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Since 1984, experts have not expected as many weddings in the United States as this year.
It’s easy to assume that, aside from its sheer size, celebrations then and now don’t have much in common. Especially when it comes to a ceremony, a lot has changed, including who can legally have them and how people talk about them.
But now that statistics have linked the 2022 wedding wave to the 1984 wedding wave, it’s hard not to wonder: In what other ways do modern weddings resemble those of the past?
In both years there was a desire to go over the top. A good economy partially set the stage for lavish wedding spending in 1984. Today, the pandemic has given couples more time “to dream, budget and save for their big party,” says Renée Sabo, a wedding planner and the owner of Urban Soirée in Boston.
“We see clients diving into the planning again this year with a ‘bigger is better’ mentality for their wedding,” she added.
However, what defines over-the-top has changed. “It’s not about one big party, it’s about multiple parties over several days,” said Jamie Chang, wedding planner and owner of Mango Muse Events in San Francisco.
But it hasn’t changed at all. Today’s celebrations still incorporate certain statement-making elements of ’80s weddings, experts say, explaining below how recent trends in dresses, dessert, decor and more feel very 1984.
The ‘epic’ dress
One of the first things that comes to mind when you think of a 1984 wedding: dresses that are heavily embellished, with puff sleeves, or a voluminous skirt (or both).
“Wedding dresses in the 1980s were all about volume, epic proportions, and royal lace,” says Monique Lhuillier, the designer of a bridal line of the same name.
Those elements became less fashionable in the following decades, as preferences were drawn to what she described as “more streamlined and simple silhouettes.”
But now, Ms. Lhuillier said, “many of the ’80s trends have returned to bridal fashion with a modern twist.” One is lace, which is still popular. Also returning are “puff sleeves and full ball gowns,” which she said have more “lightness and movement” than those of yore.
Some of the puff sleeves worn today are also detachable, said Michael Cho, the senior designer at Amsale, explaining that “brides not only want a statement look, but also want multiple looks in one for their special day.”
Cakes (without donuts) as works of art
Like dresses, cakes served at weddings in 1984 were created to attract attention. Many had rows upon rows supported by pillars and some of those times had lavish details such as working fountains.
They had “big personalities,” says Sarah Davidson, the creative director at HUE by Sarah Davidson, an event agency based in Madison, Wisconsin.
But eventually cake preferences shifted from fantastic to minimal, with some people avoiding them completely and serving less fussy desserts, including cupcakes and donuts. “For the past few years, wedding cakes have been quite a minimalist trend, with many couples opting for just a few tiers of a simple white design,” she said.
However, according to Ms. Davidson, modern couples are channeling “the spirit of the ’80s” with their wedding cakes. “This doesn’t necessarily mean big in size,” she added, but cakes with “a creative design that stands out.”
Lara Martins, the owner of LILA Cake Shop in Temecula, Calif., said that instead of cakes with exposed pillars supporting each tier, preference is now given to double-barrel tails “made with layers composed of stacked cake,” which “provide height.” and an “elongated and slender silhouette.”
Some of these creations, Ms. Martins added, are decorated with hand-painted buttercream flowers, trimmed frosting and other edible embellishments. “The current trend in cake design is leaning towards a highly individualized piece of edible art.”
A focus on many, many flowers
Ms. Sabo said that in the ’80s, the decor in the reception area “moved from simple centerpieces to larger and more elaborate floral designs.”
Spurred on by the desire to capture and share social media-ready moments, that trend is alive and well today.
“We see layered tablescapes and flowers filling all the open spaces for those Instagrammable wedding moments,” said Chanda Daniels, the creative director of Chanda Daniels Planning & Design in Oakland, California.
With supply chain problems continuing to rage the floral industry, some couples are choosing to get married in gardens to secure the backdrop, said Meredith Ryncarz, a wedding photographer in Savannah, Georgia.
Ms. Ryncarz estimates that about half of her clients getting married this year have chosen sites with existing gardens, explaining that they “provide the lush texture of greenery and flowers they desire as a backdrop.”
“About 50 percent of the weddings I know of from other suppliers also take place in the outdoor garden,” she added.
Everyone greets the videographer
When the camcorder was introduced in 1983, it didn’t take long for people to start using the devices to record videos of their wedding, which quickly led to the emergence of an entirely new profession: the wedding videographer.
Over time, the demand for professional wedding videos declined; as Ms. Chang put it, videography “hasn’t always been a must-have for couples the way photography is.”
But for many, the pandemic has made it more important to create and enjoy memories, leading to a renewed demand for videos. “Having a unique and memorable film that shows not only what happened, but also the people and emotions on that day is becoming increasingly important,” said Ms. Chang.
Dan Strickler, a Philadelphia events videographer, began filming weddings in 1989 and retired in 2020. what I shot for her parents,” he said.
For Mr. Strickler, that means a video with clips of guests congratulating the newlyweds in front of the camera, which he says was common among those he shot early in his career.
“Wedding videos in the 1980s were very documentary style,” says Erin Sok, co-owner of Sok Vision, a Washington-based videography company. While some modern couples still prefer that approach, she adds that others have “drone and gimbal shots” filmed to create “full cinematic masterpieces with fluid storylines.”