Weddings have been part of our culture for centuries. These ceremonies celebrate the life-long union between two people and almost always involve a white dress, cake, and loving friends and family. While weddings are in many ways symbols of ongoing traditions, like anything, these events evolve over time. Fashions come and, go certain customs fall away and aesthetics change.
You can imagine how a wedding that took place in 1916 differs from one in 1980 or even in 2016. Take a look at a century of weddings and how they have changed over the years. You might even spot a few of the century’s most iconic weddings on the way.
During the year 1916, Britain and the rest of Europe were at war. Times were tough but the romance was still alive and many war-torn lovers were corresponding with each other through long letters.
These relationships often resulted in "hasty war weddings." Many couples got engaged without even knowing what either one looked like.
The tradition of matching bridesmaid originated in ancient Roman times. But in 1917 it wasn't uncommon for the bride to dress the same as her bridesmaids.
These outfits always took the form of striped frock and a stylish hat. Not exactly ideal by today's standards, but they looked very happy.
It's hard to believe that the white dress wasn't always a thing. In fact, it was in the year 1840 that Queen Victoria began this long-held tradition.
By the beginning of the 20th century, white dresses became the popular choice for those in more elite rings of society. It was only by the 40s that white dresses filtered down to the masses.
Post World War I, weddings became a lot more formal than they were before. New features began to appear at weddings, such as catering and flower decorations.
Dresses became custom made and people were even printing out their own wedding invitations. All this of course was strictly reserved for the rich.
It was the year 1920, the year that the iconic jazz age couple, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre got married. The ceremony consisted of 8 guests and took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on April 3rd.
As you can imagine, even though it was small, there probably hasn't been a more magical ceremony like that since.
A Silent Affair
Another hugely iconic couple followed with their 1921 wedding. Silent film actors Natalie Talmadge and Buster Keaton tied the knot in a beautiful wedding.
Talmadge carried a bouquet of roses with long ribbon streams, a popular style of bouquet at the time.
A new fashion began to emerge by 1923. Shorter dresses and cloche veils. This is what a typical bride looked like back then. And apparently the bridesmaids too.
We wonder how many random guests came up congratulating those bridesmaids accidentally. Thankfully this changed.
The Bridal Stores
Very soon, wedding vendors began to pick up on the potential of marketing to brides. This opportunity prompted the opening of bridal departments all over the country.
Bridal dresses and accessories flooded these stores and women had more and more choices.
Alfred Hitchcock was "hitched" by December 1926 to the lovely Alma Reville. Given the fact that the man is considered to be one of the greatest directors in history, his wedding must have been a major production.
In reality, it was a rather simple affair.
Here's a department store wedding registry display from 1927. By then, the idea that was invented by Marshall Field's was wildly popular and many stores promoted their deals.
One could already find amazing collections of china, silver, and crystal patterns in an array of places.
In 1928 the first entirely automatic photographic developing device was patented. The invention paved the way for modern wedding photography. By the late 19th century, professional photographers entered the business to take formal wedding pictures.
It was after World Wart II however, with the use of better technologies and lighting that photographers were able to photograph entire ceremonies.
The more prosperous years came to an abrupt end when in 1929 the stock market crashed. The depression forced many women to wear their grandmothers' dresses.
While the economically tough times encouraged simplicity, these vintage dresses revived another time.
The term royal icing was coined during the Queen Victoria years when she had a lavish wedding cake. Like many things, cakes back then were only for the very wealthy.
By 1930, however, more and more people began buying wedding cakes. Above is a wedding cake on display in a window shop in 1930.
What Happens In Vegas...
1931 was the year that Las Vegas County officially issued its gambling license. Since then, the place has been the best spot for crazy nights and instant weddings.
One of the earliest recorded Las Vegas weddings was for showbiz couple Clara Bow and Rex Bell who exchanged vows there in 1931.
