How to Have a Retro Looking 1940s Style Wedding on a Budget!

Introduction: How to Have a Retro Looking 1940s Style Wedding on a Budget!

I've always loved the 1940s, and when it was time to plan my wedding, I couldn't imagine anything better then to share my favorite decade with my special day.  Here are some steps that I used to help create the look that I used to have a1940s style wedding.

Step 1: The Dress..

It didn't take very long to get the prefect dress. I first started with research of 40's bride magazines for the style dress of the decade. I decided to go with the lace elegant look with a high neck of a button front. A classic bride look with a 40's touch in a 2011 wedding. A great way to know you pulled the look off, is if you can retro up the picture and it really looks authentic. My shoes were a specific look as well. I wanted a flat, to not be taller then my husband to be, and I also wanted a certain

Step 2: The Hair...

The hair is another important part of the look.  I love bangs, and I realize that bangs weren't really used a lot in the 40s, but I found a style with the classic "Jelly Rolls" and ringlets that created just the right 1940s elegant wedding hair look.  I also topped it off with a birdcage veil and fascinator.

Step 3: The Bridesmaids..

The girls picked their own look.. with the only request that they tried to stay in the 1940s style type of dress and shoes.  eBay played a great roll in this quest.. for the girls picked great dresses and shoes within our colors of brown and pink that accented not only their figures but the decade perfectly.  They also added great features such as a hat and hair fascinator as well as 40's style makeup to pull in the look.

Step 4: The Groom and Groomsmen...

The guys remained classic with cabbie hats.  The groom wore suspenders and the groomsmen wore vests.  For the service.. the guys wore jackets as respect to the church but after the service.. the jackets came off and they remained casual throughout the reception. We gave the guys pocket watches as their gifts to keep up with the 40s decade look.

Step 5: The Details...

Rings:  My ring was purchased off eBay and was described as a 1940s estate ring and it  matched my engagement ring perfectly.
His ring was purchased from Amazon to try to match the same style as my ring.

Flowers: I kept the flowers very low key having only the girls carry daisies, and there was an arrangement on the alter.

Invitations: Were purchased off eBay and was described as vintage custom wedding invitations. It included 100 invitations and reply cards.  They were also sweet enough to let us order later on thank you notes in the style of our invitations.

Music: We choose piano music which created a classic elegant sound to our special day.

The program: I created my program with a bit of a mix of our wedding invitations and some ideas from a disc I purchased from eBay that had vintage wedding labels from the 40's.

Step 6: Always Remember to Have Fun..

Our minister was like a brother to me growing up. He was my sister's best friend in college and happens to be a chaplian in the army.  It was an honor to have him officiate our wedding.  The best part about him is that he has a humor that is special to him.. and he kept that charm with him through out the wedding and surprised us for the pictures afterwards.  A moment we will cherish. Don't forget to add something special such as this to your special day.

Step 7: The Reception..

I searched and found a venue that was a dinning location that marketed itself as a "1940's Dinner club" I thought this was perfect for a reception to a small 1940s wedding. Their banquet rooms were perfect with 1940s style decor and pictures surrounding the room, and their music was 1940s so that part was taken care of too.

Step 8: 1940s Guest Book...

Hotel Reception Guest Book/Registration Desk!

When I think of guest books and the 40's I think of retro hotels.  The desks with the slots for mail and the old keys.  So this was the inspiration for my guest book idea.

I started out with an assembly line approach.  A sign directing them to take their picture with an instant camera and sign it. Their next step was to "sign in" where I had three signing stations.  The guests were instructed to sign one side where it stated thanks to a rubber stamp "sign here" and the other another rubber stamp I purchased from that made it look like a telegram, guiding guests to write their wedding wishes to us. After they finish their wedding wish, they were instructed to put the card in the slot as to send off the telegram. Then last but not least, they grabbed their take away wedding favor... an original vintage hotel key with a philosophy tag and retro looking ball and chains holding it all together .. a tag rubbered stamped again from that they now had the key to our hearts on one side and a rubber stamp of an old key on the other. To finalize their checkin experience they could "ring bell for kiss" instead of "ringing bell for service" this sign was also purchased through

After the wedding I put the cards into their library pockets and again stamped it with a special stamp recognizing the date and placed the pocket and card on scrapbook ledger paper.  I then added the guest picture with the wedding with to their own special page in my scrapbook, making for a wonderful guestbook keepsake with a wonderful 40's flare to it.

