My '80s Wedding



When I was growing up and my mom would talk about when she was younger, anything she said that seemed odd to us or unlike the current day and its ways, she would explain it away by saying, “It was during the war.” Apparently the fear of never seeing the guys from the neighborhood alive again and the threat of being bombed by Nazis were an excuse to chain-smoke unfiltered cigarettes, kiss strange soldiers at the Pittsburgh bus station, and drink beer out of a shoe.

I find myself using similar logic when trying to explain to my kids about why I wore 4-inch-high shoulder pads that made me look like a linebacker, why my husband wore giant glasses, and why we danced the Hokey Pokey at our wedding. “It was the ‘80s,”  I find myself saying.

Mom, why is Dad smoking a cigar in this picture?

Mom, what’s with the two-toned Monte Carlo? Is that rust?

Mom, what were you thinking . . . just . . . what were you thinking with that perm?

It was the ‘80s. It was the ‘80s. It was the freaking ‘80s.

We celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary last weekend. Getting married in 1983 meant that I was only kidding myself when I thought that my hairstyle and wedding gown were enduring and “classic.” Just like the kids’ baby books, which asked me to put down for posterity the fads and fashions of the day - presumably so they can laugh at us later - it’s impossible to know what’s a fad and what’s timeless until you’re about 15 years removed.

For instance, I didn’t know we were being ‘80s by wearing acid washed jeans. I thought everyone else was being ‘60s and ‘70s by wearing dark blue, regular-soap-washed jeans.

And in my wedding, I had no idea it would be the humungous puffy sleeves on my gown that would be the butt of the jokes. As far as I knew, it could have been the string of graduated pearls that my mom gave me to wear. I still wear the pearls. Those sleeves, though . . . I had been looking forward to pulling that monster out of the blue paper some year and trying to squeeze into it - maybe the 35th, which is traditionally the Gin-and-Tonics-in-Key-West anniversary. But now, I’m not sure I could fit the sleeves through the narrower doorways of modern day.

Our old neighbors in Illinois threw an ‘80s party once. It was 1997 and they were in their 20s and they and their friends thought it would be a hoot to wear Izod shirts with popped collars, poodle hair, belly shirts, and loafers with no socks.

“How can you have an ‘80s party?” I asked them. “There wasn’t anything about the ‘80s that stands out.”

“If you think that, then you’re still living in it,” Jeremy said.

Ouch. I should have known better than to enter a discussion on party themes with a couple of 20-somethings. I quickly smoothed down my collar.

It wasn’t until the ‘90s decade was over that I truly appreciated the ‘80s for the fashion freak show it was.

I may not have a wedding gown that my daughter would be caught dead in, but it’s only a matter of time - and generations - before it becomes vintage. The first great-granddaughter who says, “Oooh, Granny, I love your sleeves!” gets the gown.

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