For decades couples have been trying to do outdo each other with novelty weddings. This couple wed on surfboards on December 3, 1932.
This fun and the quirky wedding took place just off Catalina Island, California. They managed to combine their wedding clothes with a bathing suit. Looking good!
Imagine going to a wedding with no open bar. That's what most of life was like during the prohibition. That changed on December 5, 1933.
This meant that alcohol was back and people could make a toast to the newlyweds with a legal glass of wine in hand.
The Year of The Magazine
As we can tell, as the years went by, weddings became more and more lavish. By the year 1934 the magazine So You're Going to Be Married hit the shelves.
It was later named to just simply "BRIDES." The publication opened the way for a whole new approach to weddings.
The year 1935 was the year that The Bride of Frankenstein hit cinemas. That April, people started to fear what could happen when you push a woman into a marriage she doesn't want.
Was one of the stepping stones to feminism?
The famous tennis player Eileen Bennet wed her horse racing hubby Marcys Mash in the year, September 28, 1936.
She switched out her tennis headband for a beautiful headpiece and long veil when she walked down the aisle.
A Major Sacrifice
In 1937 King Edward abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American who had been divorced twice. This decision resulted in the shortest reign in British history.
We sincerely hope that it was the right decision because that's a pretty big sacrifice.
At the Grosvenor House in London, a model presents off an extravagant gown fashioned from 48 yards of satin and 22 yards of tulle.
Brides paid an average of $1,092 (today) for their gowns.
Air Raids and Wedding Bells
It was 1939 and once again with the war in the picture, weddings became a little more modest. Weddings were planned in just a few days to accommodate men before they left for war.
Even though it was a grim time, it was also the year the iconic golfer Henry Cotton married Mrs. M. I. Moss. As you can see a background sign points to an air-raid shelter.
The Man Band
Before 1940, wedding rings for men were not common. In World War II they rose in popularity when soldiers chose to wear them in battle to remind themselves of their wives.
A soldier could look to his wedding band for comfort and support, giving him the incentive to be strong so he could return home to his loving wife.
In 1941 one of the most lavish weddings took place in the world of social elites on December 28 when heiress and future fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt wed movie producer Pat DiCicco
The wedding took place in Beverly Hills and featured a beautiful cake and gorgeous decorations. That was the first of her 4 marriages.
Marylin's Big Day
Norma Jean Baker AKA Marylin Monroe got married at just 16 years old to her 21-year-old neighbor James Dougherty on June 19, 1942.
Their marriage lasted 4 years. Norma Jean was discovered by modeling and acting agencies and could only sign the contract as an unmarried woman. And so it ended.
When Carole Landis Walked Down the Aisle
Actress Carole Landis married her Air Force captain Thomas Wallace on January 23, 1943. The couple joyfully danced the Jitterbug to big band music, as was the style back then.
She celebrated quite a few times since as she got married another 3 times (and that was her second)
The Town Hall Wedding
This image taken in 1944 depicts a typical town hall wedding in a time where the groom donned his military uniform and the bride would wear her best dress instead of an expensive gown.
It was a time of simplicity, minimalism, and celebrating what was truly important.
It was 1945, the year that the war was officially over! While the world was certainly recovering, Americans were ready to drink and be merry (and marry!)
This ushered in the boomer generation. Thousands upon thousands of couples wed and had families. Hence 'the boom.'
"A Diamond is Forever"
Here we see a famous engagement ring advertisement. The sparkly rock trend really only took off by the late '40s when a De Beers copywriter famously wrote "A Diamond is Forever."
The idea dramatically shifted the approach to diamonds, cementing the idea that a diamond goes hand in hand with life-long commitment.
By the late '40s, modesty was fast becoming a thing of the past as necklines started to go lower and lower.
Curled and shoulder-length hair was becoming the fashion and veils became a little simpler.
