50 Years Ago: John Lennon Marries Yoko Ono
On March 20, 1969, John Lennon married Yoko Ono. The two met in November 1966 as she was preparing to open an art exhibit called Unfinished Paintings and Objects, which was held at the Indica Gallery, located in the basement of the Indica Bookshop in London. (Coincidentally, one of the shop's earliest supporters was Paul McCartney.)
At the time, Lennon was still married to his first wife, Cynthia. Thy were wed in August 1962 and had one child together, Julian. After years of putting up with her husband's infidelity, Cynthia filed for divorce in August 1968. In the meantime, John and Yoko had already become a couple and, once the divorce was final that November, plans were made to be married. They had hoped to to hold their nuptials in Paris, or more specifically, on the way to Paris.
"We wanted to get married on a cross-channel ferry – that was the romantic part," Lennon said in the Beatles' Anthology documentary. "We went to Southampton and then we couldn't get on because she wasn't English, and she couldn't get the day visa to go across. They said, 'Anyway, you can't get married. The Captain's not allowed to do it any more.'"
Lennon later crafted an autobiographical Beatles song titled "The Ballad of John and Yoko" that laid out the rest of their journey: "Finally made the plane into Paris, honeymooning down by the Seine. [Apple assistant] Peter Brown called to say, you can make it okay; you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain." The couple arrived at the British Consulate Office there, and they were married in a 10-minute ceremony performed by registrar Cecil Wheeler. Since Gibraltar was a British colony, and Lennon a British citizen, there was no issue.
"We went there and it was beautiful," Lennon said. "It's the 'Pillar of Hercules,' and also symbolically they called it the 'End of the World' at one period. They thought the world outside was a mystery from there, so it was like the Gateway to the World. So, we liked it in the symbolic sense, and the rock foundation of our relationship."
Their wedding, which took place just one week after that of fellow Beatle McCartney to Linda Eastman, would be followed by a honeymoon which wasn't be anywhere near as low key. Instead, Lennon and Ono staged a raucous "Bed-In" for peace for the week of March 25-31 at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, surrounded by the press and various hangers on.
“We decided that if we were going to do anything like get married that we would dedicate it to peace," Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1971. "And during that period, because we are what we are, it evolved that somehow we ended up being responsible to produce peace.”