Growing up, were you called an “old soul?” Do you fantasize about days of old and Gatsby-esque parties thrown at private waterfront estates? Perhaps you have envisioned a wedding themed from images of your own parents' wedding from decades ago. Whatever your motivation, we’ve assembled a collection of vintage wedding ideas sure to get your creative juices flowing.
Before you wonder where to start, take a moment to think about when to start. “Vintage” typically means anything between 20 and 100 years of age, so consider what kind of vintage feel you’re trying to achieve. Is it a retro, Seventies flower-forward ceremony? Or perhaps a roaring twenties evening inspired by rompers and speakeasies? Maybe for you and your partner, vintage just means incorporating a bit of charm from your past into your wedding celebration. Whatever look you are aiming for, we have some ideas on how to make the era of your choice ring true as you prepare to say “I do.”
VINTAGE WEDDING VENUES
TAKE INSPIRATION FROM WHAT YOU LOVE
Many people associate the word ‘vintage’ with books, films, and even games that remind them of a certain period of time. Perhaps you and your partner knew you were right for one another when you realized your shared love of ‘The Great Gatsby,’ or you both grew up playing the classic board game ‘Clue.’ Iconic pieces of pop culture are often reminiscent of a specific period of time and in turn a great source of inspiration for your wedding’s venue. Would the art-deco ballroom of a renowned hotel be the perfect place for your roaring twenties inspired celebration? Similarly, a stately Gothic mansion might perfectly emulate the vintage fifties coastal atmosphere you’re hoping for.
BRING THE PAST TO LIFE
Could anything better encompass your vintage vibe than a museum or library steeped in history? Most museums have some type of arrangement for renting out their facility for private events. And while it may take some detective work on par with literary legend Sherlock Holmes, finding a private residence with an impressive library could provide you with the ideal vintage venue. We also recommend taking a look at universities, which often have arrangements for their historic buildings and grand halls to be utilized as a wedding venue.
THE REEL DEAL
‘Dramatic’ and ‘riveting’ won’t only be words emblazoned on movie posters in the lobby, but used by your guests to describe a wedding hosted at a turn-of-the-century movie-palace. While these architectural gems have begun to fade away, many historical societies and film lovers alike strive to keep aged theaters of both stage and screen as vibrant as possible. Some of these art-deco inspired venues have been restored to their original glory and could be the perfect setting for your wedding. Lobbies outfitted with theater decor can be a great place for your cocktail hour or cake cutting, while the ceremony can take place on-stage. (Tip: Ask the venue if they’ll display your names on their marquee for a truly memorable vintage wedding idea!)
While architecture and decor can easily give an indoor wedding a distinct vintage feel, deciding on an outdoor venue has its own unique benefits. Oftentimes vineyards, with their beautifully reserved architecture and unique fountains, can flawlessly bring your vintage wedding to life. Selecting a pleasant outdoor venue, like a pristine farm or ranch, will allow you to add an eclectic vintage touch to your wedding without focusing on a specific period in time. The grounds and gardens of villas and private homes are another possibility that will allow you to transition guests between indoors and out with a distinctly old-timey feel.
VINTAGE WEDDING COLORS
When you think vintage, what color pairings come to mind? Greys and off-whites convey memories of typewritten love notes and newspaper clippings from years ago. Alternatively, art-deco blues and greens alongside luxurious golds and silvers remind us of the early 20th century. Here are some of our favorite color combinations that can be used in your invitations or vintage wedding decorations.
- ivory + rose gold
- blush pink + bronze
- slate grey + cream + gold
- la mer blue + bronze
- gold + classic black & white
- robin’s egg blue + silver
- graphite + ivory
- rose gold + navy blue + ivory
- sapphire blue + gold
- champagne + plum + silver
- petal pink + tuxedo + cream
- navy blue + cream + bronze
Santa Fe by Erin L. Wilson
WEDDING INVITATION IDEAS
Intriguing invitation suites can bring your vintage inspiration to life for guests, transporting them to a different era from the moment they receive your save the date. Consider a few of these design-inspired ideas for adding a timeless touch to your wedding stationery:
- Choose fonts that are reminiscent of the era of time you’re hoping to convey. Think capitalized Victorian fonts with curves and borders for an older vintage feel and crisp thin sans-serif fonts as you edge toward the modern.
- Invitations designed to look like repurposed materials, like pages out of an old book, newspaper clippings, or antique maps.
Bauhaus Slate by Iveta Angelova
- Distinct color palettes, such as vibrant and floral for seventies chic, aquas and metallics for a jazz age evening or a playful eighties ceremony.
- Calligraphy-like fonts on vellum or typewritten text on lightweight paper evoke images of handwritten or typed correspondence.
