If Shakepearean sonnets, lutes, calligraphy, men in tights, and ladies in bodices make you swoon, then verily, a Renaissance-themed wedding might be perfect for you. Abundant with innovations in art and culture, that era was resplendent with romance, merriment, great music, and an enormous array of puffy shirts. If that doesn’t inspire wedding ideas, I don’t know what does.
Begin with some research: Films like Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, The Other Boleyn Girl, and the HBO television series The Tudors are all fabulous for ideas regarding clothing, décor and food… just don’t emulate the lack of bathing, or the tossing of food bits on the floor for dogs and paupers.
In your invitations (which should be in scroll-form, of course), encourage your guests to come in costume—it’s so easy to dress up in Renn Faire garb, and most people actually do enjoy getting into costume and playing along, even if they don’t admit to it. You might like to make note of the fact that those not in costume will be fodder for mockery by attending jesters: shaming them into it might work wonders.
Note that one of the best places to get ideas and info about a true Renaissance celebration would be the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA): that society is full of folks who take re-enactment very seriously, and there’s a wealth of resources to be found on their websites and forums.
An ideal place to hold such a fête would be in a Tudor manor house that can be rented for special occasions. A hearth that’s large enough to walk into and walls bedecked in tapestries make for an incredibly memorable experience. Wedding colours can be incorporated via table linens (runners rather than tablecloths!), candles, seasonal flowers, and glassware.
Renaissance Wedding Ideas
For the bride’s ensemble, look into companies that do historical recreations clothing like Armstreet (or even some Etsy shops), where you’ll undoubtedly find a style that will flatter any figure. Burgundy, plum, cream, and gold are hues that suit any complexion, so you can either go with a cream gown accented with the other colours, or be more traditional and choose a darker wedding dress—white or cream dresses didn’t come into vogue until the Victorian era.
Your groom can dress to in darker hues with accents of the shade chosen for your wedding gown and you might wish to dress your bridesmaid in a similar, complementary tone. Simple ballet flats are perfect footwear, and you can get replicas of era-accurate poesy rings as your wedding bands.
Renaissance Food Poultry Pie
If you’re aiming for authenticity for your wedding banquet, there’s a great recipe book entitled Shakespeare’s Kitchen that you and your caterer can go through together. Popular dishes from that era included anything encased in a pastry crust (think beef Wellington, or pot pies); those that blended savoury with sweet (venison with plums; chicken with apples and spices); and plenty of sugary treats.
People of the Renaissance seem to have had a collective sweet tooth the likes of which would throw most of us into diabetic shock, so feel free to have an ample sweets table. In addition to cakes and pastries, “subtleties” were whimsical items like animals or fake fruits moulded from marzipan, which might be really cute as take-away gifts.
“Fair thought and happy hours attend you!”
[Lorenzo, Merchant of Venice. Act 3, Scene 4]