The midcentury esthetic is hotter than ever, thanks to shows like “Mad Men,” “The Astronaut Wives Club” and “Call the Midwife.” The design inspiration shows up everywhere from runway to restaurant, and has even become a trend for weddings. Whether you’re going for formality or for fun and whimsy, 1960s styling in food, clothing and decor are ingredients for a memorable celebration.
Let’s start with the dress. Consider a full-skirted gown that cinches at the waste and falls just below the knee. These ballerina-inspired confections often feature a boatneck or peekaboo lace. Formfitting sleeveless brocade sheaths are also an option. If your hair is long, you might want to go for an exaggerated updo paired with a birdcage veil. A headband featuring a perky bow or a corona of silk flowers flatters shorter hairstyles.
Bridesmaids can wear vintage chiffon prom gowns topped by coordinating floral hats, or, for a more unified look, choose dresses that mirror elements of the bride’s gown. Slip on fancy beaded cardigans or fur stoles when the evening turns chilly.
Guys should sport narrow collars, lapels and ties. For a casual feel, vintage plaid blazers are an option. More formal affairs call for white dinner jackets and bow ties.
Travel in style by checking with friends to see who might have access to a classic car, or call limousine rental companies to see if they offer vintage options.
When it comes to decor, a Google search for midcentury wallpaper can offer a lot of ideas for motifs and color palettes. Popular designs from the era include starbursts, mod ovoid shapes and wheat sheaths. Merrimack Valley thrift stores are great places to hunt for retro pieces at good prices, but vintage and antiques shops will make your search easier. Midcentury modern styling demands clean lines and minimalism. A kitschier style calls for quirky details and a funky mix of objects.
As guests arrive at the reception, offer them a retro cocktail, such as a Manhattan, Singapore sling or Tom Collins. Pass fancy deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket or stuffed celery, or opt for a fondue station where guests can dunk crispy dippers into vats of melty, cheesy unctuousness. Serve a fruity nonalcoholic punch in a vintage punch bowl with matching cups. For a sit-down first course, consider a classic shrimp cocktail, or wedges of iceberg lettuce served with blue cheese and bacon. A crown roast of beef, lamb or pork makes an elegant entree. Vintage cookbooks and Pinterest are great sources for fun menu ideas.
Generate giggles with a jiggling buffet of Jell-O concoctions, and look online for a vintage topper for your wedding cake. Serve everything with shining stainless steel and wooden serving utensils to keep things sleek and modern, or use patterned Pyrex or melamine dishes to introduce a more casual, eclectic feel. And when the time for toasting arrives, be sure to lift Champagne coupes rather than flutes.
If you want to offer favors, printed matchbooks reflect the cigarette-smoking era and are a practical item that guests can tuck into a drawer or glove compartment. Or continue the Don Draper theme through gifts of single-shot bottles of hooch. You can order customized bottles, or simply buy off the shelf and add a fun tag. For a little something sweet, visit an old-fashioned candy store to find nostalgic treats. The candies also make great conversation pieces.
But with a midcentury-themed wedding, the whole event will be a conversation piece. Just think like a mad man (or woman) and prepare to have a blast.
Mill 77 Trading Company
Antiques on Elm
(Online retailer based in Nashua, N.H.)