In 75 years worth of Bride’s magazine, the main characters – husband and wife – have remained the same. She wears white, he dons a tux and they eat cake. But just about everything else about the weddings and the way they’ve been covered in the Conde Nast publication has evolved.
If you were a bride in 1934 when the magazine launched, you were quite concerned with how to set up a home and how to cook a steak to his liking. In the late ’60s, you wanted guidance about wedding-night sex.
Today’s bride likely already has lived on her own – and probably knows more than a little about the birds and bees – but she still wants some help in learning how to plan the perfect party.
“The magazine is realistic about how people’s lives are today, but still the focus is how to have a successful wedding and start a healthy marriage,” says Bride’s editor-in-chief Millie Martini Bratten.
Two pieces of advice that have been consistent over the years: Make sure your guests have enough to eat, and be polite.
Other advice in the magazine, which has a special retrospective issue out this month, has changed with the times. A look back:
1930s: Pared-Down Parties
Even in hard economic times, people wanted to spend on their weddings.
“They didn’t plan or choose to fall in love, but they certainly were going to celebrate in some way,” says Bratten.
The party, ranging from punch and cake to a four-course meal, was often at home. In preparation for their big day, the magazine advised women to give up smoking from time to time.
1940s: Rations on Passion
During World War II, weddings were done on a much smaller scale and sometimes planned at the last minute if the man was on a short military furlough. Bride’s suggested women shop at sample sales and send telegrams instead of formal invitations.
Even with rations, a bride could probably find some satin for her wedding gown, but it was in the back of her mind that if she wore too much of it, she might be taking away from someone else, Bratten says. It was the same with giving silver as a gift.
1950s: A Woman’s Place…
Bride’s honed in on the public’s interest in their homes and homelife. It was a bigger adjustment to live in their own house for women than men because many women had lived only under their father’s care before their weddings.
Yet, says Bratten, the women who did taste independence during the war years – filling jobs that went back to men when they came home – were looking for more than the happy homemaker life.
The magazine started to look more at the emotional side of marriage, too, even if the main message was to treat your man well and how to get him to reciprocate.
1960s: Revolution and Romance
This decade was a balancing act for Bride’s and brides: There was rebellion with miniskirt-style wedding gowns and articles on birth-control pills.
But the party line for women with a snoring husband was get used to it: Men were the breadwinners.
1970s: Wives Can Be Feminists, Too
During this decade the magazine started to write about interfaith marriage, women’s lib and extramarital affairs.
Bratten thinks the skeptical tone that many marriages took on were partially due to the Watergate scandal, which “shook the foundation of the country,” she says.
“People looked at everything going on and said, ‘We’re going to do it differently.’ ”
Some of the edgier Bride’s topics included women keeping their maiden names, second marriages and the save-the-earth movement.
1980s: Royal Weddings
With the single fairy-tale union between Prince Charles and Lady Diana, pomp and circumstance came back – that is, until the stock market crashed in ’87.
Then couples became introspective and pared down everything, including their weddings.
1990s: All About You
Couples decided to get personal, Bratten says, tailoring their weddings to suit their own taste. Big tiered cakes went out the window, replaced by a cupcake cake or even a pie table.
“People looked at traditions and wanted to keep the rituals, but they wanted to do it in a way that makes sense for them, who they are,” she says.
“The cookie-cutter wedding was officially done and we’ll never go back to it. It’s better for your marriage if you start out with who you are.”
2000s: What Matters Most
“People are concerned about looking inappropriate,” says Bratten.
Couples want a beautiful wedding, but instead of being showy, they’ll ask for donations to charity in lieu of gifts, or give out favors that are edible instead of eventually taking up space in a landfill.
“Weddings are every bit as beautiful and meaningful,” Bratten says, “but everything about the wedding is especially valued now.”
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