The Roaring ’20s live on in pop culture as a high-spirited whirl of a decade, full of dancing flappers, dapper gents and an overall air of optimism.
For many modern brides and grooms, it’s the perfect vibe for a wedding.
Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby film remake rekindled interest in 1920s style, and on television, even the prim Granthams of Downton Abbey have left staid Victoriana for high-spirited dance clubs – or at least Cousin Rose has.
Think creamy linens, lawn parties, Jazz Age music. Champagne coupes, gilded details, and Old Hollywood hair and makeup. Dancing.
“The sophisticated beauty and elegance of the period is the perfect inspiration for a wedding. The theme allows couples to honour the past and bring this lively age to life in a creative and bold way,” says Marsha Hunt, co-owner with Bridget Connell of Haute Flower Boutique in Minneapolis.
They have incorporated elements of the era into wedding receptions both contemporary and traditional, she said.
The goal is to find “that happy medium between being completely poised but also letting loose,” says Shira Savada, Real Weddings Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Brides might follow the lead of model Kate Moss, who wed musician Jamie Hince in July 2011. Moss asked her friend John Galliano to make her a vintage-style wedding dress, and the designer used Zelda Fitzgerald as inspiration. The cream-colored, bias-cut gown featured an Art Deco motif along the bottom, and was embroidered with gold, spangled with gold paillettes.
Gowns of the ’20s featured sequins, fringes and other embellishments, but the cut was usually simple. Dropped waists and low backs defined the formal silhouette. Necklines weren’t overworked, and most dresses were either sleeveless or given a little lacey cap sleeve, evoking the look of a slip dress, whether full or tea length.
If you’re having a dress made, don’t go for bright white, Savada says. Keep it within the vintage esthetic – vanilla, ivory, or the palest of pink, canary or blush.
Jeweled headpieces, perhaps with lace, more sequins, rhinestones or feathers, might take the place of a veil, although Savada suggests brides can do both. “Pairing a bejeweled headband with a veil is a timeless but nostalgic look.”
Check the crafts website Etsy.com for handmade headpieces and bands. Satin or soft gold or silver slippers, or peep-toed pumps, finish the ensemble.
Source dresses on Ebay, where silk, pearl and lace-trimmed originals go for as low as $75. Find lots of reproductions of gowns and flapper dresses here too, great for bridesmaids.
Online, Brides magazine has a slideshow of inspiration, with dresses by Jenny Packham, Nicole Miller, Monique Lhuillier and others. Many bridal retailers have good selections of vintage-inspired dresses.
Grooms and groomsmen might look at three-piece suits in linen or light-colored wool for summer; for a more casual affair, consider a striped blazer, even a boater style hat, and suspenders. For winter, navy or charcoal-grey wool, or a tuxedo. Bow ties bring the look home, although a necktie in a prep-school pattern would also fit the style.
And if gentlemen want to take things one step further, add a pair of two-toned brogues, light-colored oxfords, or patent-leather formal wingtips for the tuxedo.
SETTING THE STAGE
Invitations can set the tone with a vintage font – Park Lane, Gatsby, Nite Club and Atlas Regular, among others – and Art Deco details. Use the same typography for table cards and other signage in the reception space. Create your own, or employ a designer.
Suggest that guests also come dressed in Roaring ’20s style.
For a summer wedding, a venue with big gardens and open space works well for an elegant, Gatsby-esque lawn party. Linens, strung lighting and blankets on the grass provide an easy, relaxed background in which guests can feel comfortable, while you add as much luxury as you like with other elements, such as food, drinks and live music.
Croquet was the game of the moment back then, but other old-fashioned lawn games like badminton or bocce could amuse both younger and older guests.
For an indoor wedding, decorate with vintage suitcases, globes, gramophones and cameras.
Savada recommends touches like embroidered handkerchiefs; engraved silver pieces, such as lighters and tie clips; and those remarkable cars.
“They basically cry out to be incorporated into someone’s Roaring ’20-style celebration,” she says.
Hunt and Connell suggest a pleasing palette of blush, peach and ivory, with silver and bronze metallics. Add touches of bling with easy, shimmery materials like charmeuse and voile, gilt-encrusted ribbons, pearls and beading. Glossy black accents add drama.
They also suggest silver-spangled mesh table covers, and candelabra dripping with pearl strands. You could scrounge flea markets for inexpensive brooches and necklaces to trim napkins and cutlery. Lacy tablecloths are easy to find in antique stores. And peacock and ostrich feathers add flourish to floral displays.
Pin vintage family wedding photos on ribbons, clothesline-style, or decorate buffet tables with photos of old-time stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Clara Bow, Buster Keaton, Rudolf Valentino and Greta Garbo.
Designer and illustrator Kris Shoemaker of Vancouver, British Columbia, creates paper embellishments and cake toppers for vintage-style weddings, especially sparkly stars, moons and figures of romantic couples made of high-quality paper and trimmed with vintage German glass glitter and luxe ribbons.
“I’ve always been drawn to the elaborate Art Deco illustrations of Erte and Georges Barbier,” she says. “I was initially inspired by the song ‘Say It’s Only A Paper Moon,’ ‘The Great Gatsby,’ and the dream-like photographs taken in the 1920s of couples posing on giant cardboard moons and stars.”
Compiling a playlist from the era will get everyone in the mood. If it’s within your budget, hire a jazz band with a singer. Use an old-fashioned microphone for speeches.
To get the dancing started, enlist a few friends to show off some simple 1920s moves like the Charleston and the Baltimore Buzz; how-to videos are online.
Serve swanky beverages popular during Prohibition, like gin rickeys, mint juleps and champagne cocktails. A champagne fountain has the right Gatsby-esque vibe.
On the sweets table, offer petits fours and cakes embellished with Art Deco designs and edible gold leaf, on vintage silver serveware.
Consider setting up a black-and-white photo booth with props including feather boas, long necklaces, straw boaters and newsboy caps. Silent films projected on a wall might provide additional atmosphere.
Favours could include souvenir champagne glasses, silver cocktail sticks, mini flasks for the fellows, and stretchy beaded headbands or bead strands for the ladies.
Instead of a standard guest book, set up a vintage typewriter and a stack of paper so that well-wishers can type up messages for the bride and groom.
Wind the festivities down, perhaps, with a final flourish of metal foil confetti, a la Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby revelries.