The Beautiful Liz Taylor
In 1950 the Hollywood royal had her first of her 8 marriages. The 18-year-old Elizabeth Taylor married the 23-year-old Conrad "Nicky" Hilton on May 6. The wedding took place at the Bel-Air Country Club.
The event was hailed as the social event of the year. Taylor wore a Helen Rose designed gown. Rose was famous for creating the actress's wardrobe in the 1950 film Father of the Bride, as well as for designing Grace Kelly's wedding gown.
This It Couple Stole The Show
The It Couple of the 1950s, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh walked down the aisle in 1951. This was a wedding where Jerry Lewis was the best man, so you can imagine the star power in the room.
While it was iconic, it was a relatively intimate wedding with a small layered cake and a few floral centerpieces.
We've listed many iconic marriages so far that have not really stood the test of time. When Ronald Reagan married Nancy Davis, it was a little different. These two tied the knot at the Little Brown Church of the Valley in LA on March 4, 1952.
Their marriage ended up lasting 52 years until Reagan's death in the year 2004. We wonder what their secret was.
Speaking of presidents, in September 1953 John F. Kennedy married Jackie Bouvier in a dream wedding that took place in Rhode Island.
The media swarmed that event. Jackie's lace dress was supposedly made from 50 yards of material, while her veil originally belonged to her grandmother.
If you thought reality TV could only belong to modern times, then you would be wrong. In 1954, CBS aired a daytime series called Bride and Groom in which it featured real-life couples who would get married on the air.
A show like this could have paved the way for shows like the Bachelor.
The Movie Wedding
In 1955 this Christian Dior wedding dress made its way down the aisle in the very stylish wedding of actress Olivia Havilland. The actress donned the iconic gown while filming the romantic comedy The Ambassador's Daughter.
The long-sleeved and high necked dress looked simply breathtaking. The film was out the following year.
The meeting of two great worlds: Monaco Royalty and Hollywood. The 1956 wedding between actress Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco made serious headlines.
Kelly's wedding dress was designed by the iconic MGM designer Helen Rose. The dress is even on display at the Philadephia Museum of Art.
Wedding Take One
1957 was the year that marked the beginning of Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood's controversial relationship. By December 28 they were married in Arizona.
They were divorced by 1962. Fast forward 10 years later, they were remarried and continued with their often fiery relationship until Wood's mysterious passing.
Mr. and Mrs. Universe
Finalizing her divorce from Paul Mansfield just days before, actress Jayne Mansfield wed Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay on January 13, 1958.
The muscle man proposed to her with a 10-carat diamond ring just a few months before the big day.
The Sound of Music
Stepping away from real weddings, The Sound of Music wedding scene was certainly a sight to be held. On November 16, 1959 the show opened on Broadway and featured the original wedding scene that was later immortalized in the 1965 film.
Above we can see the stage actors Theodore Bikel and Mary Martin surrounded by the von Trapp children and the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey.
In the year 1960, famed singer Etta James recorded her rendition of the 1941 song "At Last," making it a staple on wedding playlists for years to come.
The song was originally written and recorded by composers Mack Gordon and Harry Warren.
In 1961 Germany was divided in half by the infamous Berlin Wall. This famous image shows a bride crying over parents' denied entry to the western half.
The bride had to get married without her parents at her side. This was not an uncommon occurrence during that period.
Move over, Etta James. Another popular wedding song in 1962 was Moon River, a song that was performed by Audrey Hepburn from the film Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Writer and composer Henry Mancini won the 1962 Grammy Record of the Year.
The year 1963 saw a boom of wedding chapels around America. One could see a plethora of small chapels that popped up on the Sunset Strip, The Little Chapel of The Flowers was on the popular ones and was featured often in the media.
This year was also, according to CBS as the "The Year That Everything Happened." It was the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and Beatlemania. CBS was certainly accurate.
Burton and Taylor
The first of their two marriages, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor wed in 1964. Taylor wore a bright yellow dress with a beautiful floral headdress.
