How to Plan a Vintage Themed Wedding
By Lydia Martin

27 January 2015

If you’re a bride-to-be dreaming of a timeless wedding which incorporates a hint of romanticism from the past, then a vintage-themed wedding might be just the style for you! There is something so charming and romantic about adding treasures from another place and time, whether it’s a hint of vintage lace on the tables or a pile of old suitcases outside the reception venue. All these lovely vintage details will make your special day truly unforgettable with its dash of old-world glamour.

Image by Belinda Bradley Photography

When approaching your wedding design, much thought needs to be given to exactly what vintage means for you as a couple. Are you imagining lush 1940s waves in your hair, or a glamorous champagne gown with a thirties vibe? Are the guys in mismatched shirts and suspenders, or looking dapper in matching tweed suits? Or perhaps you’d love a 1920s Great Gatsby themed garden party? There are no hard and fast rules that you must follow, so vintage weddings offer a wealth of possibilities!

But to help your wedding stylist or planner pull together all the elements of your vintage wedding, from save the date cards, to the design, decoration, cars and music, you need to start planning now.

Where Should I Start?

So, where should you begin with the planning process? By looking to the past, of course! Generally the term ‘vintage’ covers everything from the late Victorian era to the 1980s. The twentieth century saw a huge range of changes in every decade so, for the sake of consistency, you should choose a specific time period to focus on.

Start by asking if there is a particular era that you’ve always been fascinated with (think 1900s to 1980s). Pull out some of your favourite movies, books and artwork for immediate inspiration. This exercise will help get your creative juices flowing and give you a feeling for the overall look you might be after – am I drawn to the roaring twenties? Do I love the forties glam? Or do I want to recreate my Grandparent’s wedding look?

Next, you need to decide how retro you want your wedding to be. Do you want a complete vintage affair, all the way from the save-the-dates to the favours (you could even get your guests into the act with period outfits and hats)? Or would you prefer a more modern wedding and reception, with a just a few well-placed historic details (think old books for your tablescapes, or suspenders for the boys)?

Ceremony & Reception Venues

The correct venue will set the perfect vintage mood for your wedding and determine many of your decor and design choices. In the past, weddings were often held in family homes, with beautiful garden receptions set outside. So a country house will work for many different time periods. You might even find a rustic barn for the ideal shabby-chic reception!

If you’re seeking to recreate a specific era, you’ll have to spend a bit more time looking. For a 1920s ballroom with Gatsby grandeur, you could try The Langham, Auckland or Auckland’s Waitakere Estate. For a funky ’60s-style wedding, try Hotel Debrett or Bracu Pavilion. For a quaint early-1900s ceremony, search for a small white colonial-style church (there are lots of these in New Zealand!). If your venue is more modern, such as a vineyard or a hotel, with the help of talented stylists, like All The Frills or Two Foxes, you’ll be able add design touches that’ll transport your venue into the past.

Save-the-dates & Wedding Invitations

Your save-the-date cards are the first chance you have to introduce guests to your vintage theme. Find a motif that you can continue to use for all your paper products (i.e. invitations, ceremony programs, thank-you notes, etc...). Try researching old styles of lettering from your chosen time period or design the cards and invites to look like old photos, telegrams, theatre programs or steamship tickets. For an extra dose of fun, organise an engagement shoot where you and your fiancé are dressed in vintage clothing and then add these images to your invites.

Colour & Design

Your wedding colours and the fabrics you choose are very influential in conveying a time period. Vibrant turquoises and corals bring a true 1950s vibe, while soft pinks and peaches combined with lace are definitely more turn-of-the-century. Be sure to choose hues and materials that will complement your venue. We recommend you create a Pinterest page for all your ideas.

Start collecting so you can incorporate vintage items all through your décor! For the ceremony, line your aisle with candles in antique holders or glass jars tied with burlap. Hang chandeliers over your reception tables. Find mismatched plates and glasses for your outdoors reception. The opportunities are truly endless!

Wedding Dresses & Accessories

Images by Anna Schimmel Bridal Designer

With a resurgence in vintage wedding gown styles for the 2015/2016 wedding season, you’ll be able to find your perfect look with professional bridal designers such as Anna Schimmel and Vinka DesignAnd don’t forget to dress your bridesmaids in vintage-style dresses. Imagine how perfect those full coral skirts will look for your 1950s wedding!

If you’ve chosen a modern wedding gown but still want to add a touch of vintage charm, add period accessories. A string of long pearls conveys a twenties look (and your groom can sport those suspenders!) and Art Deco jewellery adds the perfect touch for the 30s and 40s.

Or try different hairpieces such as the birdcage veil. The birdcage veil is half veil, half head piece. Made from French or Russian netting, this cute, stylish veil is perfect for a 40s/50s themed wedding. Your bouquet is also a chance to go vintage. For example, a sweeping cascade bouquet in soft peach or pink will immediately call to mind the early decades of the 20th century.


As a memento of your wedding, give your guests a piece of the past to take home with vintage-themed favours. For something a little bit posh, try small bottles of popular perfumes and colognes from the time period. Retro toys or old-fashioned candy is great for kids. But there are plenty of options and this is a great time to get DIY: make jars of Grandma’s special jam, wrap soap in retro lace, decorate pretty seed packets, or make your own candles with thrift shop teacups.