Everything about a wedding, from how (and where) a ceremony and reception is held to the vows to the desserts and flowers evolves from decade to decade. And though each and every bride today may try to customize her wedding to the very last detail to create a deeply personal experience, she may not even know that she’s actually falling into the biggest wedding trend of the modern era. Don’t believe us? Click through to find out the biggest wedding trends through the years.
White wedding dresses came into vogue, thanks to Queen Victoria’s choice of gown during her wedding to Prince Albert — though these white dresses weren’t what you’d necessarily see today. They featured S-shaped corsets to draw in the waist, frilled bodices, high necklines, and puffy sleeves that tapered into the wrist. Bouquets were popularly sheath-shaped and filled with white roses, orange blossoms, lilies of the valley, and orchids.
Thanks to the popularization automobiles, out-of-town weddings and honeymoons were on the rise in this decade. The introduction of mascara and eye shadow meant that brides were wearing more makeup than ever before, but they still went for a “natural” look. Wedding dresses had higher waistlines, looser silhouettes, and sleeves to the elbows. Wedding cakes were simple, with a single white tier topped with fresh white flowers for decoration.
The roaring ‘20s and the rise of the flapper led to more informal weddings. Elopements and city hall marriages were not uncommon. In line with the flappers, wedding dress hems were often raised to the knee and paired with a short, curled bob haircut and a headdress, as opposed to the traditional veil. As women’s empowerment was on the rise, many brides chose not to be walked down the aisle by their fathers, bucking this longstanding tradition.
The Great Depression meant that budgets were tight, so brides would often opt to just wear the nicest dress they already owned to their weddings instead of buying a new dress. Those who did buy a new gown got one with simple detailing that could be dyed and re-worn for other occasions. One wedding tradition that started in the ‘30s? Bride and groom cake toppers!
World War II meant that weddings weren’t centered on the bride but were scheduled around the groom’s deployment. Thus, many weddings were announced at the beginning of the week and held that weekend. From the wedding dress fabric to the bridal bouquet to the makeup, everything was simple and reusable because of rationing. However, because of the separation from war, men started to wear wedding bands to symbolize their commitment when abroad.
Ballerina-length dresses with sweetheart necklines were popular in this decade for brides and their bridesmaids. And of course Grace Kelly’s wedding dress took the world by storm with its high collar and lace sleeves. (It still inspires designers and brides to this day!) Bouquets were bigger than ever but still budget-friendly because they were locally grown. There was a bit of a throwback to traditional weddings in this decade, with gloves and church ceremonies coming back into vogue as brides looked to their grandmothers’ weddings for inspiration and ideas.
The Space Age meant that metallic embellishments in décor and wedding dresses were a must-have. To go with the shiny details, brides wore pillbox hats with big, bustling veils or tiaras, thanks to the rise of society weddings in this decade. These headdresses were paired with wedding dresses featuring empire waistlines. The most popular flower in the ‘60s was the daisy (signaling the rise of the hippie movement), and it could be seen in every single detail of a wedding.
The ‘70s didn’t see any one wedding trend, due in large part to the transitional nature of the country as the U.S. morphed from the free-loving ‘60s to the conservative 1980s. Bridal headdresses, whether they were natural greenery and flowers or bejeweled tiaras, were in, while veils were out. Outdoor weddings became more formal affairs, moving away from small backyard weddings at the bride’s parent’s house. Second-wave feminism also meant that wedding vows morphed; the bride promising to “obey” her husband in vows was frequently removed from traditional vows.
Thanks to Princess Diana’s iconic wedding gown in 1981, everything from the sleeves to the trains to the veils were bigger, poofier, and longer this decade. Literally everything was bigger and bolder, from hairstyles to bouquets to makeup. Wedding cakes of this era were quite distinct, frequently featuring three separate cakes which were literally bridged together with plastic staircases. The biggest and the best wedding cakes of this area also featured a small fountain underneath the bottom layer, which was held up by columns.
After the busyness of the ‘80s wedding, minimalism was key in the 1990s, with brides opting for sleek, slinky gowns with spaghetti straps and very little detailing. Wedding-centric movies such as Father of the Bride, Runaway Bride, and My Best Friend’s Wedding helped to build the wedding industry as we know it today. Elopements and destination weddings, which were much more common for second marriages and unconventional couples, started to become more of the norm.
A movement away from church ceremonies meant that strapless ball gowns started to become more and more popular. Instead of churches, hotels and country clubs become much more popular ceremony and reception spots for couples. With these less traditional weddings, receptions took on a new importance, with raucous bands and DJs keeping the party going late into the night. Traditional wedding cakes were frequently passed up in favor of towers of cupcakes.
Today, the wedding industry is bigger (and more profitable) than ever. Customization for couples is key, with everything from the vows to the signage to the cakes and the wedding favors being 100 percent one-of-a-kind. Because an original wedding is so important, DIY weddings are bigger than ever. Due to the rise of technology and social media, many couples opt for online invitations and will add digital touches such as geofilters and Instagram hashtags to their big day. Finally, wedding cakes are less traditional than ever. It’s not uncommon to see doughnuts instead of cakes or bright, bold, geometric cakes instead of a towering white cake.