Different Blasts from Different Pasts: Our Guide to Vintage Wedding Entertainment

September 14, 2011




The term ‘Vintage’ is a nebulous one; it can mean anything from a stunning hundred year old piece of furniture to a garish shell suit from the 80s – so when someone is looking for Vintage/Retro Entertainment for a wedding that’s casting a pretty wide net.

To narrow things down a little, it helps to focus on a decade you want to emulate in your entertainment. The recent trends in wedding entertainment and events have focussed more on the 1920s to the 1960s so to give you a better idea of what each decade is about, we’ve selected a few of our favourite retro styled acts that best represent each decade.

The Dixie Ticklers occasionally like to spare a moment to contemplate the Wall Street Crash of 1929

1920s

The end of the First World War lead to an economic boom which, in turn, gave us one of the most decadent decades of the 20th Century, a decade so decadent that some states in America brought in prohibition laws to curb the fiendish excesses of youths “Riding the Gilded Juggernaut of Jazz & Gin” – if that doesn’t sound like a good time to you, you’re beyond help. To capture the racy, opulent sound of a society loosening their ties, hitching their flapper dresses and doing the Charleston you’ll need a band that can capture the mood of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and perform high energy Dixieland jazz. And with a name like The Dixie Ticklers, you’d expect a band to have at least some level of familiarity with the era. Fortunately they do and they’re one of the most popular vintage acts on the London Jazz scene.

 Have a listen to the band here.

Benoit (Left) with an authentic 1930's Pirate (Right)

1930s

After the Boom, inevitably comes the Bust. You wouldn’t think the decade that saw ‘The Great Depression’ and the beginning of Wold War II would be a good one to theme your wedding music around – but the swing bands of the1930s had to be upbeat and exciting enough make people forget about their plans to jump out of high rise buildings. While we wouldn’t advise anyone to go all out for the feel of the Depression era, there’s plenty of glamour to be found elsewhere. How about a band that specialise in the kind of thrilling, raucous, French swing that’s the perfect antidote for any economic downturn? Benoit Viellefon and His Orchestra are experts in the art of French Swing. Couple that with the Art Deco inspired surrounds of Eltham Palace and you've got a recipe for the perfect '30s era event. 

 There's more info on Benoit on his profile page

The Frockettes sharing Precious Couch Space

1940s

With half of the decade taken up by the nasty business of World War II, you’d be forgiven for thinking a 1940s wedding would involve countless songs about leaving loved ones back ‘ome, packing up lucifers into ration books which were hung on the siegfried line in order to fool Mr Hitler. In a lot of ways the 1940s were an inherently romantic decade; couples separated by continents writing countless letters hoping to be reunited and the music that came out of the end of the war was fittingly joyous. All girl vocal harmony groups like The Strumpettes or The Frockettes are perfect for capturing the feeling of being in Baby Boom era America or you could go for a British variation on the theme The Three Little Maids who’s slightly sillier cockney stylings are brilliant for setting a light, fun tone.

Find out more about the Three Little Maids Here

The Harmonics are interupted by a streaker midway through their performance

1950s

The 1950s saw the invention of the Teenager; before 1950, people went straight from 12 to 20, going through puberty in a matter of (agonising) seconds without pausing for a single tantrum. Consequently the decade represents a sort of youthful rebelliousness that now seems rather quaint; all milkshakes, slow dances and car rides to the lake. Of course, you could go with an Elvis tribute act if you wanted to be predictable but the decade doesn’t begin and end with ‘The King.’ If you really want to capture the feel of the decade, The Harmonics are the perfect fit for the era. Think American Barbershop groups and mix in a dash of the close part harmonies of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and you’ll be on the right lines.Having said that, the Harmonics could comfortably fit into a number of different eras thanks to their flexiblity and skill with bespoke arrangements. 

 Take a listen to the band here

Kevin Fitzsimmons Performs with his Sprawling Jazz Orchestra

1960s

The 1960s mean different things to different people, on the one hand there’s the Beatles and the wave of ‘British Invasion’/Merseybeat bands that followed them from 1962 onwards, but then there’s also the psychedelic rock of the late 60s, early Motown and lets be honest, who hasn’t thought of hiring a Velvet Underground Covers Band with a Nico look-alike for a Wedding. But when you’re looking to please everyone, music wise, The Rat Pack era of the late 50s and early 60s gives your guests the chance to slip into their finest Mad Men attire, pick up a high ball glass and smoulder across the room at some object of affection or other. The ideal choice for the exchange of ring-a-ding-dings (I’m so sorry!) would be a dashing crooner like Kevin Fitzsimmons or Mickey Fordola  performing rat pack classics either with a big band or simply with a backing track.

Have a listen to Kevin here 

Find out More about Mickey here