46 Years Ago: John Lennon Marries Yoko Ono
On March 20, 1969, John Winston 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. The two were married 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. The two had originally hoped to get married 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.’
As the lyrics to the autobiographical song “The Ballad of John and Yoko“ state, “Finally made the plane into Paris / Honeymooning down by the Seine / Peter Brown called to say, you can make it okay / You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain.” And that’s exactly what happened. The pair contacted Apple employee Peter Brown, who informed them about Gibraltar. 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 was a British citizen, there was no issue.
“So we were in Paris and we were calling Peter Brown, and said, ‘We want to get married. Where can we go?’,” Lennon said. “And he called back and said, ‘Gibraltar’s the only place.’ And we went there and it was beautiful. 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 took place just one week after the marriage of fellow Beatle McCartney to Linda Eastman.
For their honeymoon, the two staged a “Bed-In” for peace for one week, March 25-31, at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. “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.”
“We are thinking that, instead of going out and fight, and make war or something like that, we should just stay in bed, everybody should just stay in bed,” Ono told a reporter during the “Bed- In” with Lennon, adding, “It’s an example of non violence, and it’s the most functional way John and Yoko could imagine to do it.”
See John Lennon and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’70s
You Think You Know the Beatles?