Weddings Through the Years

How 1960s weddings play a part in your big day

Sponsored by Wonderful World of Weddings

For thousands of Milwaukee-area brides, visiting the Wonderful World of Weddings is the first step in planning their walk down the aisle. Since 1968, generations have saved the date for this show to see all the best wedding ideas under one roof.

This year, as WWW celebrates its 50th anniversary, we’re taking a look back at trends from the very first wedding show and unveiling how they influence modern-day nuptials. After all, it makes sense to borrow ideas we still remember from 50 years ago and reinvent them in our own way.

Which 1960s trends have stood the test of time and which traditions have been tossed out with the bouquet? Keep reading to discover how you can add a splash form the past when planning your future. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed through the years, it’s the fact that every wedding is special and completely unique to the happy couple.

Wonderful World of Weddings

Expo Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park
January 6 & 7, 2018
10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

A Bigger Picture

Photography plays a much larger role in modern-day weddings, and is more about emotion than images. In the 1960s, wedding photography was simplistic and staged – from the straight-on shot of the bride and groom at the altar to standard photos of the wedding party perfectly lined up in matching outfits.

While these pictures no longer fill entire albums, you’ll still want a few group photos – just add your own touch to this tradition. 

“Couples are selecting nontraditional backdrops for their group photos, as well as their more personal moments,” says Dennis Felber of Dennis Felber Photography. Instead of parks, which were the go-to spot only a few years ago, they’re asking about barns, warehouses and lesser-known industrial spaces that highlight their own style and add local flavor.

Photo by Dennis Felber Photography

Photographers recommend getting your formal group photos taken right after the ceremony, so you can move on to the fun ones.

Less Formality, More Fun

Felber has noticed a major change in weddings, and therefore photography trends. Instead of must-have moments like the grand march, cutting the cake or tossing the bouquet (1960s staples), photographers are asked to get creative with the events and emotions of the day.

It’s all about fun and celebration now, with unique, outside-the-box images that tell each couple’s love story – from the intimate moments between new spouses to the hilarious photo ops with friends and everything in

You’ll notice more emotional first looks, couples incorporating props, like Mr. and Mrs. signs, and shots of the wedding party covering their eyes while the happy couple enjoys an embrace. You may even see couples sneaking their favorite four-legged friends into pictures, too.

Just as photographers in the 1960s were able to take a larger number and variety of photos as cameras and film became more affordable, today’s photographers are unlimited, thanks to digital technology.

Not only can your photographer take hundreds of pictures to save your perfect moments, he or she can retouch ones that are somewhat less than perfect, or use special effects to enhance or combine images.

A final bonus – your favorite color photos from your contemporary day can also be saved in black and white for a timeless touch reminiscent of the 1960s.

Creating Memories with Music

Photo by Andy Stenz

Music and memories go hand in hand, so choosing the right songs for your wedding day is a big decision. Fifty years ago, the choices were fewer and simpler, starting with “Here Comes the Bride” played on the church piano, followed by whatever the local band had sheet music for at the reception. Today, while some songs from the ’60s have become wedding staples, new hits can add variety to your playlist and appeal to your broad range of guests.

Ceremony Serenades

Music isn’t just the soundtrack for your special day – it helps tell your story and sets the mood for guests, from ceremony to cocktail hour and through the reception.

Many couples still choose classic piano music for their walk down the aisle, while others opt for harpists, string quartets, flute ensembles or bagpipers instead. It’s a lovely way to incorporate a bit of tradition into modern matrimony.

Others forgo live music in favor of something more versatile and personal, such as a recording of the first song they ever danced to. When couples share with guests why they chose a particular song, it makes it that much more special.

Fun Fact: Etta James “At Last” has long been one of the most popular wedding songs.

A Reception to Remember

Live music – from jazz and big-band to easy rock – was the highlight of wedding receptions during the 1960s, and it’s still a popular choice today. But now couples are doubling the entertainment by having both a band and a DJ.

Louie Higgins of ACA Music & Entertainment – in the Wonderful World of Weddings show all 50 years – says modern couples want the energy of live music and the option of playing favorite hits with the touch of a button. Higgins adds that a lot of couples want bands that can play current hits and the classics – songs everyone can enjoy: “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and “For Once in My Life” – all of which were top wedding songs in the late ’60s.

Modern-day wedding entertainment isn’t just about music. “You imagine it, we can do it,” says Higgins – and he’s not kidding. Couples are picking entertainers ranging from magicians and trapeze artists, to stilt walkers and caricaturists. It adds an extra something special to the big day – and makes it a night no guest will forget.

To Sweet Beginnings and Sweeter Ever-Afters

Photo courtesy of Simma’s Bakery

Wedding cake is not just a dessert, it’s an expected part of the big day – for reasons that have changed a bit over the years.

Fifty years ago, a typical wedding cake was just that: three to five tiers of vanilla, chocolate or marble cake with white frosting. The biggest decision was whether or not to add flowers, and most were served with more ceremony than flavor.

Fast forward to 2018, and wedding cake is one of the sweetest things about saying “I do.” With today’s new options, guests look forward to this traditional treat, and are often surprised by innovative flavors, like champagne, lemon poppy seed and funfetti. You and your soon-to-bespouse can make a day (or two) of sampling cakes at area bakeries. Start with the classics like chocolate and vanilla, work your way through new favorites and make your decision only after taste-testing all your top choices. If you can’t decide, no problem – different flavored tiers to meet multiple tastes are a popular way to please everyone’s palate.

Flashback: Queen Victoria’s wedding cake was nine feet in circumference and weighed almost 300 pounds.

Photo courtesy of Simma’s Bakery
The Art of Custom Cake

The look of wedding cakes has also evolved since the ’60s. “Today’s wedding cakes are very personalized,” says Peggy Carollo of Simma’s Bakery. “A lot of thought and planning goes into each one, and decorating them has become a true art form.” 

Bakeries have come to expect extreme requests, and can produce scrumptious results – cakes that could easily be mistaken for sculptures of items near and dear to the bride and groom – such as luggage, books or buildings – and others that put a beautiful twist on tradition. 

Want the best of both worlds? Start with classic round tiers and white icing, then add any details that complement your theme or are exclusive to your relationship. Flowers are as popular now as they were 50 years ago, but not all are formed in fondant or buttercream frosting. Fresh or silk blossoms make a stunning display, and classic greenery and succulents are modern accents.

Photo courtesy of Simma’s Bakery

Other trends include marbleized-chocolate shells, art-inspired brushstrokes, all-over sprinkles, ornate scrolling, edible ribbons, LED lights and even gold leafing. Cake toppers may seem old school, but only if you’re considering those nostalgic, plastic wedding bells or bride and groom figurines. These days, you’ll see crystal monogram initials and stunning floral arrangements atop wedding cakes, as well as action figures, puzzle pieces and other unique ideas to complete your cake.

The Evolution of Weddings

Wedding trends have certainly evolved over the last 50 years – for better or worse – but love has always been the inspiration behind these special days. Whether you want to celebrate the old-fashioned way, in modern style or somewhere in between, the best ideas for your wedding are the ones that speak to you. So mix, match and dream big, and make it an unforgettable start to a marriage that’s still going strong 50 years from now. ◆

Stories by Jennifer Hebeisen

‘Through the Years’ appears in Milwaukee Weddings 2018.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 1, or buy a copy at

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