They were divorced in 1974 but fortunately rekindled things in 1975 and eventually remarried each other.
Annette Funicello and Jack Gilardi
Annette Funicello, a famous singer, and actress at the time wed her agent Jack Gilardi on January 9, 1965.
Their marriage lasted from 1965 until 1981. They had three kids: Gina, Jack Jr., and Jason.
It Was Pink
American businesswoman, philanthropist, and daughter of the former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson had her wedding in 1966. Her marriage to the Air National Guardsman, Pat Nugent, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. was attended by many important people and state officials.
There were 700 guests and the bridesmaids wore bright pink matching outfits with full-length veils (those, of course, were also pink.)
Elvis and Priscilla
The King of Rock and Roll had his big day on May 1, 1967, when he married the lovely Priscilla Beaulieu. He was 32 at the time and she was 21.
Millions of young girls' dreams were dashed that day. Their cake was said to cost $3,200 which is roughly $22,000 today.
The Honeymoon Era
If extravagant weddings weren't enough, by 1968, newlywed couples were jetting off to exotic destinations where they would enjoy their romantic honeymoons.
This was made possible when the 747 Jumbo Jet allowed affordable long-distance traveling.
Towards the end of the decade, the short and cute wedding dress and general "pixie" look was still very much the trend. Many brides also began going for the hat instead of the veil.
Audrey Hepburn was one of the most iconic women to don this look and even doubled down with both a short dress and a head-covering.
Mixing It Up
By the '70s wedding fashions were beginning to drastically change. Brides even began wearing pantsuits.
Men even began wearing colorful suits and tuxedos and the traditional look was becoming a little outdated.
Rolling Stones frontman and rock "lord" Mick Jagger married Bianca Pérez-Mora Macías in 1971.
The beautiful bride rocked up in a Yves St. Laurent jacket. You couldn't get cooler than that.
So Much Lace
In the 1972 iconic film The Godfather, Don Corleone uttered the line, "You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder—for money." This later went down in history as the most famous wedding scene ever made.
It's also noted for depicting some of the very popular wedding fashions of the time such as oversized headpieces attached to veils, shoulder pads, and lace (a lot of lace.)
The Underdog Royals
While certainly not as media-worthy or influential as Queen Elizabeth's or Princess Diana's big day, the 1973 wedding between Princess Anne and Mark Phillips still drew a fair amount of attention.
Her turtleneck gown and draping sleeves had a distinct '70s look. She definitely looked beautiful!
The Destination Wedding
Weddings broke out of the chapels and churches and ventured into more distant and exotic locations. The destination wedding was a huge hit by the mid-70s and couples were jetting to all kinds of weird and wonderful beaches.
Travel packages became super popular and couples were excited to explore the next frontier.
In 1975 the average wedding music mix would have consisted of Steve Wonder, the Jackson 5, Elton John, and the Beatles.
Disco was also gaining popularity then and guests would soon be boogying to hits by bands like the BeeGees or ABBA.
A Typical German Wedding
This royal German wedding was filled with turtle neck turquoise dresses and orange floral crowns.
This was definitely the signature look back then, especially in Europe.
The Age of Floppy Hats
This trademark wedding style was somehow super popular then. It was all about pastel colors and large hats.
This is a still from the 1978 classic film A Wedding.
This was the decade of some serious inventions that would change how weddings were planned and remembered.
Things like VCRs, the arrival of email in 1971, and printers totally revolutionized the way we experience weddings.
The Rod Stewart Wedding
For his 1979 wedding to Alana Hamilton, Stewart donned a sweet white suit.
His bride showed up wearing a very stylish off the shoulder dress and a baby breath crown.
The Age of Frill
The '80s, where it was frill or go home. Dresses were filled with poofy shoulders, lace, trains, and taffeta.
This soft-focused bride shows off her '80s look.