- Utilize letterpress or embossing techniques as an homage to a time when everything was made by hand.
Everlasting by Susan Moyal
WEDDING ATTIRE IDEAS
From antique boutonnieres and veils to a fully costumed look, here are some stylish suggestions for bringing your vintage wedding to life through appropriate attire.
FOR THE COUPLE & THE WEDDING PARTY:
- Gowns with luxurious trains, voluminous layers of lace, and detailed veils harken back to decades of opulence like the 20s and 80s.
- Dresses with narrow silhouettes and modest embellishments convey a time of simplicity and minimalism, like the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
- Non-traditional dresses of different colors and unique patterns will give off the vibe of a 60s or 70s inspired ceremony.
- Bridesmaids in dramatic looks like a v-line or one-shoulder dress evoke eras of decadence, while modest silhouettes like shifts and a-lines will evoke a more reserved look.
- For the groom consider antique patterns and fabrics such as houndstooth wool or pinstriped linen.
- Bowties, suspenders, and waistcoats can give the groom an old-timey look, especially when tailored in muted tones like grays, creams, and chestnut.
- Distinct hats, pocket watches, or calf-length socks will fit right in to a vintage wedding inspired by times when each were key fashion statements.
- Don’t be afraid to fully commit to your era of inspiration and go for a costume look.
FOR THE WEDDING GUESTS:
- Invite everyone to dress as if they’ve traveled back in time with you, with wardrobe suggestions on your wedding website or invitation for where guests can take inspiration.
- Accessorize your look with vintage jewelry and accessories. Bold red lipstick can also play homage to beauty trends of the past.
- Hairstyles, for both men and women, can also indicate what period of time you’ve been inspired by. Accessorize with an antique hair clip or vintage cap.
- Remember to take the weather into account when deciding on a look. A sleeveless knee length dress might be perfect for your twenties flapper look, but consider accessorizing with a dramatic shawl or opera-length gloves for a crisp and cool evening outdoors.
- If your hosts are going the costume-route, adventure into consignment shops specializing in antique fashion or even a costume rental shop to find a genuine vintage piece that’ll transform your look.
- Keep in mind that your outfit will need to last the wedding from start to finish. If you choose to immerse yourself in the theme, remember to prioritize your comfort. Corsets, wool suits, and intricate accessories may be vintage, but can also be cumbersome and cause you discomfort as you try to enjoy your hosts’ big day.
- For more wedding-guest attire ideas, read our “What to Wear to a Wedding” guide.
Your wedding’s flowers are a continuation of your wedding day’s immersive atmosphere. Utilizing anything from exotic florals with cascading greenery to gently scented and subdued sprays are an opportunity to bring your vintage inspiration to life.
Here, we've rounded up our favorite bouquet, boutonniere, and vintage wedding centerpiece ideas. And for even more floral ideas, see our complete guide to wedding flowers.
FOR THE BOUQUET AND BOUTONNIERES
- Classic garden roses in dark reds, purples, or off whites.
- Peonies and carnations in soft lavenders and pinks.
- Stalks of lavender, hydrangeas, and snapdragons.
- Boutonnieres made from dried arrangements or succulents.
- Add volume with sprigs of eucalyptus greenery, thistle, or baby’s breath.
- Incorporate lace or strands of antique jewelry into your flower arrangements to add an extra touch of old-timey flair.
FOR YOUR VINTAGE CENTERPIECES
- Monochromatic arrangements displayed in antique watering cans or milk jugs with a patina finish.
- Oversized blooms like stargazer lilies or camelias.
- King proteas with dried thistle will look as if your centerpiece has been plucked from a sepia-toned photo.
- Glass bottles of varying heights filled with a colorful array of wildflowers.
- Place arrangements atop stacks of books or aside an antique bird cage.
WEDDING CEREMONY IDEAS
Whether you’ve created a near replica of a Great Gatsby soiree or you’ve decided to incorporate an eclectic mix of your shared past into your wedding day, the ceremony is when your inspiration can truly shine through. You can bring the past to life in a number of ways during the ceremony, such as:
- Eclectic antique furniture for the ceremony backdrop.
- Ceremony arch designed with well worn materials like brass, copper, mirror glass, or distressed wood.
- Stylishly mismatched chairs for guests to sit on, with a few loveseats for guests who want to sit close to one another.
- Instead of chairs, opt for a mix of couches (think high-backs, claw-foot legs, silk upholstery, woven seats, etc.) for guests to sit on, with vintage pillows at the ready for them to take to their seats.
- Instead of laying down an elegant runner, consider creating an aisle out of antique rugs to add a classic touch to your walk down the aisle.
- Utilize your venue. Grand staircases, theater stages, or manicured gardens could all be the perfect spot for you to say your vows.
