Have a Romantic 1940s-Style Wedding
Is it saying “I do” at a 1940’s airport hangar decked with WWII aircraft and swaying memorabilia, patriotic banners and swags fluttering in the breeze? Or do you see yourself following in soldiers’ footsteps aboard a historic WWII battleship? Or kicking up your heels to the strains of big band at the VFW?
Or picture this. You’ve posted antique-white invites to your event held at a Hamptons or bed-and-breakfast setting. The men are lounging in white or tan seersucker jackets. An antique silver pen snuggles up to a leather-bound journal inscribed with “Our Story,” waiting for signatures.
The truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of these. So, limit your vintage crush to just a few touches, or make the leap with a full-out period theme. Either way, it’s simply timeless.
More: Our Favorite Vintage Wedding Cakes | Unique, Edgy Wedding Updos | Find Nautical Themed Favors
L. side photo by dlisbona
The Style: Simplicity
Being wartime, the 1940s was marked by rationed resources. Deployed soldiers needed food and supplies, which meant domestic extravagance ranged from “faux pas” to “forget it.” So, many a bride sought simplicity.
In fact, many brides planned their weddings in the brief window before her groom left for duty … sometimes in the space of a few days! As a result, most affairs were understated. Unfussy home weddings became the rage, being easy to plan and finance (perfect for today’s casual style!).
With fabric in short supply, a simple, reusable dress or two-piece tailored suit replaced the extravagant, wear-once wedding gown. Peep-toe heels and bold lips completed the look. Of course, 1940’s women considered gloves a fashion staple, which ranged from wrist-length “shorties” (informal) to elbow/opera length (dressy). The motto of the day: the shorter the sleeve, the longer the glove.
Occasionally, an affluent bride would don a flowing confection with a sweetheart neckline. Choosing from an array of coiffed, rolled, or long-waved hairstyles, she’d tuck traditional stephanotis or waxed blossoms into her perfectly-styled mane, waiting to spy her handsome groom in uniform.
It wouldn’t be until the post-war period that abundant fabrics and haute bridal fashion would return, along with men in double-breasted jackets (in pinstripes or the traditional black).
Getting Your 1940’s On
Are you a bride who hearts that 1940’s bridal style? If you’re the petite type, scour the web for vintage attire, and browse local thrift shops (vintage threads tend to run small). Or, if you know someone skilled at dressmaking, design your own custom look: a one-of-a-kind gown and a 1940’s theme bride make an unbeatable pair. If you want to keep it subtle, consider adding today’s retro-tinged birdcage veil or even a period hat in place of the more typical elbow or cathedral-length veils.
As for color, tradition eventually painted most weddings with shades of white and ivory, but in the 1940’s, brights stepped forward. Rich, vibrant shades mixed it up with bridal pastels. Many of today’s bolder weddings are actually taking their cue from the past.
Vintage wedding florals were often easily-sourced blooms like carnations, chrysanthemums and calla lilies. Simple ribbons puddling to the floor served as aisle decor. Bouquet styles ranged from dainty nosegays — old-fashioned blooms clipped from the garden — to the more luxurious, oversized cascade style.
And of course, something old, new, borrowed, and blue, with a sixpence in her shoe was an honored tradition — one going just as strong today, whether it’s tucking a heirloom brooch or a cherished pendant into your bouquet.
More: Our Favorite Vintage Wedding Cakes | Unique, Edgy Wedding Updos | Find Nautical Themed Favors
A Reception that Packs a Punch
Your parents and grandparents’ albums tell the story: a 1940’s wedding reception was usually far simpler than today’s passed hors d’oeuvres and plated meals. Most brides and grooms celebrated with cake and punch.
Interestingly enough, this “retro” reception is making a comeback as brides look to simplify, but stay elegant. Happily, the cake and punch reception suits all budgets and themes, from a casual afternoon wedding to a swanky late-night party.
You won’t be surprised to know that rationing in the 40’s caused many brides to bypass the ultra-elaborate cake. The alternative? A “dummy cake” that hid a home-baked sponge cake beneath. (Sound familiar?) And far from today’s chocolate chambourd or guava tour-de-forces, 1940’s cake flavors tended to basic white and yellow, with an occasional fruit or spice.
Even today, some receptions pivot on home-style lunch or dinner buffets lovingly prepared by family and friends. This type of hospitality — boasting an abundance of foods, usually enough for guests to grab a plate for the road! — is something you see more often in the south.
A 1940’s style wedding offers both an elegant look backward, and a clever road ahead for brides who get that sometimes less is more.
So imagine your guests mingling over champagne, canapes and wedding cake, watching rounds of croquet and badminton play out on the lawn. Picture them strolling to tables covered in linen or lace, and tucking into a fresh spread of tea sandwiches and cookies, scones and fruit, chocolates and coffee — not to mention a row of glass jars filled with colorful iced teas and lemonades.
The photos: so sweet. The focus: on you, the couple, not that garish five-layer wedding cake. What could be more perfect?
