It was 150 years after his patent went into effect, but John Landis Mason’s glass jars with seal-tight lids experienced a renaissance in 2008 — although it wasn’t for the use he’d originally intended. Instead of pickling vegetables or preserving fruit for winter, Mason jars became the go-to accessory to decorate wedding tables across the country.
As the recession hit, some couples couldn’t afford a grand wedding; others didn’t want to flaunt it if they could, so cue the Mason jar centerpieces overflowing with fresh-cut flowers or shining bright with candles. The result? a sort of shabby chic wedding that seems to have staying power.
“People didn’t want to be so flashy and showy and wanted to return to wholesome roots,” says Anja Winikka, site editor for TheKnot.com. “Instead of styling all the tables, they wanted it to feel like a backyard party. We saw this cold shoulder to the formal and traditional elements, and [suddenly] there were so many Mason jars and wildflowers.”
The idea spread faster than you could say “manic pixie dream wedding,” especially among the new generation of wedding bloggers who found it easier and cheaper to replicate these looks than black-tie, formal events. And they saw their readership soar in comparison to their print counterparts because, well, it’s also a lot easier and cheaper to read a free website than it is to buy a magazine. The fashion industry embraced it too. Most fittingly, the parent company of Anthropologie — a store that has mastered the look, feel and even smell of this romantic, whimsical, rustic, vintage-inspired ethos — launched its own bridal brand, BHLDN, in 2011.
Soon, what was once a low-end design alternative became a high-end money maker as “companies started popping up that would throw your wedding in this trend,” says Harmony Walton, owner of bridal resource center the Bridal Bar in Burbank. Suddenly, you could get the DIY look without having to actually do it yourself.
Market research center Splendid Insights reports that one in four weddings in 2011 had a vintage-inspired wedding, with California being the most popular state for this look. Why here? The Knot’s Winikka speculates that it could be because our climate and architecture lend themselves more to this theme. Susan Tom-Nellis of Culver City-area Peony & Plum Floral Design attributes it to our inhabitants; she suggests that the vintage look might be “more popular in areas where young, hip people live.”
Matt Turk of Tower Films, a videography company in Venice, gets more specific, saying he’s more likely to see a bohemian style in Los Angeles than, say, San Francisco, where “you’ll find more conservative, more formal” weddings.
“I think in L.A., people are trying to one-up the person, to be honest,” Turk says. “There are goods and bads of that. I think there’s a lot of pressure to have the coolest, the trendiest wedding.”
It’s also a style that’s relatable. Given the popularity of stores like Anthropologie and the online Etsy, as well as social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, it’s now easier than ever for couples to adopt and implement the perfect look for their own weddings.
“I think [rustic design] is changing the way people think about what a wedding is,” says Portland, Ore.-based wedding photographer Star O’Bryan, 24, whose wedding in November 2011 in the Angeles National Forest included desserts made by her bridesmaids, mismatched furniture and a powder-blue school bus. “Most people tend to picture weddings within a very narrow definition, and these new trends are helping people to create a day that speaks volumes about them as a couple rather than years of tradition.”
But has it gone too far? The wedding industry, like the fashion and home décor industries from which it takes its cues, is a cyclical beast. Bridal Bar’s Walton suggests that what was cool and unexpected may have peaked in popularity, and, as our country attempts to rebuild itself financially, the pendulum is beginning to swing in another direction: across the pond.
“After the royal wedding, there was a vast increase in interest in having a royal-like wedding,” Walton says. “I still think the vintage, Anthropologie-style is more popular, but what [the royal wedding] is doing is bringing back tradition, that air of formality that doesn’t lend itself as well to the Anthropologie style. That, I think has partly to do with the economy too. It’s OK to have a big formal wedding and a big celebration again. And that’s not seen as poor taste.”