Wedding trends are such a big part of planning a couple’s big day, and every year brings a new crop of things that are “in" and others that are on their way out. To get a better idea of how fashion and trends gain popularity, we decided to take a look back on the hottest wedding trends throughout the decades. The cherry on top is that our friends at BHLDN have gowns to shop for every decade!
Throughout this decade, brides transitioned from Victorian-era gowns to tea-length dresses—and dressed their bridesmaids to match, complete with veils! Yes, the entire wedding party often donned white in a tradition going back to ancient Rome when bridesmaids acted as decoys to keep the couple safe from harmful spirits. In addition, brides often wore corsets made with velvet or silk to give them an hourglass shape, and page boys wearing sailor suits were featured members of the wedding party. Greenery and florals also played a big part in the bride’s look, from large bouquets to working them into the bride’s hair or veil.
The roaring twenties was all about the flapper look, with brides showing off short haircuts and dresses with embroidered lace, dropped waists, and a high scoop. They often topped off their look with layered long pearl necklaces, cloche veils, and bouquets of long-stemmed roses or white calla lilies. This decade also brought the launch of the wedding registry, first introduced by department store Marshall Fields in 1924. And the first fully automatic photographic film developing machine was patented in the latter part of the decade, opening the door to the wedding photography business.
The Great Depression led to a dip in marriage rates until 1933, and once vows returned couples were understandably on a tight budget. With that in mind, brides often wore pre-worn dresses on their wedding day, and grooms donned oversized striped suits with shoulder pads and ties. The all-white wedding cake also became a popular status symbol, while the end of the Prohibition Act brought about the tradition of the open bar at receptions. And Las Vegas became a top wedding destination when a new law made acquiring a marriage license easier due to no blood tests and no waiting periods. The first celebrities to get married in Sin City were Clara Bow and Rex Bell in 1931.
Wartime meant couples continued to be careful with their spending, with dresses still simple and reusable. Brides added red lipstick and pinned curls to add some glamour to their look. With many grooms soon leaving for war, men started wearing wedding bands as a symbol of their commitment. And while wedding cake toppers were around since the Victorian era, Gloria Vanderbilt was the first American bride to feature one on her cake in 1941. The trend, however, didn’t really pick up steam until the 1950s.
Brides took their style inspiration from Grace Kelly’s gorgeous dress featuring a bell-shaped skirt of ivory faille, three attached petticoats, and a long lace train—making for a gown that is still popular with modern-day brides. During the fifties, bridal necklines were sweetheart or high collar, while dress lengths were tea or ballerina. Bible sprays (prayer books decorated with small flowers and carried as bouquets) were also popular.
This decade featured one of the biggest fashion icons of all time: Twiggy! The model brought on the popularity of mini-skirts and shift dresses. Later in the decade, boho and barefoot looks inspired by Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell took center stages, with A-line dresses and the introduction of daisies in the bridal bouquet. This is also the decade that Etta James recorded her version of the song “At Last,” which would become one of the most popular first dance songs to this day.
It’s no surprise that the decade that brought us disco also had couples bringing their wedding day looks to a whole new level. Grooms started wearing slim white suits, while brides took their fashion cues from famous women like Bianca Jagger, who wore a tailored white suit jacket paired with a white skirt and veiled sun hat when she wed rock star Mick in 1971. Weddings were also moving out of churches and the concept of destination weddings also started to take off.
There was one wedding superstar of this decade: Princess Diana. As 750 million people in 74 countries watched her royal wedding to Prince Charles, all eyes were on Diana’s gown, which featured ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown, with a 25-foot train. It is still one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time! And as the American economy boomed, couples went over-the-top with everything, from bigger guest lists, taller cakes, longer veils, and larger flower arrangements, A 1981 episode of “General Hospital” featuring the lighting of a unity candle launched this trend, and with Sony's release of the consumer camcorder, brides and grooms started booking wedding videographers.
After the “bigger is better” mentality of the 1980s, the next decade was all about minimalism, with smaller weddings taking center stage and wedding dresses becoming more sleep and simple with brides like Carolyn Bessette showing that less is more. Vera Wang introduced her first bridal collection, which included the full princess ball gown. And more than two million wedding cakes included Precious Moments wedding toppers.
Couples started to hold their ceremonies in non-religious locations, so brides felt more comfortable wearing strapless gowns—in either straight or sweetheart necklines, with lots of embellishments—to their vows. To complete their princess look, brides often wore tiaras with their veils. Cupcake towers replaced tiered wedding cakes, and Chandler and Monica’s wedding on “Friends” introduced the use of disposable cameras at guest tables.
This was the decade of personalization. With the rise in social media, couples were looking for ways to make their wedding day stand out from the pack. Creative themes, signature drinks, mason jars, and cute wedding signage were all the rage. Wedding cakes once again took center stage, in designs that included naked, watercolor and ombre. Brides allowed their bridesmaids to choose their own dresses, putting an end to the belief that everyone in the wedding party had to match. And marriage equality passed in 2015 in the U.S.
What will the next decade bring in wedding trends? Stay tuned!
Hero photo courtesy of Light as Gold Photography