How Weddings Have Changed: Reflections + Musings on a Revolution in Weddings

01 2008 vintage wedding ceremony

My name is Becky Hoh-Hale and I am the founder of Most Curious, the wedding show for the style-savvy couple and this year I celebrated my ten year wedding anniversary.

It’s almost nine years since Annabel, founder of Love My Dress shared my wedding on her then, fledgling wedding blog, and 10 years since I started my own wedding prop hire company which would later morph into what is our now Most Curious wedding show – the largest modern creative wedding event in the UK. I’ve literally spend the last decade immersed within weddings. And lately, I’ve been finding myself reflecting on what’s changed in that time?

It’s all gone by in a flash – and yet somehow, I’m now 37 not 27, I’ve made a family, lived in three different locations, have too many grey hair’s not to count them as a one-off and find myself at a vantage point where I can view a wedding landscape that is unrecognisable from it’s former 2008 iteration.

I got chatting about this with Annabel recently and she asked me to share some thoughts as to where we’re at in comparison to where we were back then, 10 years ago. What do weddings look like now compared to then. In fact, how have weddings changed not just over the past 10 years, but the past 20, 30 even 40 year period?

39 2008 vintage wedding Becky Hoh Hale Most Curious Love My Dress Wedding Blog

My 2008 wedding, photography by Ian Johnston

I’m not just talking about aesthetics and trends, but how we approach and consider weddings now compared to how we did back then – the planning, the vibe, the running order of the day and decor etc? How has the part that suppliers play altered over the years too?

Wedding culture has changed enormously over the past 40 years but the biggest change in of all in this has been the Internet. Starting with Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest! What an absolute game changer. And then of course social media in general, which has provided endless inspiration for more daring and ambitious, more beautiful and inventive notions for your wedding day. There is a world of inspiration for any wedding you could ever dream of, at your finger tips, on a 24/7 basis.

Pre-2003, I would very much doubt that brides used the internet to plan their wedding at all. Luckily, blogs like this one had just started springing up when I was planning my own wedding in 2007, but there was literally like three. In the world. No joke. Everything else came via hard copy print magazines and there weren’t any that were particularly innovative.

16 2008 vintage wedding Becky Hoh Hale Most Curious Love My Dress Wedding Blog

My 2008 wedding, photography by Ian Johnston

So instead of screen shots, pin boards and insta-saves, brides would make actual folders and scrap books if they had an idea of what they wanted it to look like. I still have ‘the folder’. And without tooting our own horn, having an idea of what you wanted it to look and feel like was not a given, so if you had a vision you were at the forefront of the generation of brides now going their own way.

Couples now are deeply in touch with the WHY of every decision, fearlessly modernising conventions, removing distractions, and adding elements they identify with. Just like the humans in them, modern weddings refuse to be defined. (Valentina Ring, The Stars Inside Planning)

At the time I thought my wedding was pretty cool, but like everything, I can now see it is of it’s time. In 2008, it was vintage vintage vintage! So we had the bunting, the tea cups, the full skirted tea length dresses, birdcages (why?), polka dots, we had the war time street party vibe union jacks (I feel slightly uneasy about this now in a world of toxic nationalism and borders and walls – but 2008 was a different time). And in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 this vintage vibe became the go-to look (heck, our blog’s founder even published a book on vintage weddings!).

But back in 2007, when I was planning quite a few things were a battle, the idea of a BBQ as the meal was still a little frowned upon – we almost didn’t have a seating plan either, but this just blew people’s minds a little too much. I went to one catering supplier and explained I wanted to have vintage crockery and they basically said they didn’t want their food on old plates! Safe to say, we didn’t hire them.

Free thinking and a relaxed feel for your big day was still not really a thing back then. It wasn’t encouraged like it is now. Instead, it felt like we were going against the mainstream.

My 2008 wedding– images by Ian Johnston

Digital photography and social media have also had an impact on the day itself over the past decade – not just the planning. Decor is more important than it used to be; nowadays, stylists are literally creating a ‘set’ for all important photographs on the day, and we all know there are now special backdrops and areas created in mind for this, as well as the huge rise of the photobooth.

