Infusing vintage elements into your wedding day is not only sustainable, but also sentimental. Whether it’s your family’s fine china or an archive piece from a fashion house you’ve long admired, it’s sometimes that much more special to incorporate elevated elements from the past that are rich in history, rather than consistently insisting on something brand new. What’s more, opting for something vintage ensures that your design, fashion, and decor elements are one of a kind, rather than run of the mill or easily replicated.
It’s important to note that authentic vintage, which is sourced, authenticated as needed, and preserved over time is vastly different from anything vintage-inspired: pieces that have been treated and distressed to look like heirlooms, but are no different than buying something new. The latter, while it may have the same patina as true vintage—and might be more cost-effective—is no different than purchasing something shiny and new. Vintage-inspired may be chic and on-theme for your wedding day, but don’t be fooled—there’s nothing sustainable or upcycled about it.
Our expert advice? Take the time to source true vintage; it might be more of a challenge when it comes to gathering the amount of dishes, glassware, flatware, or objet you need but the effect and environmental footprint is worth the extra legwork and will be worth its weight when considering future resale values. Seek out the experts to determine whether the fashion, jewels, tabletop, and decorative objet you’re after is authentic before you commit to a big purchase—any vintage dealer worth their salt will have proper paperwork (any maybe a good story or two) for designer goods and fine jewelry, and be able to discuss the origins and details of the vintage they’re selling in great detail.
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Start With the Dress…
Opting for a vintage dress is a clear starting point for those looking to incorporate anything archival into their wedding day. Vintage dresses are not only a piece of fashion history, but—when sourced from a trusted dealer or seller—they are more artfully crafted than a machine manufactured gown, and preserved to withstand the test of time. Choose a seller that knows the history of their garments, and can point out any and all flaws in the piece so that there are no surprises; they’ll also be the best resource regarding trusted tailors for alterations and tips on cleaning and preserving your gown post-wedding. BAZAAR Bride’s go-to vintage wedding dress specialist, Happy Isles, specializes in designer archive and vintage gowns for brides, guests, and fashion lovers alike—and owner Lily Kaizer also has a keen eye for the best vintage accessories to help style your look from top to toe.
Pictured: Bride Roxanne Fequiere in a 1970s Saks Fifth Avenue gown from Happy Isles with her husband Cameron; Planning by Jove Meyer.
Choose a Historic Venue
Opting for a historic venue—either stateside or internationally—guarantees that your wedding will be rich in history. Before booking, get to know the venue, its story, and who lived there over time to inspire design elements, motifs, themes, and more. Stay inspired by the space as you craft the look and feel of your reception and ceremony, and utilize the texture of its antique furnishings, landscaping, and architecture when styling the event itself, and your wedding photos. When choosing your dress, consider the space, the period in history it was built, and how your fashion will complement and look when placed in it.
Go Sustainable with Stationery
Using vintage, recycled, compostable, or biodegradable paper is a forward-thinking way to create an heirloom out of one of the more temporal elements of the wedding day; and while using vintage or recycled paper is possible, those invitations likely won’t withstand the test of time for each and every guest.
Opt for invitations that have staying power—and ones that can become heirlooms themselves outside of being framed, collected, or stored in an album. Here, an invitation suite by Cheree Berry Paper was created out of seed paper, allowing each guest to plant the stationery in soil, and watch the seeds grow into something they can enjoy for years to come. Take the theme a step further, with a vintage-inspired botanical liner and stamps.
At Cocktail Hour…
Nothing is more chic, sleek, and sexy than a refined cocktail hour—with drinks made to order per guest by servers stationed at antique bar carts. Have various styles of carts (perhaps each one specializing in a different spirit) stationed throughout the event, and don’t stress about them looking completely uniform; the beauty of antiques and vintage is that no two pieces are totally identical. Intimate weddings at-home or in the backyard make this cocktail service that much easier to achieve, and guests will appreciate not only your attention to detail in the event design, as well as in the beverage offerings and guest experience.
Take this idea one step further and serve classic cocktails only, like martinis, an old fashioned, Negronis, and more. Then, purchase your favorite cart for your newlywed home to cherish it as a long-term heirloom. Trust us: you’ll think of your wedding day each and every time you craft a quality drink at home.
All in the Details
In your fashion fittings and alterations, bring in details that speak to historic design techniques and call to the decade your look originated from. Case in point: this multi-tiered bustle on a vintage high-low Oscar de la Renta gown, also from Happy Isles.
All About Jewels
Vintage, antique, and estate jewelry is any fashion collector’s dream when it comes to incorporating vintage into your bridal accessories. Work with a trusted jeweler to track down the best vintage stones (quality pieces will always come with a certificate) and have them reset in modern settings, or opt for an antique through and through. Keep the investment of a vintage piece of jewelry in mind when shopping; those created and signed by famed jewelry houses are rare and considered pieces of design history.
Be it heirlooms from your family or newly-purchased pieces from a trusted source like Stephen Russell or Doyle & Doyle, opting for a vintage piece of jewelry—be it Old Mine, Old European, Victorian, Deco, Georgian, or beyond—is possibly the chicest way to don “something old” on the day-of.
Get Inspired By the Icons
Turn to the ultimate style icons of decades past, and what they wore down the aisle, for inspiration. Choose fashion’s best bridal hits—like Diana Ross (pictured here), Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Bianca Jagger (pictured above), Elizabeth Taylor, Priscilla Presley, and more for ideas on styling your (present-day) vintage bridal look.
Whether you take notes from Ross’ all-lace veil and midi length or choose a hat that nods to Jagger’s iconic chapeau, tapping the fashion hits of decades past (especially those from the decade your gown is originally from) will give you ample inspiration to include vintage fashion in an equally iconic way.
Consider the Lighting
Light up the room with antique chandeliers, candelabras, and vintage taper candle holders for a look that feels as romantic as it does timeless, and hearkens to the grandeur of glamorous balls and royal galas throughout history. Also, trust us: there is nothing more gorgeous when it comes to lighting a party, dinner reception, or intimate gathering than loads of candlelight.
Use Vintage Stamps
Find Your Seat…
Choose vintage objet as favors, tabletop, and as a way to guide your guests to their seats. Here, a vintage cup and saucer served as the way to guide the couple’s loved ones to their assigned seats at an English-inspired, intimate dinner party in New York City.
Opt for a Champagne Toast
While vintage (as we discussed) means something sourced and archival, it doesn’t always mean something that you can save for years after you choose to enjoy it. Champagne is typically created from a collection of various years of grape harvests, exclusively in Champagne, France. However, on a particularly good year, a house will dub the year “a vintage,” and produce an entire batch of bubbles using just that year’s yield.
If you’re opting for a truly vintage wedding, why not do it with your toasts to boot? Nod to a significant year in your family history by selecting a vintage to drink on the night-of your wedding for just the two of you, or to share with your guests for a celebratory glass clinking.
Use Heirloom China
Mix old and new plates, chargers, and napkins (or opt for all old) when choosing what you’ll serve your wedding menu on. Mix prints, colors, and textures at each setting, and choose vintage plates, cutlery, glassware, and more to make each guest experience unique from the next. If you’re hoping to go vintage top-to-bottom, select vintage linens to complement the look.
Pictured: A vintage dinner service designed by Matthew Robbins Design.
Plan an Antique Getaway
For a nod to tradition, plan a confetti, rice, or sparkler-flying getaway at the end of the night or just after your ceremony, and have a vintage car whisk you off to your reception, after party, hotel suite, or (perhaps the most traditional)—to the airport for your honeymoon.
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