Hosting a 50s-Themed Wedding
Where’s the fun in celebrating in the here and now when you spend your days fantasizing about the days of yore? Wish the likes of the Big Bopper and Dick Clark still ruled the airwaves? Romanticize over the days when jerks served up delicious bubbly and ice cream concoctions versus just stealing your parking spot or failing to curb their dogs? Yearn for a simpler time when being seen sharing a milkshake caused a town-wide scandal before you even had a chance to hop off your stool? If so, a 1950s-themed wedding may just be the perfect fit for your celebration.
Whether or not you actually experienced even a moment of the 50s, or only wish you had, it’s easy to look back on eras past with a certain sense of romanticism and idealism–remembering all the best of times with little thought for the bad. A properly executed period-themed wedding should do the same by highlighting the aspects of your chosen time period that mean the most to you. Mesmerized by the rebellious spirit of the 60s?
How about the fashions of Marie Antoinette, but not necessarily the Reign of Terror that followed her? Focus on the aspects that you’re most attached to and you’re sure to have the wedding of your dreams.
Need a little inspiration? 1950s favorites “Perry Mason” and “I Love Lucy” or classics set in this era such as “Grease,” “Happy Days,” “American Graffiti,” and the majority of Marty McFly’s adventures in “Back to the Future” can all give you an idea of the innocence, excitement, and energy of the decade post-World War II.
First things first: the fashion. Silk, organza, taffeta, or lace–50s wedding gowns come in virtually any fabric imaginable. More important than the materials are the structure and shape of the dress. The 50s highlighted an exaggeration of the hourglass silhouette, so look for fitted bodices that cinch the waist and dramatically flare out into a full skirt with plenty of petticoat padding underneath to accentuate the shape.
Natural waist gowns with strapless, halter, boat neck and off-the-shoulder necklines paired with gored, circular, pleated, or gathered skirts that hit anywhere between the ankle and just above the knee are all perfect fits for a vintage gown you’ll love.
For those who want to showcase a more modest style, sleeves, jackets, and conservative or lacy necklines were equally popular, so don’t hesitate to cover up a little if it makes you feel more comfortable.
Makeup should be feminine and flirty. For eyes, consider a light shimmery shadow paired with winged eyeliner from the subtle to the extreme depending on what look you prefer and play up defined eyebrows filled in with a shade darker than your natural color.
Complete with red lips–from cherry to coral to brick–whichever shade complements your skin tone best, and finish off the look beautifully with rolled bangs (think the lovely Bettie Page), victory rolls (think the rockabilly curls that look like mini surf waves pinned effortlessly in place), or bouncy curls.
The Vintage Style
For those looking at formal wear options, consider a vintage-style suit over a more formal tuxedo. Suits and ties slimmed in the 50s, lapels narrowed, and trousers tapered–creating a more fitted look. Dark gray, brown, or navy blue are perfect color choices and can be paired with a pocket square if a boutonniere isn’t the ideal option. Look to Elvis’s rock and roll style, James Dean’s rebellious mop, Bruno Mars’s sky-high pompadour, or Cary Grant’s sculpted ’do to find the perfect hairstyle for your day.
Now you can set to work creating the setting for your affair. You can re-create virtually any space into a neat locale for your nuptials. Look for spots with an innately vintage feel: think old Vegas, the ambiance of drive-in diners and soda shops, or even sock hop-ready dance halls. No matter where you host your event, it’s the details that will really drive your theme home.
No colors were as bold as those found in a 1950s American kitchen, so why look any further for the perfect color scheme for your wedding? The 50s were an era when refrigerators were available in pale pink, countertops routinely came in bright red, and teal stoves weren’t an odd sight to see. While you don’t need to include all of the additions on the color wheel, consider a mix of the bright and the subdued for vintage feel guests will instantly recognize. For a bold example, consider candy apple red and robin’s egg blue to create an unexpected and unforgettable palette.
Drinks should include sophisticated 50s favorites like the martini or the Gibson, as well as some of the fruity options that made a splash during the era like Mai Tais or daiquiris. Dinner can replicate the dishes and feel of the 50s diner, or ask caterers about reinventing old favorites into modern, gourmet options. For dessert, consider setting up the drugstore soda fountain, complete with soda jerks to serve up some old school favorites like black or brown cows, egg creams, and malt shakes alongside some reinvented recipes utilizing local ingredients.
Consider rockabilly bands, Rat Pack-Esque crooners, or even impersonators to entertain guests well into the evening and talk to photographers about adding an “aged” touch to your photos. A vintage engagement shoot or having photographers add special effects to your shots–from soft focus to deliberately altering photos to create unusual colors or off tones–can effortlessly give your wedding album an older, retro feel.
Favors like wayfarers and cat-eye sunglasses, bags of candy from a self-serve candy bar offering only vintage sweets disguising them as 45s could be the perfect parting gifts for guests.
And don’t overlook fun details like a vintage cake topper; assigned tables labeled after 50s movies, songs, musicians, or movie stars; and vintage signage to add the perfect touches to your big day. Round out the event with a departure in a classic 50s car and get ready to enjoy your married life together, baby.
Daddy-o’s and dollies alike are sure to have a blast at your 50s wedding. Just remember to focus on the aspects that speak to you and create the event you’d like to see, and your celebration is sure to be unforgettable.