Planning a wedding that hits the delicate balance of modern (but not trendy) and classic (but not dated) requires thoughtful consideration of everything from your color scheme to the shape of your floral arrangement.
But in weddings—as in the rest of the style world—everything old is new again. From Jazz Age-inspired design and 1970s flowers to disposable cameras and cakes that look like your grandmother decorated them, these retro wedding trends add a welcome dose of nostalgia to your big day.
Shopping for a throwback gown at a favorite thrift store—or in the family attic—allows brides to mix sustainability with retro style. “We love seeing brides repurposing their mom’s or even grandmother’s gowns, having them tailored, but keeping telltale, era-evoking designs,” says Laura Ritchie of Grit and Grace. “Big balloon sleeves from the ’80s, big bows from the ’90s, white wedding skirtsuits from the ’60s—all fabulous!”
The timeless Tiffany & Co. aesthetic, says McWilliams, is “the ultimate retro wedding trend I didn’t see coming. From Audrey Hepburn’s impeccable style to that unmistakable blue, its about as retro wedding as you can get.” The main design points for this look include structured florals and—of course—stunning jewels. “While wedding cakes were taking a back seat for the last few years, I think anyone considering this trend will absolutely be all about the statement, white, tiered cake with sugar flowers,” says McWilliams.
Black, White, and Gold
While black and white never really go out of style, these classic formal shades are seeing a new surge in popularity. “The great thing about this color combo is that they’re as classic and timeless as they are retro, and depending on how they’re incorporated into your wedding, they can also be ultra-modern,” says event planner Kelly McWilliams. “The trick is going to be balance: Try a crisp white with clean black lines or luxe black linens and white florals. Trim out with gold accents on the tables and signage.”
These ’70s and ’80s staples aren’t just for afterparties, says event planner Jove Meyer. “Disco balls are the new photo booth: Everyone has to have one!” he says. “These retro balls are groovy and fun and set the tone for a great dance party. They are being used with lights to dance, but also in sculptural ways for decor: There are now custom disco shapes, disco mirrors, disco tables, disco hats—all things disco ball are back and it makes me so happy!”
Mid-Century, West Coast Luxury
The saturated tones, celebrity subjects, and sunny panoramas of SIim Aarons’ mid-century photography portfolio—think Palm Springs in the 1960s—are inspiring couples who are looking to throw a truly festive, memorable party. “The name I’m hearing more and more of is Slim Aarons, and you can’t get more retro than that!” says McWilliams. “His images are full of color and almost always the act of gathering for fun and celebrating life—a perfect inspiration board for a summer wedding.”
Art Deco Aesthetics
A century after the Jazz Age, couples still find themselves drawn to the glamour and elegance of the 1920s. “I see the lean into Gatsby-style, Art Deco celebrations, complete with old-fashioned martini bars, geometric shapes, big bands with horn sections, and black tuxes,” says McWilliams. “Be on the lookout for vintage getaway vehicles, ballrooms with chandeliers, and classic calligraphy on wedding stationery.”
In a move away from neat, symmetrical florals, Meyer sees more and more couples opting for fewer—and bolder—individual blooms to anchor an arrangement. “Retro flowers are more like sculptures and modern art than symmetrical centerpieces and bouquets,” he says. “Couples are leaning into interesting flowers that were popular in the 1970s, when arrangements often included two, maybe three ingredients, rather than 10 to 12 ingredients. These retro flowers play with shape and size, they are often larger and asymmetrical, more sculptural and in-your-face.”
Forget the posed, formal wedding portraits that defined several generations of brides and grooms. “Imperfect, almost messy wedding photography is back,” says Meyer. “Couples no longer want the perfect, bright, highly stylized, and posed images. They want to see the real thing, a little blurry and a little chaotic, showing the fun and energy rather than the shots that feel more like an editorial in a wedding magazine.”
A reminder of the days before digital photography, this candid style feels much more relaxed and natural, says Meyer. McWilliams has had clients go even further back in time for their photo inspiration. “Last week, I had a client ask me about having a photographer come to photograph their wedding as if it was for a newspaper in the ’50s or ’60s: All black and white images and completely candid, following the story of the day as it happened,” she says. “I’m here for it!”
Couples who realize they’re never going to see any prints of the selfies and group pics guests capture on their phones during their reception turn to a classic solution: Disposable cameras on every table. “Disposable cameras had their heyday in the ’80s and ’90s but died out as digital cameras and cell phones with cameras emerged,” says Meyer. “Couples want to see their wedding captured through their guests’ eyes—and who doesn’t love to twist the film of a disposable camera and hear the click when they shoot the night away?”
Music on Vinyl
No longer just for music buffs, vinyl records are a rich, layered alternative to a disc jockey who shows up with nothing but an iPad. “DJs are showing up with carts of iconic vinyl and spinning the night away with tunes that have that crackle and energy that only vinyl gives,” says Meyer. “Some DJs specialize in only vinyl, while others mix vinyl with recorded music—either way, seeing turntables with vinyl is such a fun throwback and says, let the dance party begin!”
Piped Cake Accents
While you’re still likely to see plenty of minimalist, fondant-covered cakes at weddings, you should also anticipate a return to classic buttercream and traditional piping styles that mimic your childhood birthday cakes. “Retro wedding cakes are on the rise and making a big comeback,” says Meyer. “Some couples even add cherries on top to give it an authentic nod to a retro cake, which was super popular in the ’80s and goes back to the iconic grocery store cake, with the same piping technique.”
City Hall Ceremonies
For the ultimate old-school wedding, keep your ceremony civil and your reception intimate. “Long live the visit to city hall, in a chic suit, with a small bouquet, keeping it classic and small,” says Ritchie. “This throwback move feels super genuine and is a great juxtaposition to the over-the-top weddings we’ve had front and center in more recent years.” Imagine the black-and-white photos of your grandparents leaving their own city hall ceremony—proof that true love itself never goes out of style.