A Century of Weddings: The 1930s
A Century Of Weddings: The 1930s
The 1930s were an era marked by the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and other struggles across the world. While times were tough, people stayed upbeat with modern inventions like FM radio, trips to the cinema, and (legal) drinks with friends. Unpretentious details and affordable styles gave brides a challenge, but they adapted and still had their dream celebrations. Let’s take a closer look at the wedding trends of the decade!
The Bridal Trousseau:
A tradition that dates back to the Renaissance, bridal trousseaus are chests filled with household items and other goodies gathered for a woman in anticipation of marriage. Families would usually start collecting things for their daughter to take into married life while she was still young—they’d often add jewelry, linens, sleepwear, and other pieces for a newlywed woman! Having a trousseau was helpful for couples in the 1930s since financial struggles were so abundant; a bride would also use this “hope chest” to store her veil, accessories, and even a reception outfit if she had one!
Read All About It:
As brides searched for inspiration during tough times, the concept of bridal publications erupted in the mid-30s! Brides released its first issue in 1934 and was originally called So You’re Going to Be Married (not easy to fit that on a cover!). The magazine reported on celebrity weddings and gowns, along with trending topics like custom-made gowns, decorations, and gift ideas.
Art Deco Influences:
The architectural elements of Art Deco style roared throughout the Twenties, offering a glamorous take on modernism. The style continued to trend in the 1930s, as reflected in iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center. Brides sought gowns with geometric details and textured touches for an Art Deco aesthetic.
Gone were the flapper dresses and dazzling details—brides in the 1930s flocked to budget-friendly materials and practical styles for their wedding days. Rayon offered brides an affordable way to get their dream gown (if they weren’t just going with their best dress!). The trending silhouette? An hourglass shape with modest touches like high necklines and long sleeves, along with rows of buttons and panels of lace.
Even during times of hardship, brides were able to make their wedding day look their own. Heirloom jewelry was typically worn, along with pieces that added some subtle sparkle like glittering hairpins or a bejeweled comb. Flowing veils topped with Juliet caps fulfilled the desires of glamour-loving brides. Another trending accessory? Hats, especially when adorned with netting, embellishments, or feathers!
Hair & Makeup
Soft & Delicate:
Keeping it conservative and curled was the hair mantra of the 30s, with Hollywood stars inspiring women to sport soft waves and feminine cuts. The recent invention of the Marcel iron made it easier to get those “I woke up like this” waves and paved the way for heated styling tools.
From Screen to Vanity:
In the days before Instagram tutorials and beauty hauls, women looked to Hollywood starlets for makeup inspiration. Celebrities like Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich started beauty trends including skinny (like, dental floss skinny) brows and contouring. One major invention of the time? False eyelashes! Keeping your look refined and feminine was key, as cosmetics companies started offering more products and even brought movie makeup to the general public!
Drinks All Around:
Pouring one out became a lot easier when Prohibition ended in 1933, leading to the resurgence of bars and the sound of a thousand champagne corks being popped to celebrate. Many got their jobs back and businesses flourished as nightlife returned. Cocktails like Gin Rickeys and Sidecars gained popularity and couples were able to serve their guests at their wedding receptions (this also gave people an excuse for their dance skills!).
The 1930s are considered the start of Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” an era that saw major film studios and legendary actors become household names. Iconic movies including the original A Star Is Born (1937) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) used new technologies and gave their audiences an escape. Disney released their first full-length animated film (starring a princess and seven dwarves…) and made going to the movies a family event. Recent films like Cinderella Man (2005) and Atonement (2007) highlight the challenging era through a modern lens.
Carole Lombard & Clark Gable:
What happens when you pair Hollywood’s main leading man and a quick-witted comedy starlet? A surprisingly low-key wedding between two legendary actors! Carole Lombard and Clark Gable eloped in 1939, announcing their marriage at a press conference where the bride donned a timeless skirt suit and soft blonde waves.
Madge Elliott & Cyril Ritchard:
In 1935, Aussie icons Madge Elliott and Cyril Ritchard married in Sydney to the applause of thousands, a familiar sound thanks to their shared stage careers. The bride wore an extravagant gown with a sweeping train, along with a billowing $9,000 veil. A surprise guest made its way into their photos: a sudden windstorm that made for some dramatic moments!
Princess Marina &
Before Will and Kate or Harry and Meghan, there was George and Marina. The English royal married the Greek princess in 1934; she wore a silk brocade gown topped with a tiara (of course). This was the first royal wedding to be broadcast wirelessly, thanks to the recent invention of FM radio!
And that's been the 1930s!
Onto the next decade: The 1940s.