57 Vintage Wedding Ideas for a Timeless Look That'll Forever Be In Style
We love the clean lines and simplicity of a contemporary wedding, but there’s something about a vintage wedding that really makes us swoon. Maybe it’s that there are so many different styles—i.e. decades!—to take inspiration from?!
Consider looking back to your favorite time period—the sparkle and dazzle of the roaring ‘20s, the Hollywood glamour of the ‘50s, or the hippie, boho vibes of the ‘60s. You could also draw inspiration from centuries past—the romance of the Victorian era, the colors of the Impressionist period, or the grandeur of the Renaissance.
No matter which historic moment you choose, there are so many ways to bring it to life in a vintage wedding. Look to your venue’s architecture when picking a ceremony backdrop, incorporate antique furniture into your reception area, or play up a distressed look or old-school drawings in your paper goods. You can even give your wedding look a vintage touch with a gown or hairstyle influenced by your favored era.
If you can’t decide when to step back in time, these vintage wedding ideas will inspire you.
Beautiful calligraphy goes a long way in evoking a vintage flair. Stamp all your paper goods, invitation suite included, with some scrawling script. For this timeless wedding in Napa Valley, this invitation set the tone for an event inspired by the South of France.
Mix Old and New
This fashion designer's guipure lace gown takes cues from the Victorian era with long sleeves and a high neck, while a sheath silhouette has a more modern touch. So too do strappy sandals—the combination is the perfect mix of old and new.
Borrow a Vintage Car
Make your something borrowed a vintage car! This bride—who looked beyond chic in Oscar de la Renta—rolled up to her church wedding in a 1971 Rolls Royce.
Channel Victorian Vibes
This bride was inspired by Bridgit Bardot and the Victorian era, opting for a classy style that flaunted her curves. An ivory corset and peplum waist, corded lace, and blush silk ribbon straps in the back accomplished just that. She paired the look with a vintage Victorian silk lace veil and vintage Chanel earrings.
Showcase Heirloom Jewelry
Whether your engagement ring is an antique or you're borrowing precious jewels as your "something old" or "something borrowed," make sure to capture the special stones on camera. You're choosing to wear each piece for a reason, which means it is part of your wedding story.
Accessorize With Brooches
Brooches make for the perfect "something borrowed" in a vintage wedding. Adorn your bouquet with two—one brooch from your side of the family, and one from your spouse’s.
Carry a Wildflower Bouquet
A bouquet of wildflowers comes alive in a flurry of purples, yellows, and pinks. It creates a laid back, bohemian bunch for some 1960s vibes.
Have a Handkerchief on Hand
Keep your *feelings* in check with a hanky on hand. Bonus points for a scalloped trim and embroidered message, which can either be sweet or funny. P.S. This pretty linen is from Etsy!
Carry Lily of the Valley
Lily of the valley is forever timeless, as this bride proved at her summer wedding in Maine.
Pick Classic Boutonnieres
Classic white roses are both vintage and timeless, dating back centuries as the perfect final touch. Use them as boutonnieres and pair them with calligraphy name cards to complete the vintage flair.
Use Books as Props
Even if you're not a book worm, you can add a touch of vintage vibes by incorporating worn books as photo props. Bonus points if they are the same palette as your florals.
Dress Your Party in White
This adorable wedding party complements the bride’s lace Claire Pettibone gown with white BHLDN dresses that have a hint of vintage, whether it’s lace, chiffon, or a ruched neckline. Olive-branch flower crowns top off the look.
Provide Lace Parasols
If you’re having an outdoor wedding, lace parasols not only make an ode to the 1800s but provide guests with a way to shade themselves from the sun. Place them in baskets at the entrance to the ceremony for guests to grab before sitting.
Write Your Vows on Paper
Write your vows on paper for a memento for years to come. After exchanging them at the wedding, display them in your home as a reminder of the promises you made.
Frame a Vintage Door
Whether you're marrying indoors or al fresco, a doorframe can help set the scene for a ceremony or reception. So, make like this Boulder couple, and mark the aisle with a vintage doorframe for your grand entrance and exit.
Accentuate Your Setting
A destination villa is guaranteed to boast rich historic architecture for a dreamy wedding backdrop. Two renaissance sculptures flank an organic arch of eucalyptus and oak leaves stuffed with white roses and hydrangeas for a European-style altar.
Make a Giant Scroll Backdrop
Love letters come to life in this flowing ceremony backdrop. An oversized scroll featuring script in Italian evokes the elegance and romance of centuries past.
Use Antique Furniture
A weathered wooden mantle, candles in modern hurricanes, Persian rugs, and mid-century furniture recreate a living room outdoors. Top off the mantle with a eucalyptus garland of burgundy and blush dahlias, ranunculus, hellebores, and roses.
Give Guests Flower Petals
Paper cones filled with magenta flower petals give guests something to throw as you exit your ceremony. It also adds a touch of romance and makes for beautiful wedding photographs.
Make a Grand Exit
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