These wedding photos from the Walter Lawrence Smith collection looks a lot like modern wedding photos. In fact, the wedding industry as we know it today took shape in the 1920s-1950s, as modern technology put more spare change in people’s pockets. Following World War II, an economic surge through the country caused people to have more spending cash than before. Through advertising and marketing efforts, retailers urged consumers to spend their money on elaborate, expensive weddings. One newly-invented tradition was the double ring ceremony; prior to then, it was rare for men to wear wedding rings. Catered weddings at commercial venues — such as banquet halls or restaurants — were increasingly popular locations for wedding receptions in the 1950s. The rise of department stores, in the age of mass production, also changed the notion of the wedding gown. Brides purchased dresses that were already made, instead of having one custom-made by a tailor. These gowns were intended to be worn once only, unlike in the past, where brides were often married in dresses they already owned, and only the rich could afford to have one made just for the occasion.
Up through the early-20th century, weddings were small, simple affairs in a church hall or at home. Families made their own food, and many brides did not wear white. The rise of industry, commerce, and even travel in the 20th century changed all of that. Elaborate weddings became more affordable for the middle-class, and thus weddings as we know them today became tradition. The photographs on this site, despite being over fifty years old, may look similar to weddings that you have attended. What looks the same? What has changed?
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