Although the years from 1939 to 1945 were full of tragedy, that didn’t stop plenty of couples from tying the knot. In fact, it may have encouraged premature nuptials as soldiers wanted to protect their sweethearts financially during World War Two.
Lots of wartime brides planned their wedding in an extremely short space of time before their grooms returned to war. Most 1940s weddings were un-fussy, simple, and filled with homemade treats. Longing to bask in the romance of a bygone era on your wedding day? How about planning a 1940s World War II-themed wedding?
We’re sure you learnt about the Second World War in school and are more than familiar with what it was. However, let us indulge in a little bit of a history lesson.
Despite World War I being dubbed “The War to End All Wars”, Germany invaded Poland on 1st September 1939. Because of a network of treaties in place, France and the United Kingdom then declared war on Germany. Over six long years, all but eleven countries joined the global war of the Axis vs Allies. While many countries had indeed been neutral at the start of the war, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour saw a swift change and everyone from the United States to the countries of South America joined.
World War II, and the 1930s and 1940s, were known as a time of austerity amongst the British public. Despite this, we can’t overlook the artistic and cultural contributions that were made during this era. And, of course, countless couples fell in love and wed with a greater urgency than before.
1940s Wedding Dresses
As you would expect, wartime wedding dresses were a lot more conservative than the elaborate gowns of the 30s. Importantly, fabric was rationed, and very few people had any money to spare anyway. Many brides even tended to borrow gowns from friends or family to save them spending money on a new one. Furthermore, they might wear a suit or something already in their wardrobe.
Most 1940s gowns were lightly fitted and made from rayon, satin, or silk. It was rare for a dress to include much lace, and was thus plainer than dresses of other times. However, women did spend money on long sleeves, which added to the conservative appearance of dresses from this era. 1940s skirts were also simple in shape and often very straight in order to save on fabric.
You could find a modern wedding dress in a classic 1930s’ and 1940s’ shape to emulate the look. Or, you can browse on sites like Etsy, where vintage gowns from the 1930s and 1940s are sold. Plus, they can be cheaper than buying a completely new dress altogether. However, many genuine dresses from this time would not have been properly preserved, so be aware of moth holes! Buy your dress with plenty of notice from a reputable supplier if you choose to buy a vintage one.
Accessorise your dress with elegant pearls and diamante brooches. This is a great choice for those who want something truly authentic. Furthermore, jewellery from this period is likely to be better kept than fabric; and you can incorporate your “something blue”!
1940s Wedding Flowers
There was no such thing as importing flowers during the 1940s, so all flowers were local. Furthermore, decorating your venue with blooms didn’t become popular until after Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip in 1947. As such, if you want to emulate the style of a World War Two wedding, use local flowers. Work with a florist to see where they obtain their flowers from. Vintage wedding bouquets were often created from carnations, chrysanthemums, and lilies, all of which were easy for brides to obtain.
Bouquets were often quite dainty, and simply decorated with ribbon. This can be easily recreated and will give your wedding flowers an intimate, delicate, wildflower look. You can even go one step further and create bouquets from locally sourced flowers and herbs. On the other hand, take a note from the wedding of Deborah Mitford and choose a cascading bouquet.
Rationing for butter and sugar came into effect in Britain in January 1940. This was followed by a lot of other ingredients, and continued for the rest of the war, and more. In fact, sugar rationing only stopped in September 1953, and all rationing came to an end the following year. As such, ingredients for wedding cakes were often hard to come by.
Women would search high and low to find recipes for butter-free cakes that featured nutmeg and cinnamon for flavouring. The homemade cakes were also minimally decorated.
Even though butter, eggs and milk are now widely available and easy to get hold of, you can still create a delicious wedding cake in a 1940s style; perhaps you can add patriotic decorations or choose a naked Victoria sponge cake for easy elegance with that rustic homemade look.
Wartime Wedding Reception
If you’re planning a 1940s wartime wedding reception, music from Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, and The Andrews Sisters, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra should help set the scene. Conversely, you could even hire a Big Band to perform their hits live and really get the dance floor heaving.
For all the doom and gloom of the time, people loved a chance to celebrate some good news. Bring that carefree feeling to your own wedding reception.
For your wedding breakfast you could go dainty and have champagne afternoon tea with macarons, cakes and finger sandwiches. On the other hand, if you want something more warming, hearty and formal, serve meat pies, or a roast, using seasonal local produce.
Because of rationing during the 1940s, meals weren’t always too appetising. Therefore, using fresh, locally farmed produce is our suggestion for getting a delicious meal that is also authentic.
As for decoration, lay on the side of celebratory rather than macabre. You could decorate your reception venue with patriotic red, white and blue, and hang wartime posters on the walls. If you want something more authentic rather than cliché, showcase vintage glamour with vintage crockery, silverware and a champagne tower! Plus, you could decorate the venue with vintage silk scarves as these were statement ornate pieces during this era.
We hope you’ve picked up enough tips to be able to host a truly wonderful World War Two themed wedding. Let’s just hope the air raid siren doesn’t go off!