Woodstock Weddings

How the festival and the summer of love continues to influence weddings.

There’s been a lot of attention to the Woodstock Music festival on its 50thanniversary. As a baby boomer myself, although I wasn’t at Woodstock (I was hitch-hiking around Europe – how’s that for a hippie move?) I was a part of the era, for sure.

It got me thinking about weddings 50 years ago, and what they looked like. After the austerity of World War II, the 1950’s ushered in bigger, fancier weddings. Then came the counter-culture movement of the 60’s which, naturally, also influenced weddings in small and big ways.

A sixties inspired look, and I think they look awesome! (photo provided by me)

The entire idea of marriage was being challenged as norms where changing, and many young people did not want to marry, seeing it as subjugation. The 60’s counterculture was challenging the roles of both women and marriage. But in the end, while fashions come and go, marriage remains. And that is because it has evolved and come to represent the best parts of a committed relationship. Marriage no longer oppresses, at least not in our country and culture (presently). But I digress –  that’s not what today’s column is about. It’s about those who didchose to marry in those tumultuous times. 

And let’s remember that not everyone was part of the counterculture movement, and whether hippies or squares, brides still remained the focus on the big day. Naturally, they were choosing new styles. Fashion was evolving fast. Brides found styles like cotton, peasant-dresses suited their new tastes, or mini-skirted dresses, and tossed aside gowns and veils. Even traditional couples couldn’t help but be influenced by the styles of the era with wedding gowns sporting empire waists, shorter hemlines, and pill box hats, instead of ruffles and trains.

Typical sixties bride!

Jane Fonda, who was married in 1965 wore a sleeveless high-waist sheath dress. John Lennon married Yoko Ono, who wore a mini-dress with knee-length socks and sneakers on their wedding day.

Bridesmaids didn’t have quite as difficult a time, and you would recognize their dresses as something you might even see today. A man could be married in a Mexican shirt, the Guayabera, or a wear a shirt and vest, or even stick with the more traditional a suit. Just don’t be ‘the man.’

Today we still see the influence of the fashion of the sixties, but in a more refined reinvention. What some call ‘boho’ style, meaning bohemian, is straight out of the sixties, and flower crowns harken to the era as well.

Beach and backyard weddings were born out of spirit of those rebellious times. Couples were thinking more and more about how to express their own style. The aforementionedflower garlands were requisite,giving the bride a much sought-after waif-like, nature-girl look. The lyric, ‘if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair’ – certainly rang true. In my book, anything involving flowers is always good.

Even Barbie got into the act.

The ceremony needed to express the vibe of peace and love, and nature often played a big part. Couples began saying their own vows and creating new rituals, and the Sand Ceremony on the beaches of California was born. Music, of course, was an important element, and you were lucky in the 60’s if you had a friend who played guitar (who didn’t?) and could perform a Beatles song or two. Most couples still married in the church (or synagogue or other house of worship) but if you knew the right reverend, he  (only occasionally she) could would marry you outdoors, and you could have truly counter-culture wedding. 

Parents could be quite upset by this, just as they were with many of the changes that were occurring in society. I can assure you that many did not attend their son or daughters’ wedding because it did not conform to the norms of the day. I remember my own mother arguing with my sister about the length of her mini wedding dress.

The wedding reception extravaganza hadn’t kicked in yet, so it wasn’t uncommon to have a party at home or dinner at a restaurant. 

While some of this may seem frivolous, remember the counterculture helped end the war in Vietnam and played a role in ushering in civil rights and women’s rights. The sixties were an amazing time and I’m glad I was there. It ushered in the idea of self-expression as a central part of our lives. Although, in some ways, we all conformed to the new ideas and styles, so perhaps it was merely rebellion rather than expression. I guess that depended on who you were, and that is still true today. As I always advocate, when planning your wedding, be true to yourself.


find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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