All eyes are riveted on the doorway. From the first notes of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March to the bride’s “something old,” to Aunt Hilda’s wide-brimmed hat, wedding ceremonies, accessories and fashions are steeped in tradition. Add a betrothed couple who choose a vintage or period wedding and you have a magnificent showcase for antiques, collectibles and treasured heirlooms.
According to many wedding sources, this happy day, resplendent or modest, is repeated across the country in June more than any other month of the year, followed closely in popularity by August and September. Though many wedding day accoutrements are dictated by religion and culture, all symbolize romance and the noble union of two people.
Over the centuries, weddings, like the fashion industry itself, have moved beyond strict style edicts to become wonderful, eclectic blends of tradition, fad and most importantly, personal preference. This makes collecting wedding-related items even more interesting. Weddings have nearly always included a memento of the past with “something old” and a peek into the future with “something new.” Today however, the old is often a whole wedding theme for the new couple and as often, signifies the emergence of a new collector.
Wedding antiques and collectibles are matchless for a collector captivated by romance. From the sweetness of cake toppers to the tradition of cake charms, to ornate tussie mussie holders and vintage bridal dolls, there is something for everyone. Even the most unsentimental board game collector wouldn’t pass up a classic copy of Bride Bingo (by Leister Game Co. Inc., 1970, $19.99 at www.tias.com).
Are you are planning a vintage or period wedding, or simply in love with love as a collector? For both there are a plethora of items to enjoy. Finding them all in one place, however, may not be a simple task. Suggestion: devote a day to treasure hunting, visiting every antiques mall or shop in your area – or take turns with another hopeless romantic collector, at the computer. It’s a fun way for brides to bond with bridesmaids, and maybe even your future mom-in-law. Grooms – you can grab your best man, albeit grumbling and groaning, to shop for meaningful groomsmen’s gifts. Think antique or vintage cuff links.
A great way to get in the mood is to search for wedding cake toppers. They are tradition, sentiment and charm, all rolled into a sugary figurine. Well, the antique ones are – yep, pure food product. Just ask Penny Henderson, author of Vintage Wedding Cake Toppers (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2004). “One of my favorites came from Australia a couple of years ago. Probably from the early 1900s, the couple, Cupid and horseshoe beauty could possibly go as high as $3,000 in online auction, today.” Henderson paid about $400.
Another of Henderson’s wedding collecting penchants that is even more difficult to attain are marriage globes, or “Globe de Mariee,” a short-lived French tradition. “They originated in the late part of the 19th century and were popular through WWI,” Henderson explains. “The domes were given to the couple upon their engagement, by the parents or godparents. After the wedding and as years passed, treasured objects were added.” Henderson sells pieces of her collections at www.rubylane.com/shops/sentimentaljourney.
For a 1920s wedding, or collectors of either Art Deco or ephemera, you may find a copy of How to Make Party Favors and Table Decorations, circa 1928, especially fun (online as low as $6). Perhaps a “glorious Victorian wedding keepsake” book, languishing unused and untouched for more than 100 years, is on your list. At www.CherishedBride.com, the nearly pristine find, displays “Our Wedding” in ornate script on the pink and floral fabric cover ($40).
More wedding treasures abound as you and your romantic friends seek vintage headpieces, ready to attach the most exquisite tulle. A 1940s floral and pearlized crown, or Wedgwood and hand-carved cameo tiara, created from vintage pieces and Swarovski crystal rhinestones, will likely put you over the $400 mark. You can, however, find very affordable headpieces and tiaras at www.dollsandlace.com, with vintage items in the $20-$65 range.
The authentic Victorian (1837-1901) or Edwardian (1901-1910) era wedding is not complete without a tussie mussie holder, or porte-bouquet. Found easily online from $95 to $1,200 or more, the containers are used to gracefully display small bridal bouquets or bridesmaids’ nosegays, often ornate in brass, sterling silver, silver plate, or even crystal.
Exploring the aisles of the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Phoenix finds wedding-related items tucked into corners and hiding in baskets of similar collectibles. A couple of white purses and very appropriate vintage hats were spotted for under $30 each. And for the “little girl” in need of her first – or 100th – bride doll, a lovely addition to any collection, by Court of Dolls, is numbered 81/3000. She is in excellent condition, with exquisite beading detailing a skirt adorned with a flirty bottom flounce that completes her special look ($139). Not to be outdone is a new, but adorable little boy’s white jacket and shirt with matching brocade vest that would befit a wee ring bearer and create a future collectible ($60).
Many collectors of wedding items are like the rest of us … perhaps they start with one or two special pieces from their own wedding and before they can say, “till death do us part,” there is a whole room devoted to centuries of walks down the aisle. For one collector-turned-dealer however, it began with the romance of a young girl in a flea market. “I bought my first vintage wedding dress when I was 10 years old,” revealed Deborah Burke, owner of www.AntiqueDress.com. The 1913-era dress began a lifetime of collecting and about the time her world of romance began spilling into every room of the house, the Internet became every seller’s dream, and in 1997 Deborah found herself in business.
“I still have that dress,” Burke said in a phone interview. In discussing the evolution of the wedding dress, Burke reminds us that once upon a time, brides were wed in their “best dress” – whatever color it may have been. Historical accounts of the traditional “white wedding” attribute Queen Victoria for changing the course of fashion in 1840, when she wed Prince Albert in a stunning white gown. Though current trends allow pastels, the white wedding dress remains the most popular choice.
Vintage and antique gowns are popular, even in the most modern weddings. But beyond the ceremony, collectors are scouring shops for those rare wedding dresses of bygone eras – in colors. White, ecru and ivory wedding gowns however, remain desirable, especially those from the Victorian years and the newly-dubbed, Titanic era.
The Victorian gown, with volumes of expensive lace and a lengthy train, once reflected the bride’s social standing. Conversely, the styles of 1912 offer sleek sophistication and endearing romance. Increasing collecting interest is showing up, too, in Hollywood’s Golden Age, for its glitz and glamour dresses of 1935-1943. Whether you seek an addition to your wedding dress addiction, or “the one” that will make you feel like queen for a day, there is a wealth of beautiful gowns to explore.
At AntiqueDress.com, you will delight in the unique collection of wedding dresses Deborah Burke has accumulated. From the simple elegance of a Titanic era beauty (sold/on hold), to an 1890 silk faille extravaganza, complete with bustle ($865), you will have too much fun on this site. If still available, she even lists a Victorian groom’s white on white, double-breasted vest, in excellent condition for only $165. Although, Burke admits “Men’s wedding items are nearly impossible to come by. And the sizes are so wrong! They were smaller and shorter than men generally are, today.”
In a modern society adept at breaking tradition, weddings are still special. And even if you’re collecting someone else’s memories, their spirit of love lives on because you care about cherished moments.
1. This simply superb 1912 silk satin gown is pure, understated elegance. Image compliments of Deborah Burke.
2. Remember the bride dolls of the 1950s? Author Rochelle admits her three lovelies shown here were well played-with. Unfortunately, they are missing clothing items and in need of some repair. But ahhhhh, the memories.
3 A 1931-32 vision of lace and loveliness, this Depression-era dress will make an outstanding addition to your wedding collection, or ensure all eyes are on you. Jacques Doucet was one of the greatest designers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is available at www.antiquedress.com.
Image compliments of Deborah Burke.
4. This simply superb 1912 silk satin gown is pure, understated elegance. Image compliments of Deborah Burke.
5. Boy’s vintage ringbeared suit.
6. Vintage wedding toppers
7. Brides can carry something old when they use these vintage purses.
8. Antique wedding gowns
9. Vintage items for the top of the cake.