eventually asked the couple to check out early.

F. Scott and Zelda continued their honeymoon at the Commodore, which is now the Grand Hyatt New York. They were ultimately evicted from the hotel due to “rowdy behavior.” Note to newly-weds: Upon your arrival, don’t cartwheel around the lobby or spin in your hotel’s revolving doors for 30 minutes.

Photo: Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

Shortly after their wedding, 23-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald told the press that his only goals in life were “to write the best novel that ever was” and “stay in love with his wife forever.”

F. Scott and Zelda’s romance burned bright, but fast—their relationship will certainly live on in the characters they wrote and the image they built. The Fitzgeralds’ granddaughter compiled their tender letters into a book—Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda. Use it to draw inspiration for your own amorous texts. Just make sure you address them to the right recipient!