Many modern weddings take their cues from bygone eras: many couples opt to travel to their venue in classic cars from the 1930s. Other popular features date back further still: the tradition for groomsmen to wear tailcoats or suits dates all the way back to mid-18th-century England, while the practice of having bridesmaids originated in Ancient Rome.
While mixing and matching different eras is one option, holding a historical-themed wedding provides the opportunity to go all-out and create a themed event that feels like a trip back in time. Popular eras for weddings tend to include the 1920s through to the 1960s, but in some cases, inspiration can come from earlier (or later) decades.
Some Considerations for Your History-Themed Wedding
A vintage ring is not only a beautiful gift to receive; if your wedding has a historic theme it can also act as a lovely reminder of the big day. Across the decades, styles of wedding bands range from Art Deco engagement rings inspired by the 1920s and 1930s, all the way through to the brightly-colored gemstones made popular by Princess Diana in the 1980s.
Dressing the Part
It’s common practice to add a dress code to your wedding invitations, but slightly less conventional to request that everyone dresses in the style of a particular period! To avoid any confusion, make sure you add details of the dress code to both the invitation and the wedding website with a link to a Pinterest board offering a general idea of the look guests should aim for.
Consider your Budget
A regency wedding in a historic manor is a beautiful concept and looks fabulous if this is within your range, but bear in mind that appropriate outfits for guests may be a little more difficult to source, whereas choosing a more recent era such as the 1950s can be easier to achieve, in that it’s relatively easier (and cheaper) to thrift, rent or even borrow clothes from this era.
Food and Drink
Menu options are another great way to give your guests a flavor of the decade you are basing the wedding on (be sure to also mention this on the invitation and website too, so that guests can choose their food in advance). To give an example, a roaring 20s-style bash might include a Great Gatsby-inspired menu with elegant party food and cocktails (or mocktails) galore.
Similarly, some styles of weddings might call for a historic venue to create a more authentic feel. As American architecture dates back to the 17th Century, finding a medieval castle in which to wed isn’t possible unless you are planning a destination wedding to Europe. You can find a number of gorgeous fairytale venues dotted around the country, like historic Searles Castle, New Hampshire.
While there’s always the option of hiring a DJ or a band to play music at your wedding, choosing something more in keeping with the theme of your wedding adds a fun twist. Look for musicians specializing in playing the music of your chosen era. You may even find that some can play popular hits in this style: for example, if you are planning a medieval wedding, consider hiring a folk band to play your favorite songs minstrel-style.
If you want your bridal transport options to tie in with the theme of your wedding, consider how you’ll be traveling to the venue. For 1920s and 1930s weddings, a chauffeured vintage car is a great way to turn up in style. If you have opted for a pre-automotive era (such as the Regency period), arriving in a suitably elegant horse and carriage could be the way to go.
Deciding Which Era to Choose From
You may have your heart set on a specific historical look for your wedding, or alternatively, it could be that you’re still undecided on which time period to choose from. Here’s a brief guide to some of the most popular historic wedding themes to help you decide.
A castle (or forest) venue, a jewel-colored palette, and a banquet fit for royalty create a feast for the senses that all the guests will enjoy. Medieval weddings run the gamut from rustic to regal, so there are a number of different routes you can take with this theme, but floral arrangements (having stemmed from the Middle Ages) are ideal for this theme, especially archways covered in beautiful blooms.
For this romantic theme, choose a venue with classic architecture, a historic mansion is ideal. The Regency period was a time of opulence and beauty; to recreate a similar romantic look, opt for a pastel color palette and delicate floral arrangements. For dress, empire line gowns and traditional wingtip collars worn with brightly-colored waistcoats and top hats are a must.
Classic Love Story
Since many wedding traditions date back to Ancient Rome and Greece, why not pay homage to this era with a wedding inspired by Classical Antiquity? Marble, bronze, and gold accents alongside lush foliage (be sure to include a few trailing vines) help to set the scene. For clothing, long-length dresses and tunics are ideal – avoid full legionary garb however: it’s both expensive and very difficult to dance in!
The Gilded Age
Take inspiration from Edwardian-era shows and movies like Titanic and Downton Abbey to create a wedding inspired by the 1900s. Elegant suit dresses, magnificent hats, and decadent multi-course meals can all help to set the tone for a suitably romantic Edwardian wedding. For venues, consider a historic mansion, or instead of walking the aisle, consider tying the knot in a botanical garden.
Rock n’ Roll Romance
Travel back to the 1950s with a fun retro-inspired wedding. As music is an essential element to this style of wedding, consider hiring a jukebox with all the hits of the decade that guests can choose from and decorate the venue with plenty of memorabilia: vintage photographs and curios (like vintage cameras). For clothing, think full-skirted A-line gowns and smartly tailored suits with slicked-back hair.
Back to the 80s
While this decade has a reputation for being somewhat less refined than others, an eighties-themed wedding is sure to be plenty of fun. With this look, there’s also plenty of scope depending on your preference of style: you could opt for a palette of bright neons, sophisticated black and metallics, or even “pretty in pink” pastels. 1980s wedding attire was defined by puff sleeves, bold statement jewelry, and suits worn with bow ties and suspenders; the bolder the better.