Wedding project ideas and style how-tos for brides, bridal jewelry designers and wedding planners.
The first rule of making a 1950s-themed wedding (or any themed wedding) is: You make your own rules. As the bride, or bride-designated planner, you call the shots. You're not going to let some 50s snob or self-appointed history police tell you how it really was in the 1950s and that you should strive to be period-correct. Why would you want to do that? First, you don't have the time to do all of that research and you don't spend your budget obsessively coming up with period-accurate styles and fashions. You're not creating a historical documentary. Secondly, you want to have fun with the 50s the way it is remembered through the gauze of nostalgia and popular movies and TV shows, such as Grease and Happy Days. And even then, you don't have to slavishly copy those shows either.
Let's build up some excitement by briefly naming some of the major visual elements we'll want to see in our 1950s-themed wedding: records (kitschy/cheesy record covers), hula-hoops, roller skates, malt shakes, carhops, motorcycles, hot rods.
|The bride and bridesmaids - Full circle skirt dresses ("swing dresses") in a large choice of colors including gemstone colors and pastels or prints including black and white or red and white polka dots, large florals, plaids and stripes. Wiggle dresses that zip up the back will fit the theme nicely. The bodices can be decorated with small collars and bows, the skirts often featured welt pockets on the sides or two oversized front patch pockets.
Makeup: bold, bright lipstick colors and shadowed eyelids, but not too much. You want a fun, but not trashy look.
For an informal look, you can consider letterman or varsity jackets or sweaters, bowling shirts, saddle shoes and chunky glasses or the classic white-T and leather jacket worn by rockers and/or rebels.
Blue jeans: By the way, in the 50s, only cowboys, miners or "greasers" (aka JDs--juvenile delinquents--or "hoods") wore blues jeans, so conventionally, for pants you have "safe" styles like gabardine, pleated or wool.
|Men's hairstyles: slicked-back "DA" pompadour haircuts for the men who want to be cool and more conservative hair styles for the "squares" such as crew cut, flattop, butch or one of several variations of contour haircut.
Men's jewelry: Wear on a chain around their neck their "steady" girlfriend's ring or a disc with her name or both their names on it. Also: ID bracelets and rings. Bonus points: shirts with real cuff links--extra bonus points for showy or kitschy cuff links.
Accessories: Smoking was very popular in the 1950s for people from all walks of life (including doctors!). For many, smoking was cool and sexy from an image popularized by Hollywood in the 1930 and 40s and television in the 50s. You may want to ban cigarettes, or go for a compromise like e-cigarettes or clove cigarettes. It may be best if they are considered props and not actually used (i.e. lit up). You'll need to decide if chewing gum works with your 1950s vision, if so, get gum that works well for popping, snapping and blowing big bubbles. Roller skates, yo-yos and hula hoops can add to the fun.Person conducting the ceremony - Of course Elvis is a popular choice. If you go with the King you need to choose between young, slim Elvis or Vegas rhinestone jumpsuit Elvis. If you can get a Little Richard-type to conduct the vows (he was a preacher for a while) that could be a riot.
Flower girl/Ring bearer - You'll probably want to forego the 50's theme here and go with a more traditional role for these unless they absolutely beg you to get involved.
Extras - After the ceremony, of course everyone will want to dance. Depending on your budget, you can hire a real live band, a DJ or just spin records. If you are catering the reception, consider creating a simulated malt shop with a counter, stool and booths (although that can get complicated and pricey). You'll need a "soda jerk" with a white uniform and cap. Maybe add a candy counter with candy bars, gum, licorice etc.
Games/Activities - Hokey-pokey, limbo dance, dance contest, musical chairs, costume judging and, for the singles: spin the bottle and 7 minutes in heaven--although let's be honest, if the singles were so inclined they'd organize these themselves.
Just make sure it's as 1950s fun for everyone as you can, oh, and that the happy couple gets hitched. As your parents would say before you go out on a date or to a party: "Have fun, but be safe and home by eleven."
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