By Natalie Bogan, KC Weddings
Something old never looked so good. New ways to weave creative, retro-infused touches into your big day.
Dust-laden attics, flea markets and consignment stores aren’t safe anymore—at least not if there’s a wedding on the horizon. These days creative, outside-the-box couples are looking beyond high-brow boutiques and couture salons,seeking out fresh inspiration culled from a bygone era.
What started with the resurgence of birdcage veils and vintage gowns a couple of years back, has infiltrated the rest of the big day—from invitation accents and unscripted, sepia-tinged photos to perfectly-eclectic reception decor.
“People are really embracing intuitive simplicity,” says photographer Mary Schroeder of Blue Window Creative. “Most couples have shifted the importance of the color of napkins and ‘bling’ to the importance of incorporating some of their life into that day—more than making sure the 80-pound cake has enough tiers.”
While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the retro trend really gained steam, the popularity does seem to coincide with the onset of the recession and the increased emphasis on green living.
Duos are pairing down guest lists and resisting pressure to deliver over-the-top, debt-inducing celebrations, in favor of personality-fueled parties that center around quality time with close friends and family.
“Couples are keeping it simple, being true to themselves and starting a sustainable life for themselves,” she says. “Sustainable not just in an eco-conscious way, but in a space-for-your-soul, breathing-deep, picnic, cuddling-on-the-couch kind of way.”
The end result showcases lived-in vintage style that embraces the perfectly imperfect: Mis-matched accents, open color schemes, farmer market flowers and DIY projects galore.
“[Brides and grooms] are really picking a few things that are truly important—a band, a beautiful custom skirt, the photography,” says Schroeder. “We’re seeing more genuine weddings, real couples with incredible laughs and intimate affairs with the ones they love.”
Agonizing over invitation suites is nothing new for soon-to-be-weds. Letterpress or thermography? White diamond or ecru? Pocket-fold or flat? It’s enough to overwhelm even the most carefree duo.
But it’s only half of the paper battle. There’s the envelope, too, where couples are faced with the pressure to splurge on calligraphy, Emily Post’s laundry-list of etiquette rules and the challenge of finding stamps that compliment the vibe of the wedding.
For those lovebirds that just can’t get excited about the ho-hum designs the post office is hocking these days, vintage stamps provide a great alternative, while helping imbue a retro-inspired tone right from the get-go.
“It’s such a fun part of your invitations, if you feel like putting the time in,” says Kristina Hedrick Meltzer of 100LayerCake.com. “It isn’t as expensive as people think it is, plus it’s so much more visually interesting to look at a whole row of bold cool stamps, instead of the two rings together that the post office gives you.”
Word of advice: Start collecting early. Seek out estate sales and stamp collectors in the area, who often have plenty of face value stamps to sell. “They aren’t worth anything on the collectable market, but they’re perfectly cool for sending invites,” says Hedrick Meltzer, who took on the task of stamp collecting for her 2008 nuptials.
Look for high-value varieties like 20 or 25-cents, because it takes a lot of those little lovelies to cover the 61-cent fee it costs to mail most info-packed invites today. Once you’ve gathered the small works of art, Hedrick Meltzer suggests grouping them by color and theme, before selecting sets for each letter.
“My husband’s cousin is a pharmacist, so I had vintage pharmacy stamps,” she recounts. “If there’s an interest that a guest had and I remembered, I put those on. If you have people that appreciate those details, they will totally keep your envelope forever.”
Another helpful item to note: If you do decide to have a calligrapher address the invites, be sure to let them know about your vintage stamp plan, so they can leave enough space along the top of the envelope. And, when the time comes to apply those little guys to the paper, Hedrick Meltzer recommends recruiting a teammate.
“I made my husband do it,” she says, with a smile. “I told him, ‘I did everything else, you have to lick them.’ It was like the Seinfeld episode where Susan dies from licking too many envelopes.”
The opportunities to impart vintage style in wedding day décor are endless, but much like the stamp search, finding the right pieces takes time, so start collecting early, mix old with new and pick your battles.
“You can’t have everything,” says interior design mastermind Eddie Ross, a KC regular and former editor of Martha Stewart Living. “Get the white plates and silverware from the rental company, but maybe select one different knife and use a different top plate on the charger.”
He suggests dressing the table with a DIY runner—frame the edges of an oversized piece of burlap or use a vintage calico print to set the tone. “You can pull out colors from the fabric print,” he says of the flowery-find. “You’re able to mix the subtle oranges and pinks and greens without it being all Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
Transform fruit-filled vintage baskets into centerpieces or, for added drama, pull together a collection of milk glass vases. “Creative Candles has the most beautiful pieces. Even if you’re doing something simple like milk glass candle sticks, you can buy the prettiest candles for the table.”
Worried that the old-school look will be a fleeting fad? Ross doesn’t think so.
“It’s not just vintage anymore, it’s being green and recycling and reusing,” he says. “People are really conscious of that now and honestly, going to a party rental place and having the same thing another bride has is a turn off. But if you can have the plates and use something vintage, you can really make it your own.”
SHOT OF LOVE
While Polaroid prints and vintage 35mm film have indeed taken a backseat to digital technology, the classic, grainy look of the old-school method is enjoying a renaissance in the wedding industry.
“People want to feel simple, lovely and light-hearted in the midst of unpredictable changes going on in the world—job loss/recovery, housing issues, and just a general lifestyle modification,” suggests Schroeder. “Film is a symbol of a simpler, less technologically dependent time.”
Still, most couples (and photographers!) wouldn’t rely on those oh-so-beautiful vintage cameras to capture the big day, in the off chance that a roll of film didn’t turn out. (Hell hath no fury like a bride without her wedding pictures!)
Fortunately, couples now get the best of both worlds—the organic look of film with the dependability of digital. That is, if they hire a photographer that’s well-versed in Photoshop. Remember, just because someone can convert snapshots to sepia doesn’t necessarily make it right!
“There are always going to be followers, and replicators that try and dress-up ‘ok’ images by photoshopping the hell out of them,” she admits. “On the other hand, there are beautifully connected images out there that speak straight out of the camera and are just brought to a ‘goosebump-worthy’ level by editing them with a fitting vintage flair.”
The shift in photography style goes beyond the color tones and film type, though. It’s also about the emphasis on the content captured. Duos are turning away from the overly-posed images that were standard practice a decade ago, in favor of candid, journalistic-style photography.
While unruly fly-aways, tear-stained cheeks and the ring bearer’s catnap beneath the pew might seem unimportant or almost imperfect, it’s those unstaged moments that help tell the story and show the emotions of the wedding day.
“Twenty years from now,” she says. “The image of your grandmother’s wrinkles will still be beautiful, as you’ll start to see those same wrinkles in yourself.”