One thing I would say is that thinking about what I wanted for my big day truly came from every book I loved as a child, every painting I connected with studying art at college, the feeling from certain songs that meant something to me, aesthetics that were important and grown from me and my fiancé’s idiosyncricities, and, I am glad that that is what my inspiration was and not necessarily tangents fed to me by existing images that other people had created.

We love that the stuffiness and formality and standard formula that once went hand in hand with the word ‘wedding’ has now been lifted.

There was also less pressure. Now, being more inventive and creative and having constant and instant imagery and inspiration can often mean a heightened desire to have a slicker, more styled finish, which often leads to comparison and anxiety. But I think the good far out weighs the bad – your wedding can now be a thing of absolute wonder!

We’ve shared some thoughts below form our amazing 2019 exhibitors, family and fellow industry peers, that highlights why this is so. We love that the stuffiness and formality and standard formula that once went hand in hand with the word ‘wedding’ has now been lifted, and that you can look forward to both throwing and attending weddings that will have unexpected, interesting, personal and awesome moments – both visually and in mood. And from this creeping bridal revolution, very much created by the brides themselves, there has sprung up a world of amazing, kindred, like minded suppliers who want to go wild with you and your vision. No judgement, no boundaries, no restrictions, just people with a great eye and skills in the right area that they want to lend to you to help you celebrate and remember your day of love just how you want to.

And that kind of supplier, is exactly who you’ll find exhibiting at our Most Curious events next year – we’ve made sure of it.

The Seventies Wedding

Sue Hale, (my mother-in-law!) , married in 1971

The vast majority of newly weds in the early 70’s had not lived together, so there was the excitement of starting a completely new lifestyle and to discover this new person you have fallen in love with. And there definitely was an expectations to be married by your mid 20’s or you thought you were ‘on the shelf’! Men were expected to be the main earners, with women most likely leaving work to start a family 2/3 years after marriage.

Wedding planning was quite straightforward and thoughts of individuality didn’t really come into it – our planning was a list in a notebook with costings!

The majority of couples had a church ceremony at this time rather than a Registry Office. The church we chose was my husband Trevor’s Baptist Church where he went as a young boy and his mum played the organ. Our music for me walking down the aisle was Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale, very of the time! We went to the Social Club for reception, which was definitely the done thing that most people went for. When it came to the flowers, you went to a regular florist and had a look at what they offered, there wasn’t so much the feeling that you went to them with a request. I got my dress from a shop in central London but many people made their own and actually my dear mum lovingly made my bridesmaids and pageboys outfits in lavender – to match the groom’s groovy purple suit! My veil was my something borrowed, from my sister-in-law who had married the year before and we also had their photographer!

Family and friends were often the go to supplier, and this was also the case with the our traditional three their fruit cake, made by a friend of Trevor’s mum and my neighbour did my hair and make up. My dad was in the catering trade, so organised our basic three course sit down dinner. Other resources were ads in the local paper and the Yellow Pages, where we found our DJ and car! Honeymoons were not very exciting, some lucky couples who could afford a trip to Spain but we stayed in Norfolk with Auntie Maud!! There was definitely a feeling that this was the start of something new, which was every bit as special and exciting as the planning of the day and the event itself.

The Nineties Wedding

Kate Beavis, Vintage Style Expert and Curator of Magpie Wedding Fairs, first married in 1998

I don’t really remember trends as such, everyone pretty much had the same day! Dresses were still puffy, cakes were standard but I remember loving the 1950s feel in a Brides Mag that I saw – with a tight posy bouquet and a full skirted big dress so that sparked an idea of inspiration, especially as I have been a life long fan of vintage. My sister in law got married the year later and her dress was the classic 90s look which was when I realised mine was not the norm!

