Today in Disney history, we’re celebrating the wedding anniversary of Walt and Lillian Disney, who were married on July 13th, 1925.
Despite a personal vow that he wouldn’t marry until he was at least 25 years old and had $10,000 in the bank, Walt Disney married Lillian Bounds, his secretary, on this date. Though their wedding was somewhat small and took place at Lillian’s brother’s home, they hosted a big anniversary celebration 30 years later in 1955 at Disneyland – right before the park’s opening!
The Beginnings of Walt and Lillian Disney
Lillian Bounds was born in Spalding, Idaho, an area where she remained with her family until she attended college in Lewiston. After finishing her business coursework, she moved west to live with her sister Hazel in Los Angeles. By 1924, the Walt Disney Studio was beginning work on the Alice Comedies series, and Bounds had been personally interviewed by Walt and hired as an ink and paint artist.
According to legends, Walt gave the ink and paint girls rode home on nights when they worked late to finish up projects, and in the early days of his relationship with Lillian, he was known to drop her off last despite her house being closest to the studio. Lillian later became Walt’s personal secretary, and a year and a half after their initial meeting, the two were married.
The Disneys’ Wedding
Biographers of Walt Disney have commonly shared his personal vow to himself that he would not marry until he was at least 25 years old and had $10,000 in his savings. With his relationship with Lillian, however, he quickly came to the realization that he could not wait for either stipulation.
The couple returned to Idaho for their small wedding ceremony in July 1925, where they were joined primarily by Lillian’s family at her brother’s home in Lewiston. The ceremony was officiated by the rector of the town’s Episcopal Church of the Nativity, with Lillian’s uncle, chief of the Lewiston Fire Department, walking her down the aisle as her father was sadly already deceased. The affair was rather lowkey, with most of the Disney family not in attendance due to budget constraints in traveling to Idaho. Lillian even made her own dress for the occasion.
Walt was often known to celebrate his anniversary with flowers for his wife, but the couple’s anniversary festivities continued to expand as their children grew toward adulthood. Walt and Lillian had two daughters, Diane and Sharon, who first planned an extra special gift for the couple’s 25th anniversary.
In 1950, Diane and Sharon picked out silver and crystal gifts for their parents to celebrate their 25th anniversary. For Walt and Lillian’s 35th anniversary, the girls and their husbands hosted an anniversary dinner in Scandia’s wine cellar, a notable restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Also in attendance for the celebration were some of Walt and Lillian’s closest friends.
Walt and Disney Celebrating Their 30th Anniversary at Disneyland Resort
As for Walt and Lillian sharing their special day with others, they threw their own anniversary party before the official opening of Disneyland in 1955. Three-hundred invited guests were able to join the couple inside the soon-to-be-open theme park, where they embarked on Mark Twain’s maiden voyage and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe.
On the invitation for the event, the couple wrote, “Hope you can make it—we especially want you and, by the way, no gifts, please—we have everything, including a grandson!” The grandson mentioned here was Chris Miller, born to Diane Disney and her husband Ron Miller in December 1954. The Disneys went on to have four more grandchildren, who, along with their parents, continued to join in anniversary celebrations year after year.
During the event itself, guests enjoyed mint juleps on the Mark Twain, and surrey rides down Main Street, U.S.A. Many of the guests were also simply in awe of the theme park as Disneyland had not yet opened to the public, so nearly everyone at the event was seeing it for the first time. Along with the cast of the Golden Horseshoe Revue, entertainment included the original Slue Foot Sue, Judy Marsh, Wally Boag, Donald Novis, and Walt Disney himself.
In addition to the memories made with family and friends, and of course with Lillian, this anniversary, in particular, gave Walt the much-needed chance to let loose and relax before the opening of Disneyland just a few days later.