A bridesmaid wearing a red, 1950s-style pinup halter dress. Linens covered in black-and-white polka dots. These aren't the images you expect to encounter at a wedding … but they are the theme-infused memories that bride Amanda Belcher captured in the wedding album of her September 2008 nuptials.
Belcher's big day featured a blast-from-the-past type of affair. All of her bridesmaids wore vintage-gown reproductions from the 1940s and 1950s. "My husband and I have always been into the culture of those eras," Belcher explains. "I have always loved vintage fashion. Things just fell into place at our wedding."
Although not many brides want a mid-century-themed wedding, all brides do want their big day to be special. "Every bride wants her wedding to stand out," observes Angela Parker, owner of Angela's Elegant Events. "A theme is the personalization."
Themes for weddings are as varied as personalities, ranging from simple colors to elaborate scenarios. Wedding planner Colleen Cook of CCS Events finds herself in the planning stages of a Great Gatsby -style wedding for a client. "I think the first words that come to mind when you say ‘ Great Gatsby ' are gold, glitz and glam," she says. "I also think of long gloves, feather boas and rhinestones."
This wedding may also include a vintage photo booth and popular cocktails from the 1920s Jazz Age, the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel. "I throw out suggestions and see what the bride and groom like," Cook says.
Any type of theme — no matter how subtle — can make a wedding more memorable. "A theme can also make the wedding more cohesive and help you reflect your individuality," Cook adds.
Wedding themes need not be over the top. "I don't think ornate equals elegant," says Michele Damasco, a freelance event planner. "Brides just want to have a beautiful day and a good time with their friends."
Many themes focus on simple features such as color, setting and pattern. "The most popular theme right now is color," Parker says. "Colors can make a wedding simple but elegant." She recently planned a red-rose-themed wedding, chosen because the groom gave the bride a bouquet of roses on their first date. "The bride carried red roses, and the cake also had red roses," Parker says. Bridesmaids wore deep-red dresses, and roses were submerged in the centerpieces.
Settings like a beach, garden or historic home can serve as the theme as well. "Everything doesn't have to be sand or seashells at a beach wedding," points out Parker, who recently planned a wedding in Virginia Beach. "It can be just the colors, like getting the different blues of the water."
Damasco recently employed a vineyard theme for a wedding held at Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery, north of Charlottesville. "The location was the theme," she says. "What I loved about that wedding was the simplicity." She has also planned extravagant weddings where the theme was a special element that added pizzazz to the event. "For one after-six wedding, we ended with fireworks," she says.
Patterns can also serve as themes for the big day. "If a bride likes a paisley pattern, for example, you can use it throughout the wedding, from the paper products to the floral designs," Cook says.
Belcher wanted every aspect of her wedding at The Mill at Fine Creek in Powhatan to reflect her mid-century theme, from the vintage 1956 Chevy Bel Air guests passed upon arrival, to the Chuck Taylor tennis shoes that her husband and groomsmen wore with button-down shirts and kilts.
She also asked Richmond designer Karl Green to create a wedding dress that captured the theme. So he did: "The dress had a swing skirt that came to mid-calf," Belcher says. "I had a red bolero jacket that went over it." The off-white dress was edged in bright red, with red buttons running down the back of the bodice.
For favors, Belcher made CDs that looked like miniature vinyl records with songs from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as a few local, modern tunes. "Everybody was comfortable and had a good time," she says. "Anyone's wedding should reflect the couple and what they love. I think we did just that. It was honest; it was about us and what we love."