We also added wedding pictures of our parents and grandparents to the "hotel desk" to continue with the vintage personal feel.

CAKE: We purchased our cake through Publix.. they had the best prices for the number of guests we had. We wanted a simple but elegant look. I have to say it was the best wedding cake we had ever tasted.. and we aren't being biased. We purchased a set of two "vintage" love birds cake toppers which happened to be our colors brown and pink from the internet to finish off the look.  Publix even has this cute idea of a mini wedding cake which we added to our cake to be saved and used as our cake to enjoy on our first anniversary. Having a mini cake was the better way then wasting a whole top later that could be enjoyed by guests. They also suggested a sealed tupperware type container to store it in as it freezes, so it will taste fresh a year from now. Trust me freezer burned wedding cake is truly nasty. 

Another great finishing/personal touch to your wedding is a fingerprint tree. I purchased this from and it comes in many sizes.. your guests or wedding party can put their fingerprints as the leaves on the tree. It's a great addition to our home, and I'm sure it'd be for yours too.

Step 9: The Wedding Night...

The wedding night didn't stop the 1940s theme.  Once again I researched around town for a 1940s hotel.  We found one downtown.  It was actually the hotel of sadly one of the biggest hotel fires in history once known as the Winecroft Hotel .. Years later and after several owners .. it's been redone in a modern style .. and is now known as The Ellis Hotel.  It was a great way to end a wonderful 1940s wedding day.. before we took off on our honeymoon.. the next week

There is always an app, which I used to create this retro picture.  Great for scrapbooks, frames, and another great use for your wedding album is a photo book site.  We used a site that made photo books, and made our wedding album for $40.00.  If we would have gone with our photographer it would have been $400.00 big difference. One note, is make sure you can own your images after the wedding.. that makes all the difference in the world, for you too can use the same images taken by the photographer at your photo book of choice.. for you will have the rights to your own pictures to use as you choose.

Step 10: The Thank You Notes..

We carried our telegram idea over to our thank you notes, by decorating the envelope to look like a telegram.. with help from the same rubber stamp creators that helped us with our wedding wish telegram idea.

2 months later we still get compliments from our wedding and how it was so different, elegant, and beautiful then most weddings they have seen.  I still smile as if it was imagination didn't do it justice.. when it finally played out.. it was better then any day dream I could have dreamed. 

Last but not least.. make it yours.  Enjoy the planing, don't get stressed out... no one will know if something isn't right only you.. and when it comes down to it.. it isn't as important as the marriage.. it's just a day.. the end result of marrying the person you love is what matters the most.

For us the personal touches were the fact that we reconnected 20 years after our high school graduation of 18 seniors.  Our wedding was held at the same church our graduation was held at almost 22 years to the date.. we missed the date by 2 days, but that's ok.. the place we left to start our lives, was the same place we met again to start our life now together. .. and in our own 1940's way.

I hope you enjoyed my step by step recount of our wedding and I hope it helped you too plan that special retro wedding .. no matter the decade.

Best Wishes,

Heather and Michael

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    4 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Well done, now I wish I could have another wedding, LOL.

    Your little head piece is called a Whimsie. My grandmother had over a hundred of them. She was required to wear them at work.

    Great job, thanks for sharing.


    Well done! It's great to see a different when they all seem so similar these days. Congratulations!

    Renee Zamora
    Renee Zamora

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful indeed! I especially love the guest book sign in station. It had so much thought and fit perfectly!