Lady D's Big Day
The wedding of the decade no doubt. Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles tied the knot. This wedding created a media buzz that was never seen in history. The historic day took place on July 29, 1981
It has been reported that about 750 million people watched the televised event. Soon brides all over the world wanted a wedding that looked just as magical as that.
The Inner Royal
That royal wedding set the tone for what was to come. Soon after, many brides began donning longer veils and extra lace. The look got more and more lavish.
Here we see figure skater Dorothy Hamill and Dean Paul Martin on their 1982 wedding.
The year 1983 was the first time couples began capturing their weddings on video. When Sony released its camcorder for the mass consumer, wedding photography went sky high.
This, combined with some impressive televised weddings meant one thing. Wedding costs were soaring.
Weddings began seeing more and more lavish decorations and elaborately layered cakes.
An example of an average wedding could actually be seen in an episode of Knight Rider. Check out the cake!
The Decade of Excess
This iconic soap opera wedding episode had all the bells and whistles of the time.
Hope and Bo Brady's wedding perfectly demonstrated how the 80s was the decade of excess.
Not quite as buzzed about as Diana's and Charles' special day, but the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson still had quite a big day.
The wedding that took place on July 23 1986 was still pretty memorable.
The Time of My Life
In 1987 the '80s classic Dirty Dancing hit the theatres and a new wedding hit blasted straight into mixtapes and wedding playlists.
The song "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" became the request for every wedding deejay the moment it entered our ears.
Hanks and Wilson
One of the lasting Hollywood marriages out there took place in the year 1988. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tied the knot.
They're still just as strong over three decades later.
The 1989 film was not only memorable for the great actress Julia Roberts but also the totally elaborate wedding scene.
The film also brought Southern traditions like armadillo shaped cakes to the big screen.
Enter Vera Wang
Iconic fashion designer Vera Wang introduced her first-ever bridal collection in the year 1990.
Her bridal salon in New York City instantly became the go-to fashion guru in the New York fashion scene.
Bring On The Wedding Movies
During the 1990s there was an obsession with wedding films. This began with the release of the 1991 film Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin.
A string of successful wedding movies would follow, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Muriel's Wedding My Best Friend's Wedding, and finally, Runaway Bride.
The Music Video Year
The most expensive music video of its of that decade was the 9-minute Guns N' Roses music video "November Rain." The video cost $1.5 million.
From that large sum, a big part of it went to the building of a $150,000 chapel in the desert, as well as $8,000 for model Stephanie Seymour's hot miniskirt wedding dress.
Maples and Trump
In 1993 wedding gowns were getting sleeker and the frills and poofs started to fade away.
Marla Maples's dress is an example of the new trend that began to dominate the 90s.
Celine's Big Day
Well, at least that's what was happening in the States. In Canada, it was a slightly different story. Here we have Celine Dion's massive 1994 wedding dress when she married her manager Reene Angelil on December 17th, 1994.
The seven-pound crystal tiara was from another universe. Well, Celine has always been different.
Introducing the online registry! In 1995 Target became the first retailer to take the whole process of buying wedding gifts to the internet.
Their platform Club Wedd got 125, 000 couples to register with Target.
John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette
John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette had their wildly famous wedding in 1996. While there was a lot of buzz, the wedding was also extremely private and was held on the tiny Cumberland Island chapel on September 23, 1996.
Bessette's simple Narcisco Rodriguez wedding dress made her the fashion icon of the decade.
The Spaghetti Straps
Carolyn Bessette's classy and minimalist design blew up and before we knew it everyone wanted a piece.
The year 1997 became the year of the spaghetti straps. Wedding dress or not, that was the look.
In 1998 cakes began featuring the popular the "Precious Moments" bride and groom wedding toppers.
According to a Chicago Tribune report, in 1998 over 2 million cakes had these toppers.
The Disposable Camera
In 1999 one of the staples of wedding accessories was the disposable camera. Every table would have one so that their guests could take pictures throughout the party.
It was a great way to capture moments from the whole reception.
