©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
The tragedy of the Spanish Flu epidemic resulted in a celebratory boom in the 1920s once society revved back up, and people felt safe to be out and about. The ’20s was an era defined by the art of decadence and an attitude of more is more—one we anticipate is on the horizon once we reopen in the 2020s.
While celebrations are still on pause due to COVID safety restrictions worldwide, we’re looking forward to the day that weddings safely return, and to when we can travel, toast, dance, and party again. Here, our favorite ideas from the roaring ’20s to tap as inspiration for your upcoming party later this year or in the future.
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Skip the Bridesmaids—Have Everyone Dress to Party
Rather than opting for the traditional suite of ‘maids all clad in the same color, silhouette, or designer—consider choosing a more festive dress code for your entire guest list. After a year of lockdown, tap into your friends and family’s desire to get dressed up again.
Rather than black-tie or formal, opt for cocktail, festive, or party attire on your invitation. The subtle hint will encourage everyone in attendance to splurge on the ultimate party wardrobe. The result? A photogenic, fashion-forward ceremony—and a reception akin to Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby, packed with sparkling mini dresses, slinky sheaths, dapper vests, and gobs of accessories.
Bring on the Accessories
Skip all things minimalistic, especially for the reception and after-party. This is the time to wear headpieces, handpieces, chandelier earrings, and more—with a crystal-encrusted dress fit for the dance floor. Whether you opt for fringe, crystals, sequins, feathers, or other frills, make sure the accessories you choose don’t overwhelm or wear you—this look is all about maximalism, but mix dainty and statement pieces together for a sensibility that looks styled, rather than going costume.
Speakeasy Style Bars
Channel the Prohibition-era quality of the speakeasy with themed bars and bar carts scattered throughout your event. Treat guests to cocktail trolleys scattered throughout happy hour, each with their own specialty—like a martini cart featuring the classic in all its forms, a champagne trolley brimming with bubbly coups, and another serving up gimlets with fresh lime. Then, curate a dark liquor bar at the after party, featuring top shelf scotches, whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes— along with all the cocktails they inspire.
Whatever your spirit(s) of choice, expertly curating the beverage program at your event with the help of your planner and catering team will feel akin to the never ending parties of the roaring ’20s, and keep guests on the dance floor for what promieses to be an epic party after a year of cocktails only prepapred at home.
Make It Rain
Delight your guests with surprises scattered into the experience of the event as the night goes on—like performers that mingle amongst the guests, surprise performances, drinks and bites served on the dance floor, and a confetti drop to cap off the night. Not only does this make for an epic photo moment, but doses of drama reinvigorate the party, keep guests on their toes, and sets the tone that the night is far from over, even when it’s long past midnight.
Create Intimate, Tucked Away Lounge Spaces
“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy,” Jordan Baker famously said in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Create those intimate spaces in a large room and even with a larger guest list by assembling intimate lounge spaces throughout the room. Curate cozy corners of plush seating, using rich textures like velvets and satin. Opt for mirrored accents that reflect dim lighting or loads of candlelight and set up smaller bar carts nearby or pepper well-dressed servers throughout the room to ensure each guest always has a drink in hand without having to queue at the bar. Throughout the evening as people gather at the bar and on the dance floor, you’ll notice that others are curled up for a chat in these intimate enclaves.
Plan on Live Performances
While a DJ is always fun for late-night dance parties, the ’20s were all about the drama and decadence of live performers—those who brought energy to the party via their incredible voices and showstopping personalities. Consider your dinner, when all of your guests are seated and off their feet, as prime time for a concert curated by you both as a couple. Opt for a jazz band, a trio, or a lounge-style soloist serenading guests with covers of your favorite songs. Much like dining experiences and late nights in the ’20s, think of it as your version of dinner and a show.
The New Gatsby Glam
Get inspired by the glamour of the era when planning your beauty look—but be sure to modernize it so it doesn’t look dated.
“The easiest and newest way to get s-waves is with a flat iron,” says BAZAAR.com Beauty Director Jenna Rosenstein, whose mother Beth (pictured here) opted for a ’20s inspired look for her deco wedding in Miami. Here’s how to get the look: “Using a one-inch section of hair, quickly clamp the iron up and down while moving down the length of hair, bending it left and right to form the pattern,” she explains. Once you’ve completed your waves, pair them with a sultry eye or a bold lip—but not both.
Style Out Your Spaces
The roaring ’20s were all about breaking the rules, and some of the most exclusive parties were hosted underground, in spaces that weren’t traditionally meant for raucous fun.
Channel that hidden gem energy and opt for a venue with some character; then, for moments where guests are exploring and on their feet—like the cocktail hour or after-party—create layered styling moments throughout the room with props, candlelight, and wall hangings. Peppering style elements that are sentimental to you or unique to the venue will give the space a lived-in, antique feeling that evokes a speakeasy feel, apropos for those looking forward to sneaking out for a night of all-out fun after a year-plus stuck in lockdown.
Modernize ’20s Fare
When it comes to your menu, tap the roaring ’20s for its decadent flavors—then update them for a modern-day party menu fit for the 2020s.
After a year of eating at home, your guests will likely want to be wowed, but not in the super obscure, fine dining way you’d expect. They’ll be most excited by indulgent foods they wouldn’t make themselves, but with familiar, nostalgic flavors rather than haute cuisine foams, flavored smokes, and multi-course recitations. The 1920s signatures—deviled eggs, oyster Rockefeller, and shrimp cocktail—were all about high-end ingredients, rich flavors, and quick bites that filled you up for a long night of sipping Champagne, martinis, Manhattans, and more. Tap those delicious flavors in elevated, fresh ways—and seek out a caterer whose skilled at getting creative with both flavor profiles and presentation.
Pictured here: Savory bites from Paula LeDuc fine catering.
Opt for Multiple Looks—and Slinky Silhouettes
After more than a year indoors, it’s expected that brides will want to go big when it comes to dressing up. Prepare for loads of outfit changes, with brides donning one look for the ceremony, another for the reception, and possibly a third for late night.
The ’20s brought us the slinky slip, the sultry flapper sheath, and the midi dress—all perfect for getting close with friends and family on the dance floor and partying until the wee hours. You may want to go traditional and regal for the aisle, but after that—skip the full skirt. Embrace pomp and circumstance, with slim, body-con shapes that aren’t short of glitz, sparkle, fringe, feathers, and all things glam. Go for midi and tea lengths that show off sparkling shoes.
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