How to Pull Off a Retro-Inspired Wedding, Rock N' Roll Style
Updated: Apr 19
Image Via Mario Testino of Kate and Jamie, re-creating Lord Lichfield's iconic photo of Mick and Bianca Jagger's backseat wedding portrait.
If you’re here reading my blogs and checking out my style, chances are you want that cool rock n' roll/retro-inspired wedding.
Retro rock n' roll glamour is what I adore. It has to be cool and it has to be glam. The 60s and 70s are my favourite eras, with a sprinkle of old 20s/30s Hollywood glamour - you know, for that rockstar wedding vibe.
I love looking back through the archives for how it used to be. Everything seemed I don't know, so much more chic and glamorous, didn't it? Such endless delicious inspiration!
If you’re eager to start planning your rock n' roll wedding, but want to make sure you pull it off just right, here are the most important things to consider:
Choose Your Era
Image of Mick & Bianca Jagger Shotgun Wedding in St. Tropez, 1971, taken by Lord Lichfield
First things first, people!
This applies to any era, from the 20s to the 80s. Hone in on your specific era, take those authentic bits you like and make them your own. We must remember that your wedding isn’t a fancy-dress costume party (unless you want it to be?), but a modern wedding with retro/vintage influences.
It doesn’t have to be completely retro though. All eras have some naff parts we don't want anything to do with, right? (I’m talking silly-looking matchy-matchy bridesmaid’s dresses of old that make us all cringe!).
Do your research on the trailblazers that made that era famous. What was it that made their wedding so cool? Look at the fashion, the cars, the hairstyles, hats, veils, make-up, and jewellery of that time. Notice all the little details.
Find the Right Venue
Image of one of the awesome rooms at Aynhoe Park
Book a venue that dates back to your era, is famous for hosting rockstar weddings/parties in the past or looks like a venue that can be easily transformed into one.
Historical buildings are great for mixing old with the new, in a tasteful way. You can totally turn a traditional-looking wedding venue into a rock n' roll-looking one with the right props and styling.
The exterior is as important as the interior. Think of the photography here. Look for fabulous facades, grand-looking entrances, driveways, magnificent hallways, and a high-ceiling reception room full of light and period features. Look for great lighting (chandeliers), large windows, balconies, beautiful grounds, terraces and lawns for the cocktail hour.
If you’re an Art Deco lover, look to Brighton, for example. There are so many beautiful Art Deco buildings, now hotels!
Cyan Bar at the Grand Hotel Brighton
If you favour the 60s, look for venues with cool mid-century decor. Urban is the vibe here. You will most probably favour places like Sketch, Soho House and Karma Sanctum.
Image of Sketch London
If you want that 70s boho vibe, your venue will most probably be a cool barn surrounded by beautiful nature, for that outdoorsy feel. Barns are great for styling it how you want, really putting your stamp on it from scratch. Check out Botley Hill Barn, Soho Farmhouse, Barn at Avington, The Giraffe Shed or Barn on the Bay, to name a few.
Image of Botley Hill Barn via Benjamin Stuart Photography
If you’re after that 70s/80s disco vibe (I’m talking Studio 54 DISCO glam), look for cool urban dry hire venues - there's nothing like a blank canvas you can make into exactly to your liking, with the right props - there are so many in London alone; Shoreditch Studios, Loft Studios, 100 Barrington, Sunbeam Studios, Trinity Buoy Warf, to name a few.
Karma Sanctum Hotel, Soho London
Or, you can just hire ready to party venues, like many cool bars/restaurants/hotels which will require the minimum effort on your part when it comes to décor! Look for boutique hotels/restaurants/bars with amazingly maximalist or mid-century interiors already in place. You will find many that are famous for hosting celebrity/Rockstar parties/weddings (you’ll most probably find pictures on the walls in toilets!)
As long as you remember that your venue, along with its architecture and décor, will set the entire tone for your reception, you cannot go wrong.
Choose Your Wardrobe Carefully
Image of Bowen Dryden bridal by Rebecca Carpenter Photography
Your wedding wardrobe is so important here. This is the one time when you have the green light to go for it, so do! And do it right! There is no point in having a retro-inspired wedding if you turn up in a traditional dress - it happens. A lot!
This can go two ways. You either go full-on vintage, or you look for vintage-inspired. Both are equally as good if you know where to look and how to pull it off.