Brad and Jen
This was Hollywood's biggest wedding at the time. The power couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston tied the knot in Malibu on July 29th, 2000.
Their quirky vows to each other included Brad swearing to "split the difference on the thermostat" and Jennifer promising to always make his "favorite banana milkshake." It's a shame they divorced.
Speaking of Jen and weddings, the Friends 2001 iconic wedding episode became the most-watched sitcom wedding of all time.
It left fans wondering what would become of Ross and Rachel.
After The Bachelor burst onto our screens, NBC knew they were onto something. Trista Sutter, the runner-up from season 1 of The Bachelor, was the first star of The Bachelorette.
This was the beginning of America's obsession with finding your soulmate on TV.
War Times Strike Again
After a few prosperous decades with little war, 2003 called many men to the front lines in Iraq.
That year was filled with weddings that were celebrated with many loved ones absent.
Who Needs Straps?
Move over spaghetti straps, the year 2004 was all about the strapless dress.
The 2000s stars such as Jessica Simpson, Erica Levy, and Carmen Electa walked down aisles in these elegant strapless gowns.
If 1991 was about romantic wedding movies then 2005 reminded us about the other side of weddings.
The parties and the crashers! That iconic film inspired moviegoers to look at weddings in a new light.
This new amazing gift was a way for friends and family to contribute to the couple's honeymoon instead of buying gifts.
This 2006 creation was a great way to help newlyweds to get a chance at an amazing getaway.
By the year 2007, weddings were becoming increasingly more public affairs. Couples spent a lot of time promoting their weddings on media outlets. Of course, now it's very popular, but the trend really took off in 2007.
That was the year that Jessica Mapel and Cody Heleson wed on "Today Throws a Martha Stewart Wedding." Say Yes to the Dress also premiered in 2007, giving a glimpse into the dress purchasing process.
Carrie's Big Day
In 2008 moviegoers filled theaters to the brim when Sex and the City: The Movie came out. Fans couldn't wait to see how Carrie and Mr. Big's marriage would play out.
In case you didn't know, he leaves her at the altar. But that's ok because she's in her Vivienne Westwood gown.
The Flash Mob Year
When the "JK Wedding Dance" video broke the internet, brides around the world took to the internet to make their own inspiring flash mob ceremonies.
Weddings were certainly becoming more about the spectacle!
Pinterest changed the way we do everything. And of course, wedding planning became a huge part of that.
The social network gave millions of women inspiration and thus the term "Pinterest bride" was born.
A Texas Wedding
Many people may have been watching Prince William and Kate Middleton's incredible royal wedding but there were still countless Americans who were glued to the Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton affair.
The country stars (who are now divorced) exchanged vows are on their rustic style Texas ranch. Of course cowboy boots were involved.
The Wedding Bloggers
By 2012 more online wedding platforms were gaining in popularity. Style Me Pretty, A Practical Wedding, and 100 Layer Cake were just some of them.
That year brides everywhere were planning and blogging about their weddings on these sites.
American Idol Wedding
Another country star tied the knot around the time. In 2013 Idol winner and just all-round mega-star Kelly Clarkson married Brandon Blackstock.
The wedding took place on a lush Tennessee resort. Clarkson's lacy sleeves revived that older styler.
In 2014 social media ruled weddings and everyone was posting on Instagram Facebook or Twitter.
The hashtags became a very popular feature to gain more popularity.
Love is Love
In 2015 the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation.
Many couples flooded wedding halls to celebrate what they had been waiting for for years.
A Meaningful Anniversary
Prince William and Kate Middleton reached 5 years of marriage on April 29, 2016.
The world cherished that day.
Prince Harry's Turn
Soon after his big brother, Prince Harry took the plunge and wed his lovely wife, actress Meghan Markle on May 19 2018.
It was the most highly anticipated wedding that year. Meghan wore a stunning dress designed by Clare Waight Keller.