A hundred years ago, America was recovering from World War I, enjoying an economic boom, and the culture shifted. Jazz blossomed, technology such as automobiles, moving pictures, and radio were at hand, and women could vote.
|Bride Peggy Fish, 1920s, Public Domain|
Many of these women either became or were influenced by Flappers, a generation of women who bobbed their hair, wore short skirts (to their knees), drove cars, wore makeup, smoked cigarettes in public, and even drank alcohol, despite Prohibition. In an age of flouted conventions, weddings changed, too, and many usual trappings or traditions were set aside to reflect the times.
Naturally, weddings are cultural affairs, and every wedding was different, but the 1920's saw a trend towards smaller, more informal weddings. Elopements were popular, as were wedding performed in city hall. Church weddings still occurred, of course, but for the first time, brides refused to have their fathers walk them down the aisle toward their grooms.
|Alice Joyce and James Regan, Jr. married in July, 1920. Public Domain.|
Reflecting current fashions, waistlines and necklines of wedding dresses dropped, and hems rose. Some went to the knee, others were shorter in the front and longer in the back. Atop bobbed hairdos, brides wore cloche hats, headdresses, or Juliet caps rather than veils (although the headgear often had a trailing veil attached). All these could be intricately embroidered or beaded, however: simpler wedding didn't necessarily mean less ornate.
Nor did all brides wear white. Some wore black as a statement against the "white wedding" idea, but other brides chose gowns of other colors to suit their tastes. Bridesmaids wore matching or complementary gowns.
|New York Bridesmaids, early 1920s. Public Domain.|
Brides wore makeup in the 1920's, as well, even if it meant they had to make it themselves. Many a young lady mixed charcoal with petroleum jelly to create eyeliner and shadow.
Bouquets were not tiny in this decade. On the contrary, brides favored large, trailing bouquets--for themselves as well as their bridesmaids.
|1929 Wedding. Public Domain.|
Wedding cake was an important part of a reception, of course. Often brides or members of their families baked a sponge cake, but sent it to a confectioner's shop to be iced. Others decorated the cakes themselves, and in the spirit of the times, the icing was piped into Art Deco designs like chevrons, or the cakes were topped with feathers, flowers, or other ornamentation.
|The photograph is Australian, but it shows the tiered cake, food, and decorations well. 1920s, Public Domain.|
White icing was still popular, since white refined sugar was expensive and had become a symbol of affluence.
One thing is clear: American weddings of the Roaring '20s reflected the changing culture.
**Carousel Dreams includes The Carousel Wedding by Susanne Dietze, set in 1922 San Diego, California.
Susanne is an award-winning author of stories with timeless heart.