A Gatsby wedding

Published date: 18th January 2019

The phrase ‘Gatsby Wedding’ is one that regularly turns up in magazines and on websites to indicate something not just from the Twenties, but the Roaring Twenties. The Jazz Age.

To hold a Gatsby Wedding (though the only one we encounter in the story is through oblique reference to the nuptials of Tom and Daisy) is taken to mean borrowing from the style of Gatsby’s endless and lavish parties at his huge mansion in the fictional West Egg on Long Island (funded by Gatsby’s bootlegger dealings and possibly other criminal activities, though that is most definitely not a suggestion as to how to finance your own big day). Champagne flows, couples dance the night away, and there are crowds of people who gather in excited chattering groups in the mansion’s extensive grounds. Big cars are the thing too.

If you want a more visual idea of Gatsby style there’s no shortage of film versions to inspire you (though given the tragedy of the story of shifting love and failed dreams inspiration may be stretching it).

So if you find the idea of a Twenties wedding enticing, what are the style cues you need to follow?

First up has to be the venue. Gatsby’s mansion is by the shore, a huge building with equally vast grounds, those grounds being where the parties take place. We have plenty of properties by the sea that fit the bill nicely thank you. Given this is Britain, you may wish to hire a marquee rather than rely on the climate as New Yorkers more or less could and can.

Next it’s the cars. The eventual tragedy of the story unfolds around an accident in his gigantic yellow limo so it’s probably best to stick to white (black would not be the thing), and if you can find a company that has American classics to hand all the better.

The look of the event is inevitably determined by the clothes, though the shape women aspired to was another marker of the age too – boyish figures, either naturally or helped by corsets and very restrictive bras. You could go the whole hog and opt for flapper dresses, knee-length and pretty much straight up and down, or all the way to the ground, in which case they should hug the bum and have an extended hour-glass line, and frequently no sleeves and no straps (or wispy ones). Big strings of pearls will adorn either style, the shorter dress demanding a flapper-hat (almost a bonnet, with the narrow rim pushed up at the front), its more elegant cousin calling for a tiara – if you can get away with that look good on you). As for cloth, the floor-length gown must be satin or a near relation, the knee-hugger either the same, or a very matte white. Strappy white or silver sandals go with both, and heels at least 2” high are historically correct. Bobbed hair suits the look and is authentically Twenties, and your make-up should be bold – real flappers used plenty, highlighting the eyes with kohl, and emphasising the mouth.

And finally there’s the spirit – and we’re not talking smuggled hooch. Gatsby threw the biggest, wildest, most liberated parties. Steady there tiger. You’ll have to approach the food and drink planning with an open hand (and wallet) to get the effect right, especially the drink. Champagne not cava for Jay Gatsby.

Weddings can be a good excuse for dancing till dawn anyway, and if you can learn a few ‘proper’ steps it will look great. And the big band you’ve hired for the occasion will appreciate it!

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