The main thing to point out was that even though my dress and look was different, most of the rest was very traditional as there was no choice and more importantly you never felt like you could choose. We actually got married at a great venue because we worked there,  Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham (we got it very reduced in price – Mick Jagger has parties there!) But what we had within it was all very standard – toast master, buffet, a basic photographer. However, we added vintage touches although I had no idea thats what I was doing – this was just me and always had been. So my dress was very 60s in style, we had a vintage car and I had black liquid eye liner and red lips!

I also wrote a speech (a poem) which back then, was completely unheard of – so much so that in the end, I completely chickened out and never read it.

Planning wasn’t the creative process it is now, we were just told what we could have! This food or that food, that was the choice. There was a much smaller pool of suppliers, the Stationery was ordered from a catalogue from WH Smiths and the cake woman handed me a catalogue of her work in a photo album and I just had to choose one. I added a red ribbon to tie in with my colour theme – chosen to match the venue, that was the extent of customisation! I looked at a few magazines but it was so cookie cutter that it did nothing for me except that one 1950’s look I tore out. And I took my picture of that tight posy to the florist and even then it looked nothing like it on the day. The thing was – they weren’t wedding florists, they simply had flower shops and could do bouquets. There’s a huge difference now with florists specialising in creative wedding flowers and floral wedding installations. I remember shoes being particularly ghastly too – I looked high and low and ended up with a pair of 90’s wedges which looked awful with the dress, but it was better than silk court shoes…

The thing I really did differently was the dress. I went to a bridal designer with an indie boutique in Richmond called Yvonne Damant and fell in love with a fitted dress with lines of chiffon that were sewn at the sides but not at the front or back so it was very 60s in shape (with 90s feel). I also hired a sun bed to ensure I had a very 90s tan – a contraption that was delivered to your home and sat above your actual bed! I’m sure there is more pressure now to be different, cool and Pinterest-worthy but the upside is, before weddings were all pretty much the same and everyone felt the same going to every single one, there weren’t ever any surprises, compared to now – you never know what to expect!

The Naughties Wedding

Megan Collins of Blossom & Crumb Cakes, married in 2008 and exhibiting at the 2019 show

2008 was heyday of the village fete wedding and I am not sure you were actually legally allowed to get married back then unless you had reams of bunting!! We were also standing on the absolute cusp of a revolution as to how couples would plan their wedding in the future.

I had stacks of magazines and a huge file binder with all my inspiration pics that I lugged around with me. There was no Pinterest and the world of blogging was only really just gathering speed. I remember finding Style Me Pretty towards the end of my planning and suddenly all these images of amazingly creative American weddings came onto my radar but there was no obvious way to find the sort of supplier who might do this in the UK so I did everything myself from the flowers to the bridesmaids dresses to making new curtains for the village hall we held the reception at and, of course, the cake!

Now things are very different for a few reasons. The first one is obviously social media – there is so much inspiration out there and you can find a direct path to creative suppliers through platforms like Instagram. Pinterest is an amazing mood board tool so you can ditch the binder (unless you are a stationary fiend like me!) Another is the way that small, super creative home based businesses have grown so much in recent years thanks to sites like Etsy and a renewed interest in crafts and making. And finally, wedding fairs like A Most Curious Wedding Fair just didn’t exist when I got married. I went to a couple of the big fairs but I didn’t find anything that I hadn’t seen before or that spoke to me whereas each year at Most Curious I see so many amazing new ideas for ways to make your wedding special and bespoke and you get to speak to the makers in person.

I loved being a DIY bride and wouldn’t change a thing but it was a huge undertaking and not always as budget friendly as I had imagined it would be! If I was getting married now we would be able to have the unique and personal wedding we wanted whilst delegating a little more to the creative suppliers there are now out there.

There were three tiers of rich fruit cake. Partly because it was possible to make it ahead of time but also it wasn’t particularly unusual then to stick to tradition with the cake. Now I so rarely get asked to make a fruit cake and when I do, it is usually as a concession to an older relative. Most of my couples go for different flavours in all the tiers and I can count on one hand how many this year included a rich fruit cake. Aesthetically, tiers have got so much deeper since then, and edges have sharpened too.

