Elegant Eras: Decades of Decorations
Planning on a theme wedding that flashes back to another place in time? Look for cool signs of the times that can be used as reception focal points to showcase your theme in unique ways. Thrift stores, antique shops, garage sales, and yard sales are all treasure troves. Turn the search into a treasure hunt that will be fun and stress reducing. If you love to shop, looking for vintage bargains and antique finds may be the highlight of your wedding planning.
Anything that is from the era or decade of your theme may be incorporated into your creative décor. Look for old kitchen items, glassware, vases, kitschy collectibles, purses and handbags, costume jewelry, small furniture, and even clothing accessories such as hats and gloves. You can also incorporate popular posters representing that era. Authentic or reproduction posters are fine, or consider ads, photos of popular movie stars, or even popular album covers.
Two great books that can help you plan a vintage wedding are Vintage Weddings: Simple Ideas for Creating a Romantic Vintage Wedding by Daniela Turudich and Accessorizing the Bride: Vintage Wedding Finery Through the Decades by Norma Shephard. They are extremely useful for researching wedding attire of different decades, but they also include helpful information, popular colors, and customs of the eras.
The Victorian Era
Victorian times were all about romance — hearts, flowers, cupids, lace, cameos — you can use all these lovely things for your vintage Victorian theme. Adorn your tables with lace parasols and fans, use pretty teapots and teacups filled with roses as centerpieces. Victorian valentines are relatively easy to find, with both real and reproductions available online. A great website for helping to plan a Victorian wedding is www.victoriana.com; go to the wedding area for lots of useful Victorian wedding information.
Flappers and female freedom were the theme of the 1920s. It was a new era — people were shedding the tight constrictions of the Victorian era and times were wild. Art deco was a big trend with bold geometric shapes and patterns that were used for everything from art to jewelry to interior design. Because of Prohibition, the gangster subculture full of bootleggers, mobsters, and speakeasies was prominent. Hollywood glamour was also starting to influence modern culture.
Elements you can use for your 1920s reception include old black and white photos of popular stars, ostrich feather fans, art deco posters, beaded glass curtains, long strands of beads, and anything reminiscent of speakeasies — cocktail glasses, martini glasses, old liquor bottles, wooden liquor crates, and long cigarette holders.
During the 1930s, weddings were mostly simple affairs because of the Great Depression. In the early '30s the art deco style was still very popular, but it settled into a softer, more feminine style toward the end of the decade. Hollywood was becoming very influential at a time when most could not even dream of the riches it depicted.
Popular movies of the decade included the original King Kong, Dracula, and Frankenstein along with Wuthering Heights and the all-time favorites Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Movie stars included Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Mae West. For inspiration, you can watch some of the classic comedies like It Happened One Night(which happens to be about a runaway bride), My Man Godfrey, and Bringing Up Baby to see screen legends like Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, and Katharine Hepburn in elegant, satiny gowns.
Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio drew people to the baseball stadiums, while many people stayed glued to the radio for news and entertainment. By 1939, 80 percent of the U.S. population owned radios. Before television, the radio was the number-one source of news and entertainment. Popular things to use for your '30s theme would be movie posters, '30s-style kitchen collectibles and glassware, baseball memorabilia, and old-fashioned radios.
The 1940s brought World War II, and the popularity of the red, white, and blue soared. Patriotic and USO-themed merchandise was everywhere. The government wanted people to support the war efforts. Women were forced into predominantly male roles while the men were off at war. Women worked in factories, played baseball, and kept the United States running smoothly while the men were fighting.
Hollywood glitz and glamour kept everyone dreaming of better times. The '40s also brought televisions into homes, and saw the rise of comic book heroes and the beginnings of beatnik groups. People in the '40s enjoyed swing music and dance while wearing well-tailored clothing, zoot suits, and sexy seamed stockings. Pinup girls were also becoming cultural icons of the era. Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth were popular pinup favorites.
