Something Old, Something New: Couples Borrow From The Past To Create Future Memories

Just a few generations ago it was unthinkable for a bride to walk down the aisle wearing anything but her mother’s wedding dress.

While that tradition has become increasingly uncommon in today’s weddings, it’s not because brides are less sentimental than their predecessors. If anything, it’s just the opposite.

Now, more than ever, both brides and grooms are drawing from the past for inspiration and style, and to bring meaning to their celebrations.

“Almost every wedding that I have, brides want to incorporate something from their grandmother; even if they use a lace table runner or cloth on their table for their escort cards, or they want to use something their grandfather had, and put it on a memory table,” said Diane Murray, owner of The Lady Slipper Affairs & Events, a rental boutique in Simsbury.

While incorporating the past rarely includes the bride wearing her mother’s wedding dress, in many cases, it’s still an important part of the event.

“My clients are drawn to items that are sentimental,” said Sarah Parlos, owner of One Fine Day, a wedding planning and floral design studio in Avon. “Maybe not so much repurposing a dress in terms of having their grandmother’s or mother’s dress altered and wearing it, but taking a piece of that dress and incorporating it into their bouquet, incorporating it into their dress.”

Beyond mom’s wedding dress, other vintage items of significance are being woven into wedding themes, helping couples to recognize their loved ones.

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Katey and Leigh Waddington, mother and daughter founders of K.L.W. Design Co., a floral design and vintage furniture rental company in Waterford, said their clients often find meaningful ways to include family members, past and present, in their ceremonies.

“We had a bride who brought us her grandpa’s dog tags and grandma’s handkerchief, and she had me incorporate the handkerchief around the stems of the bouquet, and her grandpa’s dog tags,” said Leigh Waddington. “So her grandparents were with her, in that sense, on her day.”

Other couples opt to set up tables to honor family and friends, as well as creating displays that tell the story of how they got there. “They do want to use things from their past, to tell their story,” said Murray. “Today weddings are so different, and each one reflects the story that they want to tell to their guests, and they’re inviting them to their celebration, and each bride and groom do that by bringing things to the table.”

Murray went on to say that couples also use things like family recipes in their cocktail or dinner menus, and display old photographs and family memorabilia on tables, to help contribute to the narrative. “I think that’s something that’s going to continue this year, and every year. Their favorite people, they are going to represent something that they had or they’ve done in their wedding.”

Beyond borrowing from their own past, an increasing number of couples are finding style inspiration from historical television shows like “The Crown,” and “Victoria,” which are influencing everything from color trends to fashion.

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Jewel tones and coppers are beginning to replace quiet, muted colors, and the rustic Mason-jar aesthetic is waning in favor of cascading bouquets and velvet chaises. “They are getting more into the lush floral arrangements, and gold and baroque frames, that is almost like the Victorian-era,” Murray said.

As part of the growing trend, chandeliers, vintage furniture and candlesticks are also becoming popular wedding accoutrements, along with the use of antique containers like compote dishes for centerpieces.

“A compote is a dish that years ago people would use to put candy or fruits in and display them on their table, dining room and kitchen,” explained Parlos. “So we’re taking those old compote containers and repurposing them, and using them [to create] these beautiful garden-like, Bohemian-like, lush floral arrangements.”

Parlos also said that adorning tables with garlands, instead of flowers, is becoming more commonplace. “You can make it look incredible with the right chandeliers, the right chairs, the right tables and that very authentic, natural look.”

Reflected in the rise of vintage, royal-inspired weddings are the venues couples are choosing for their event. “It has been about barns and outdoor weddings for a while now,” said Katey Waddington, “and I think we are going to see a shift into indoor receptions, indoor ceremonies, maybe in a museum or at a historical mansion.”

And though recent years have seen couples electing to hold their ceremony and reception in the same location, Leigh Waddington said that’s begun to change as well.

“We have a lot of brides heading back to the church, whereas they used to be married wherever the venue was.” Often it’s for faith reasons, but Katey Waddington said that for some couples it’s also about honoring the past.

“It’s what their family traditions are, and their ties to the church.”

While they’re borrowing from the past to stylize and personalize their weddings, Katey Waddington said that contemporary couples are far from being stuck in it.

“You’re always going to get somebody who’s going to be inspired from something in the past, and then do their twist on it or make it relevant to them, and that’s what I think weddings are really about these days.”

Originally Published Hartford Magazine April 2018