20 vintage photos of weddings that show how they’ve changed

Weddings have changed throughout the years.

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Weddings have changed throughout the years.
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Bettmann/ Getty
  • Weddings have changed drastically throughout the years, and these photos prove it.
  • For starters, the wedding dress has undergone huge changes. The drop waist, the pillbox hat, shoulder pads, and short dresses were all wedding dress trends that have come and gone.
  • Popular wedding traditions have been on the decline, like throwing rice, the throwing of the garter, and scripted vows.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Wedding traditions like throwing rice and the bride’s garter date back decades, but that doesn’t mean weddings have always looked the same.

Throughout the years, wedding dresses have changed dramatically, the cost of weddings has greatly increased, and once-popular traditions have disappeared.

Here are 20 vintage photos that illustrate all the ways weddings have changed over time.


In 1922, couples would have plaques made of themselves to hang as a decoration.

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Wedding portraits.
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Topical Press Agency/ Getty

Today, people spend on average $2,800 on wedding photographers to capture special moments between the couple and their loved ones.


This photo from 1926 shows a bride posing with a prayer book in her hands.

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Vintage bride.
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Edward Steichen/ Getty

Weddings today are becoming less and less secular. In fact, fewer people are getting married in churches than ever before. In 2017, 22% of weddings were held in a religious congregation, compared to 41% in 2009.


Couples in 1926 were whisked away in a horse and buggy.

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Vintage wedding.
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Topical Press Agency/ Getty

Today, it’s common for couples to use limos when they’re getting married. On average, they spend $780 on transportation for their wedding day.


This ornate wedding dress from 1927 has the era’s popular dropped waist and a cap.

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Wedding dress from 1927.
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Sasha/ Getty

Wedding dresses today no longer have dropped waists, and typically veils only go on the bride’s head. Now, the ballgown, the A-line, and the mermaid are popular wedding dress silhouettes.


Because of Prohibition in the ’20s, there was no alcohol at weddings.

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A wedding party in the 1920s.
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University of Southern California / Getty

Today, alcohol is commonplace at most weddings, making these events potentially more boisterous.


In 1930, the bridesmaids all wore matching dresses.

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A wedding in 1930.
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Sasha/ Getty

In 2019, 67% of bridesmaids wore different dresses at weddings, which is an increase from 18% in 2015.


Prior to the 1940s, not many men wore wedding rings, but that changed during World War II.

When men went off to fight in World War II, they started wearing wedding rings to remind them of their wives and children waiting for them to return.


In this wedding photo from 1945, a groom kisses his bride shortly after the vows.

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The kiss.
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L. R. Legwin/ Getty

This tradition dates back to the Roman Empire and started because this would be the first time the two people kissed. Today, that is no longer true, and the kiss is a symbol of celebration.


Dancing at weddings has always been a popular tradition, even in the ’40s.

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Bride and groom dancing.
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Lisa Larsen/ Getty

Today, people still dance to music, played by expensive bands or DJs. A DJ, for example, can cost $100 to $300 an hour these days.


In 1954, Audrey Hepburn got married in a short dress, which then became a popular wedding trend.

In the ’50s, wedding dresses were shorter so that people could give more attention to the bride’s shoes. Today, most brides choose floor-length dresses, hiding their shoes and even allowing some to wear sneakers.


This wedding cake from 1955 is relatively modest in size.

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Wedding cake.
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ullstein bild Dtl./ Getty

Wedding cakes today lean more towards the extravagant. Some have multiple tiers and elaborate designs, which make modern wedding cakes very expensive.


Not all wedding cakes in the ’50s were small, however.

Weddings have changed throughout the years.

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Vintage wedding cake.
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Bettmann/ Getty

Larger cakes with multiple tiers can also be seen in weddings today.


At this wedding in 1957, the men examine the bride’s garter.

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Wedding garter.
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Minnesota Historical Society/ Getty

For decades, the tossing of the bride’s garter was a tradition at most weddings. Now, that’s starting to change. In 2018, only 33% of people said they continued the tradition at their wedding, as opposed to 42% in 2016.


Throwing rice at the newlyweds is a long-held tradition.

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Throw rice.
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Bettmann/ Getty

Rice throwing declined toward the end of the 1900s because many thought it harmed birds. That myth has been debunked, but now, you can buy eco-friendly rice that falls apart when you step on it and breaks apart when it rains.


The bride’s bouquet in this 1950s photo is larger than some brides carry today.

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Bouquet of flowers.
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William Vanderson/ Getty

Today, couples use flowers all over their wedding venue – not just in their bouquet. This usually costs them $2,141 on average.


Throughout the mid-1900s, most weddings looked the same.

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A wedding in the ’50s.
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Archive Photos/ Getty

Today, it’s more common for couples to host theme weddings. One couple, for example, recently had a “Game of Thrones,” which included a direwolf.


In the late ’60s, some people chose to elope instead of having a formal wedding.

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Eloping.
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Frank Teskey/ Getty

Each decade, the number of elopements increases, and Millenials are more likely to chose to elope than ever before.


Also in the ’60s, the pillbox hat became popular for brides.

The pillbox hat is no longer in fashion, especially on wedding days.


Shoulder pads were popular in the ’70s — even in wedding dresses.

Today, the shoulder pad craze has died down and is not a popular style for wedding dresses.


Saying your vows has been one of the most important wedding traditions for years.

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Saying vows.
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Housewife/ Getty

Although vows are still important, couples today are more likely to write their own. The traditional script has also been revised from “man and wife” to “husband and wife.”