Having said that, you can totally mix up influences here - we all know that era crossovers happen all the time in design. The best examples and my favourite mix of eras are the 60s and 70s with the 20s and 30s Hollywood glamour - beautiful relaxed tailoring using vintage silks, lace, or tassells. Simply divine.
Image of John Galliano fluffing up Kate's veil. He designed this beautiful 20s inspired wedding dress for Kate. Taken by Mario Testino
You mustn’t give yourselves a hard time if your shape doesn't fit a certain style. Find something that compliments your figure and your skin tone. Remember, this is supposed to be fun! Don’t try to change who you are to fit into your dress! The dress must fit in with you. Yes, you want to look good, but you don’t have to change yourself completely to look a certain way - for one day. (I don’t ever want to hear a person say that they must lose a shed load of weight to fit into an outfit, please!)
What Should the Bride/Brides Wear?
Bowen Dryden bridal by Rebecca Carpenter Photography
It's not only about the dresses or jumpsuits (oh, I do love a nice jumpsuit!).
Accessorising is key. I'm talking chic hats (Bianca Jagger, not your usual wedding hat ugliness), hairpieces, flower crowns, and hair clips. I’m talking shoes. I LOVE amazing shoes! Preferably in a colour that compliments your colour palette and ties in with the bride squad?
Retro Inspired Bridesmaids Dresses
Image Via Rewritten Bridesmaids
The bride squad should complement the bride, sure, but I don’t think it’s totally necessary to go nuts here. Choose mismatched bridesmaids' dresses in different tones within your colour palette. Don’t make everyone wear the same shaped dress (for the love of Gawd!). Talk to your pals and consider their shape too. You want them to look good, feel good, be comfortable, happy and proud, right?
How Retro Should the Guys Get? Or gals for that matter. Not every wedding has a bride and a groom!
Image Via Lisa Jane Photo
That depends on how adventurous they want to be. If they want to go for it, amazing – I’m all for it! Find vintage or vintage-inspired suits. Think colour. Think frilly shirts and funky shoes.
If they're not that adventurous, that's fine too. You can still add little touches that nod to your era with ties, have a velvet suit in colour, a cool shirt, dicky bows, funky braces, hats & cool shoes.
Pay Attention to the Little Details
Image Via Caroline Opacic Photography, pearls by Victoria Bedwell Jewellery
This is the time when choosing your jewellery, veil, clutch and shoes can transform your whole look, so look to your era for inspiration. If you’re a fan of vintage jewellery, find a jeweller that stocks them. Or, find a jeweller that can make bespoke vintage-inspired pieces for you.
Arrive in Style
Image of John Lennon's Phantom V, aka the "Psychedelic Rolls", he bought in1967
If you’re always dreamed of a grand entrance (and exit), now is your chance to hire that ride!
Do you want that rock n’ roll arrival? Hire a vintage car! There are a load of vintage car hire companies out there. Permission to go nuts! Just think of the photos!
Setting the Tone
Archive image of a roller girl at the skating rink hire in the 70s
I’m talking about hiring the right band, performers, and artists. Anything that will contribute to the right vibe. Why not go all out and make your event into a full-on immersive event?
For example, one of my couples will have go-go dancers and roller girls setting the tone for their Studio 54 bash, and a disco DJ spinning the tunes – I cannot wait!
The Right Wedding Décor
Image of one of the awesome rooms at Aynhoe Park
If you want the venue to look the part, you must set the tone with the right decor and good styling! Look for inspiration online and find the right suppliers who can pull it off for you. Or hire a stylist to find you the right suppliers - so much easier and less time-consuming!
Your tablescape (table settings) should reflect your chosen era perfectly. From florals to plate settings, cutlery and glassware, it all has to be done right.
Are you rock n’ roll enough if you don’t have a champagne coupe tower?
Image Via Love her Wild Photography
Give Your Guests a Heads Up
Image of a retro wedding stationery suite designed by With Bells On Invites
What makes the wedding if not the guests, right? There’s no point in you making everything right just to have people turn up in boring clothes. Trust me, your guests will revel in an opportunity to dress up and make it fun, so don’t be afraid to give them a heads up about the type of wedding you’re having.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to have your stationery and wedding website reflect your style. From the very first glance of the design, people will get the vibe. And don't be shy to spell it out - some people just don't get it. But make it sound fun with no pressure; "We would love it if you could turn up in your rock n' roll glam glad rags.."
And if you feel that you need a pro to guide you in finding the right suppliers and venue, get in touch by filling out my Let's Talk form. I would love nothing more than to help make your dreams come true!
Have fun lovers!
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