To celebrate the 1940s, you could go with the patriotic theme and decorate with war posters and flags, or go for a more upbeat theme (literally) and have it be all about swing — use musical instruments, music notes, old record players, radios, and vintage records as decorations.
A classic Hollywood favorite, Casablanca, was released in 1942. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman starred as one of the most beloved couples in cinematic history. The specter of war loomed over the cosmopolitan African city.
Rock out your 1950s theme with poodle skirts, sweater sets, saddle shoes, and jukeboxes while drinking malts and eating burgers and fries. The guys could be decked out in bad boy leather jackets, cuffed blue jeans, and plain white T-shirts.
The '50s was the era of the malt shop and sock hops, a time of teenage abandon. Popular stars of the day were Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly.
Have a casual '50s theme by using all the above elements or go for Hollywood glamour or '50s mod. For Hollywood glamour, think of movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany's or anything with Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, or Grace Kelly. For '50s mod, think of the style and interior designs of the era — boxy but sleek furniture, simple designs, refined elegance. Plastic products became very popular in the '50s along with kitchenware made from Melmac. The Barbie doll came out in 1959.
Stuff from the 1950s is pretty easy to find at almost any thrift shop or antique store or on eBay. You can also find cheap reproductions of black and white movie star photos and posters; just make sure to stay green by using things that you'll use again or that can be donated or recycled afterward.
Free love and peace symbols, hippie chicks and love beads. Totally groovy, man. Give a nod to our green forefathers who were ahead of the times in their tree-hugging ways by having a psychedelic '60s wedding.
Flower power and tie-dyed T-shirts, bell-bottoms and long flowing hippie dresses, and the music — oh yeah, the music. There was the British invasion and the unbelievable popularity of the Beatles. Woodstock was the cultural experience of a generation, and years later those who were born too late to experience it in person have seen film footage and wish they could have been there.
Popular television shows of the 1960s included Bewitched, The Addams Family, and I Dream of Jeannie. Be ultra unique and use a popular show of the day to inspire your wedding theme and décor.
Have fun with this theme, play the music, tie-dye the decorations, light some candles, and toss around some love beads. Get groovy with it. You can also go '60s mod; think James Bond. Grab some go-go boots, and slip on a short dress and a pillbox hat.
Thrift stores are full of old clothes and other memorabilia from the '60s, and your parents' closet or attic might even house a few forgotten memories. See what you can come up with for this ultrahip theme.
The beginning of the 1970s were still full of hippie influence, but that soon gave way to disco fever. Outdoor weddings and bright colors were popular in the '70s; of course, so were polyester bell-bottoms. Cool things to incorporate into a '70s-style retro wedding include lava lamps, platform shoes, disco balls, mood rings, beaded curtains, and maybe even eight-track tapes. Use record albums or any significant '70s stuff you may find for centerpieces and more. Serve fondue, or use old fondue pots as centerpieces; you're likely to find a lot of them at yard sales and thrift stores.
Ah, the '80s. Madonna, Prince, Duran Duran, MTV, and the Rubik's Cube. Many couples that are planning a wedding today were probably born in or were young children in the '80s. The '80s can be very nostalgic for some, while others may hate it.
The '80s are full of so much that it's hard to know where to begin. The '80s featured beloved toys such as Holly Hobby, My Little Pony, Care Bears, and Strawberry Shortcake. Movies were a big deal; The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, and St. Elmo's Fire topped the blockbusters.
Pick something and run with it. Choose your favorite '80s movie, book, television show, or music video and use it as your theme. Chances are you may still have many precious things from your childhood laying around at home or at your parents' house that can be used as cool '80s theme-wedding decorations. If you don't have anything, don't worry; '80s retro stuff is literally everywhere.
When you search for cool era decorations, just remember to try to buy actual vintage items instead of reproductions. That way, precious resources and energy are preserved and those old things stay out of the landfills. If you do buy new items, make sure they are items you will use again or donate to charities.