The 1950s were an era of post-war optimism, economic growth, and a return to tradition. This spirit of renewal and stability was reflected in the typical weddings of the time, which emphasized classic elegance, formality, and timeless romance. Let's step back in time to explore what a typical wedding in the 1950s was like.
The Bridal Attire:
Bridal fashion in the 1950s was epitomized by graceful and feminine silhouettes. The iconic wedding dress style of the decade was the tea-length, A-line gown, often adorned with lace and tulle.
These dresses were designed to emphasize the small waist and full skirts, creating an elegant and timeless look. Brides wore elbow-length gloves, and veils were typically short and attached to a hat or headpiece, like a Juliet cap.
The Groom's Attire:
Grooms were dressed in classic black tuxedos, complete with a black bowtie, white dress shirt, and a cummerbund. This formal attire conveyed an air of sophistication and tradition.
Religious ceremonies were the norm in the 1950s, with couples marrying in churches, synagogues, or other places of worship. These weddings were often solemn and dignified, with the exchange of vows being the central focus. Traditional wedding music, such as Mendelssohn's "Wedding March," was commonly played as the bride walked down the aisle.
Receptions were typically held in formal settings, like banquet halls or ballrooms. Tables were adorned with floral centrepieces, and guests were seated for a formal dinner.
What Food Was Served at a 50s Wedding?
Wedding meals typically reflected the formality and traditional customs of the era. The menu often featured classic British dishes, and a formal three-course meal was the standard. Here's what a typical wedding meal served at weddings in the 1950s in the UK might have included:
- Clear Soup: A clear and light soup, often a consommé or a clear broth, was a common choice for the starter. It was served hot and was intended to whet the appetite without being too filling.
- Roast Meat: Roast meat was a staple of 1950s British cuisine. A choice of roast beef, lamb, or chicken was typical. The meat was roasted to perfection and carved at the table.
- Accompaniments: The main course was accompanied by traditional sides like roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding (especially with beef), and a variety of seasonal vegetables such as carrots, peas, and green beans.
- Gravy: A rich gravy made from the meat juices was poured over the meat and Yorkshire pudding for added flavour.
Live bands or orchestras provided music for dancing, and couples often enjoyed waltzes, foxtrots, and other ballroom dances.
The first dance was a highlight of the evening, with the couple typically choosing a romantic ballad.
Décor and Decorations:
Wedding décor usually featured pastel colours, often pink or mint green, and a profusion of flowers.
Church decorations for a 1950s wedding in Britain would have typically followed a traditional and romantic style, emphasizing elegance and formality. Here are some common elements and décor choices for a 1950s British church wedding:
1. Floral Arrangements:
- Flowers played a central role in church décor. Pews and the altar were adorned with fresh flower arrangements. Common flower choices included roses, lilies, carnations, and other seasonal blooms.
- Floral garlands, swags, or pew bows were often used to decorate the ends of pews or aisles.
2. Aisle Runner:
- A white or ivory aisle runner was typically laid down the centre aisle. It added a touch of formality and elegance to the procession.
- Candles were frequently used to create a warm and romantic atmosphere. Taper candles in candelabras or candle holders were placed along the aisle or at the altar.
- Unity candles were not as common as they are in modern ceremonies, but some couples did incorporate them.
4. Ribbons and Bows:
- Decorative ribbons and bows in the wedding's colour scheme were used to embellish the ends of pews or to decorate the church entrance.
5. Floral-Adorned Arch or Chuppah:
- Some weddings included an arch or chuppah at the entrance to the church, which was often draped in white fabric and adorned with flowers.
6. Carpet of Flower Petals:
- In some cases, fresh flower petals were scattered along the aisle for the bride to walk on. This created a beautiful and fragrant path for her entrance.
7. Wedding Bells:
- It was common to have decorative bells, often made of flowers or paper, hanging from the pews or archways. The chiming of bells added to the celebratory atmosphere.
8. Lace and Fabric Drapery:
- Lace and fabric drapery were used to create a soft and romantic backdrop at the altar. This added a sense of grandeur and framed the couple during the ceremony.
9. Pew Décor:
- Some couples included small decorative items on the pews, such as satin bows, lace doilies, or small arrangements.
What Were 1950s Wedding Cakes Like?
Just like modern day, 1950s weddings typically celebrated with a wedding cake. There are lots of similarities between then and now and the main features would have been:
1. Multi-Tiered: Multi-tiered wedding cakes were the standard in the 1950s. Couples often chose between two and four tiers, with each tier being smaller in diameter than the one below it. The height of the cake was emphasized, creating a grand and visually impressive dessert.
2. White Frosting: White was the dominant colour for both the cake itself and the frosting. Buttercream icing was commonly used to achieve a smooth and polished appearance. The pristine white colour symbolized purity and the couple's new life together.
3. Intricate Piped Designs: Wedding cakes of the 1950s were adorned with intricate piped designs made from buttercream or royal icing. These designs included delicate scrolls, lace patterns, and ornate scrollwork. These piped decorations added a touch of elegance to the cake.
4. Fresh Flowers: Fresh flowers, particularly roses, were a popular choice for decorating wedding cakes. Couples often used real flowers to add a natural and romantic element to the cake's appearance. The flowers were typically placed between the tiers and around the cake's base.
5. Pillars and Separators: Some wedding cakes featured columns or pillars between the tiers, creating a sense of elevation and grandeur. These pillars were often made of plastic or other materials and added a touch of formality to the cake's design.
6. Cake Toppers: Traditional cake toppers in the 1950s were often miniature figurines of the bride and groom. These figurines were placed on the top tier and were commonly dressed in formal wedding attire. Some couples also used monogram toppers or other decorative elements.
7. Flavour Variations: Wedding cakes in the 1950s typically had a fruitcake base. However, some couples opted for other flavours, such as chocolate or Victoria Sponge cake, depending on their personal preferences.
8. Cutting Ceremony: The tradition of the cake cutting ceremony was well-established in the 1950s. The bride and groom would cut the cake together, symbolizing their first task as a married couple. Afterward, the cake was served to guests.
9. Elegance and Tradition: 1950s wedding cakes were a reflection of the era's emphasis on elegance and tradition. The designs were timeless, and the cakes were often tall, white, and exquisitely decorated.
The cutting of the cake was a symbol of the couple's first task together as husband and wife.
Traditions and Etiquette:
Couples of the 1950s adhered to traditional wedding customs and strict etiquette. For instance, it was customary for the bride's family to bear the majority of wedding expenses. Thank-you notes were a must, expressing gratitude for the gifts received.
In summary, 1950s weddings were characterized by simple traditions, an emphasis on elegance, and a deep sense of commitment. The era's weddings stuck with us in a way that continues to inspire modern couples looking for a touch of nostalgia on their big day.