Wedding Trends by the Decade Over the Last 100 Years

We can't believe how much wedding trends have changed in 100 years! These days, weddings are full of white gowns, chic diamond rings, funny hashtags, and cinematic proposals (for brides and even bridesmaids). Despite what you might think, today's wedding trends aren't anything like what they used to be.  Everything from dresses to desserts has changed over the years. 


 The trends of past generations ebb and flow - from grandparents to parents to children and grandchildren. In the past, even the most timeless of styles were once novel and the most dated of trends were in fashion. From your great-grandparents' turn-of-the-century wedding to last summer's reception, here's how wedding trends have changed.






As flapper fashion found its footing in the roaring '20s, hemlines and hairstyles shortened. The waistline dropped to make the silhouette more streamlined. Brides wore Juliet Cap veils and cloche hats to cover their heads and layer long pearl necklaces around their necks. White calla lilies were also common bouquets for brides at the time. Bridal registries were also introduced in the '20s. 




There was a 22% drop in marriage rates between 1929 and 1933 as a result of the Great Depression. As marriage rates returned to normal, marriage proposals were just delayed, not denied. In the wake of the recession, brides on a budget repurposed their best dress for the big day. The grooms wore oversized suits with shoulder pads and ties. Both parties wore hats from the roaring '20s. 





During wartime, there was rationing and little room for excess spending. Weddings could be announced at the start of the week and held at the end of that week, depending on the groom's deployment. There were simple, reusable dresses with gathered sleeves and padded hips. To stay warm when running out of a venue, chapel, or courthouse, jackets were worn over shortened gowns. The look was finished off with red lipstick and pinned curls. Long-distance couples began wearing wedding bands as a symbol of their commitment even when they weren't together.






People looked up to their stars for style direction in the 1950s, from Elizabeth Taylor's role in Father of the Bride to Grace Kelly's royal wedding. Bridal necklines were sweetheart or high collars. Dresses were tea or ballerina length. They had long lace sleeves or capped off-the-shoulder sleeves. As post-war life returned to normal, marriage rates soared. Couples celebrated their triumphant love with fancy dress codes, hand gloves, and lavish church services.





The "mod" era was characterized by miniskirts, shift dresses, bouffants, and Twiggy liners. For traditionalist couples, ballroom receptions and church ceremonies were common, but fresh, alternative brides adopted mod styles like Priscilla Presley and Sharon Tate, or bohemian looks like Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell. The dress silhouette was often A-line or column-like, with an empire waist. Novelty and chic were also found in pillbox hats, birdcages, and flyaway veils. Wedding cakes continued to rise into the sky, modernist elements became increasingly popular, and daisies became a staple flower during the burgeoning hippie movement.





The disco decade was all about white for grooms and brides! With its slimmer fit than ever before, white suits became a popular and daring alternative to black coats and ties. Each bride navigated her place in the day of disco, rock 'n' roll and the waning hippie movement with their own wedding fashion. A veiled sun hat and tailored white suit jacket set the standard for rocker-chic when Bianca Jagger wed Mick in 1971. Headdresses with natural decorations were popular, and outdoor ceremonies were grander than they used to be. 






Princess Diana. That’s it, that’s the trend for the 80s! On a non-royal budget, brides wanted to get as close to Diana's royal bridal ensemble as possible. In the 1980s, everything was bigger: the dresses, the cakes, the guest lists. Dresses were designed to take up space. A cascading bouquet of baby's breath and gardenias accompanied gowns with high lace necklines, gathered sleeves, and foofy details. Videographers have become common splurges too, and soap opera weddings have made unity candles a popular choice.




There was something refreshing about 90s minimalism after the busyness of the '80s. Bridal gowns featured sleek silk or sheath spaghetti straps with sheer paneling and off-the-shoulder, bow-capped or Bardot-style sleeves. Sporty-chic style was popularized with a full princess ball gown, a dropped waist, and a halter-top. Accessorizing with a headband was essential. Watch Julia Roberts' extensive catalog of wedding films, including "Runaway Bride" and "My Best Friend's Wedding", to see what it was like to have a wedding in the ‘90s. Especially for second weddings, couples are turning to once-taboo elopements for intimate ceremonies, which have shrunk bouquets and guest lists in size.




Strapless is the new trend! The style of ceremonies also changed as they moved from churches to non-religious venues like hotels and country clubs. TV shows like "Say Yes to the Dress" showcased glamorous fabrics like satin and taffeta embellished with jewel appliques. Straight-across necklines transformed into sweethearts by the end of the decade. Wedding tiaras were worn by brides, and cupcake towers replaced traditional tiered cakes as a result of the years-long cupcake craze. As a result, several other couples followed "Friends" characters Chandler and Monica's lead and gave disposable cameras to their wedding guests at their '01 TV reception.




Everything about 2010s weddings (good or bad) was designed to be one of a kind, including vows, signage, signature drinks, and toasts. Wedding themes have diversified and even bridesmaids' styles have become more personal. There are still a few common trends that stand out. Often, cakes were replaced with another dessert altogether instead of being naked or painted. As social media ushered in the world of hashtags, hashtag boards, and geofilters, bridal style saw sleeves return - as seen on Kate Middleton’s iconic wedding look from 2011! 


In the years since the U.S. passed marriage equality in 2015, LGBTQ couples have started plenty of wedding trends. Nearly 40% of same-sex couples walk the aisle together at the beginning of a ceremony, compared to less than half who choose wedding parties.





What is the future of wedding style? In the search for the best wedding for themselves, couples are tossing trends aside. The wedding canon is becoming more eco-friendly due to concerns about sustainability. A century later, roaring 20s glamor and statement sleeves from the 1980s and 1990s are being reimagined for a chic new look. There are, however, some things that never change. You should always follow good wedding etiquette, even in these modern times!