- For outdoor weddings during warmer months, consider providing guests with parasols and folding hand-fans for an early-century vibe. Retro sunglasses may pair nicely with a more recent retro feel.
- If your venue is a museum or historic building, ask if the facility is willing to accommodate the ceremony taking place near a significant exhibit or memorable spot.
- In lieu of confetti, consider waving the newlyweds up the aisle with over-sized feathers or sparklers for a roaring twenties themed ceremony, patterned gingham handkerchiefs reminiscent of 1950s domesticity, or even popcorn for couples who’ve taken inspiration from vintage films.
RECEPTION DECORATION IDEAS
Complete your trip back in time with well executed vintage wedding decorations. Below we have outlined some of our favorite ideas. For additional guidance on wedding planning, review our collection of posts on all things wedding reception-related.
- Use antique maps to direct guests to key points of your venue like ceremony seating, the bar, the dance floor, guest book table, and bathrooms.
- A champagne tower screams vintage era decadence.
- Have guests write well-wishes and marriage advice on an antique globe or use a typewriter to type up their greetings.
- Have a live band, be it jazz, swing, or glam rock, help set the tone and ambience while guests enter your reception.
- Display table numbers on the cover of old books, antique maps, or vintage records.
- Set tables with formal place settings, including gold chargers and embroidered napkins.
- If hiring a live band, have their performance carry guests through the reception by playing decades-old hits as guests take to the dance floor.
- Instead of a photo booth, arrange for guests to take pictures in or alongside a classic vehicle (think model T or 1932 Ford Coupe) with accessories to match.
Curious as to what type of food would’ve been served at the moment in time your wedding is inspired by? As “vintage” has a wide-reaching definition, the sky’s the limit as you menu plan. Cocktails that are clear representations of times past will go well with tried and true appetizers that can be elevated with a modern twist. Don’t be afraid to use lots of edible gold and highlight deep flavors in all that you serve.
FOR THE COCKTAIL HOUR:
- Classic cocktails like a sidecar, gimlet, sloe gin fizz, or Manhattan evoke a specific era.
- Mocktails like a Roy Rogers or Shirley Temple.
- Fizzy or fruity drinks in glass bottles as a non-alcoholic option for younger guests.
- Decorative seafood displays like shrimp cocktail or oysters on the half shell.
- Appetizers that have stood the test of time, like deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms, or salmon canapes with horseradish.
- Finger sandwiches with fresh herbs.
- Decadent cheese platters with charcuterie and lavish displays of fresh fruit.
Geometric Sparks by Katie Zimpel
FOR THE MAIN COURSE:
- Menus that feature a dish that’s not only for guests to enjoy but are a dramatic focal point of the table, like rack of lamb or roasted duck.
- Individually served main courses which are simple in presentation but complex in flavor, like beef wellington or whole roasted squab.
- Richly flavored sides that exhibit refined techniques, like potatoes dauphinoise or risotto.
- Vegetarian options equally rich in depth of flavor and preparation, like ratatouille or vegetable tarte tatin.
Nouvelle Ere by Bonjour Paper
WEDDING CAKE IDEAS
Similar to its present day counterpart, vintage wedding cakes were the highlight of a couple’s big day. Regardless of the vibe you’re going for, your wedding cake is a wonderful way to continue to transform your wedding into a different era. Here are some of our favorite vintage-inspired wedding cake ideas:
- Clean lines with multiple, cascading tiers
- Detailed sugar work
- Edible gold or luster
- Decadent fillings like rich custards, ganaches, or tart curds
- Sugar work designed to look like lace, beading, or gems similar to the bridal party’s attire.
- Repurpose cake toppers from the wedding you’ve been inspired by (your parents or grandparents).
- Hand painted decor made to look like newsprint, old photographs, or aged embellishments.
WEDDING FAVOR IDEAS
As guests prepare to leave your celebration and head back to the present, send them home with a token that will remind them of a celebration that stood the test of time. Here are a few ideas for vintage inspired favors. You may also draw some ideas from our inclusive post on 57 creative wedding favors:
- Attach favor tags that feature an antique silhouette of the newlyweds, has vintage lettering similar to that used on your stationery, or that resembles pages from an old book.
- Antique picture frames that guests can use to display photos taken at your wedding, especially if you’ve set up various themed backdrops at your wedding.
- Kraft-boxes designed to look like an antique suitcase, filled with retro candy.
- Glass bottles of mixers that guests can use to make their own old-fashioned cocktails at home.
- Pretzel rods dipped in dark chocolate and decorated with gold sprinkles or gold wrapped truffles.
- Feathered pens resembling antique ink quills with dramatic faux feathers like peacock or ostrich.
- A bottle opener or wine key designed to look like an antique key.
Starburst by Alethea and Ruth