I was pretty proud of my cake at the time because I hadn’t seen anyone make sugar bunting before. About a year later everyone was making sugar bunting and now it doesn’t look remotely radical! I would say that it is a much more exciting time to be making wedding cakes now as my clients are really up for choosing interesting flavours and pushing the design boundaries. And I think that goes for the wedding industry as a whole.

Photos – Lucy Davis Photography

The Millenial Wedding

Valentina Ring, The Stars Inside Planning, married in 2017 and exhibiting at the 2019 show

I personally feel that the most revolutionary change in weddings isn’t in their style, but in their substance. Of course, trends influence the way weddings have looked over the last few decades, and we certainly have had some exciting creative leaps and re-inventions from that point of view! At the very heart of the transformation, I think, is the fact that couple’s love stories no longer really need a wedding chapter in order to be validated by themselves, their family, or by society.

As a result of this new emphasis on choice, every element of weddings can now truly be a reflection of what the couple holds dear, and what they don’t.

Young professionals are marrying later, prioritising their self-development and reaching their i-dos with a more mature view of their values, and the things they want to stand for.

Couples marrying now have been growing up in a world where they are told they can be anything they want – that they can love whoever they want – and that they can express themselves however they want. This beautiful renaissance in self-awareness means that brides and grooms seek happiness unapologetically, proudly making decisions that they know are right for them and not for others, and accepting that these may not fit stereotypes or preconceptions that, to them, feel obsolete or forced. Increasingly, the traditional roles and rules of weddings simply don’t reflect the world these couples live in: their families are international, their footprint is digital, their time is precious, and their interests are as varied as their skills.

The unifying thread between couples marrying now is, very simply, that they’re in love and they’ve chosen to embody it in this way: and so their contemporary wedding is a celebration of that, echoing in a very selective and intentional way those wedding traditions we used to know.

When choosing their venue, their food, their speech-givers, their suppliers, their type of ceremony – couples now are deeply in touch with the WHY of every decision, fearlessly modernising conventions, removing distractions, and adding elements they identify with. Just like the humans in them, modern weddings refuse to be defined – and I love it.

Photography by Ed Peers

Liz Mathers Carter, Flower and Fern, married in 2017 and exhibiting at the 2019 show

When we got married last year, we felt the trends were paper tassel decorations, rose gold and botanical and that’s pretty much what we went with with our decor. Our wedding had that boho luxe vibe, which I still love, but if we were doing it now, I’d probably opt for more minimal and modern styling.

Much of my planning featured plenty of Pinterest and instagram saves, and then wedding blogs such as Love My Dress gave them context. With both the feel and the running order of the day we did pretty much did what we wanted. For example we did speeches before dinner, hoping everyone could then relax and enjoy the meal, which they did so we were really glad we did it like that! We made it very relaxed as it was a pub reception, and allowed the church part to be the more formal aspect. As a florist I get a mixture of brides having a church wedding and informal reception, but also full on barn weddings at the same venue all day which is also great, there doesn’t seem to be a set formula.

The MOST CURIOUS wedding show for the Style-Savvy Couple will be taking place between 1st – 3rd March 2019 at T1 Building, The Truman Brewery, 81 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL, and on Sunday 24th March at the Fire Pit, The Firs, Wendling, Norfolk, NR19 2LT.

Tickets can be purchased online now.

Please use code LOVEMYCURIOUSGIFT for a 15% saving when purchasing tickets. This offer will expire at midnight on Boxing Day.

We can’t wait to meet you and help make your wedding the most fantastic, fun, memorable and meaningful day you could dream of.

Becky x

Becky Hoh-Hale

Becky Hoh-Hale View all Becky's articles

Becky Hoh-Hale is the founder of Most Curious Wedding Fair and when she's not doing that is writing about cool design and interiors. She enjoys being half Malaysian Chinese, house plants, good coffee and is waiting patiently for the next season of Stranger Things.

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