I recently had the honor of designing and planning a styled photo shoot that took place at The Brightside Music & Event Venue in Downtown Dayton, Ohio. Here’s the story behind this Industrial Meets Victorian Charm shoot.
The Victorian Era Dinner Party
The Victorian-era dinner party reflected the values of a refined society, with an emphasis on etiquette and proper conduct. Hosting a dinner party provided the opportunity for a Victorian woman to showcase her credentials in etiquette because a successfully planned and executed event helped her assert her position in upper class society. At the heart of the dinner party was the properly set Victorian and well appointed table.
Bread and butter plates were not part of a Victorian place setting. Instead, bread was placed on a folded napkin to the left of the dinner plate and forks. Napkins were not placed under the forks, nor were forks or knives placed under the edge of the plate; table settings were designed so that everything was readily accessible for guests, who should not have to disassemble anything to eat. Crystal stemware was placed at the upper right of the dinner plate. A water goblet was placed about an inch above the dinner knife, with assorted wine, sherry and champagne glasses placed to the right of the water glass in an ascending diagonal row or two, depending on what was served.
The best table linens covered Victorian tables; name cards also appeared beside each guest’s plate. Common centerpieces included bowls of flowers placed on beveled mirrors or wreaths surrounding a pyramid of fruit. It was important that centerpieces did not interfere with conversation or block guests from being able to see one another across the table. At the end of the dinner, women would retire to the drawing room for coffee or tea while the men remained behind in the dining room to smoke and drink port wine.
In the 16th and 17th century, teenage brides wore pale green dresses which were a sign of fertility. If the bride was in her twenties, she would wear a brown dress, while older women wore black. Since Queen Victoria’s marriage, white became the traditional color. The early Victorian dress had a fitted bodice, small waist and full skirt made of organdy, gauze, tulle, lace, silk, linen or cashmere.
The veil was a fine gauze, linen or sheer cotton.
It was customary to issue notes of invitation to those whose attendance was most desired. Invitations were prepared in one of two methods: neatly printed from type or, the more expensive manner, to have them engraved and printed by a card engraver.
The reception traditionally followed the etiquette of high society dinner parties. Tables were elaborately appointed with the finest China and crystal.
The wedding cake was a dark, rich fruitcake with ornate white frostings decorated with scrolls and orange blossoms. There were often three cakes – a white cake for the bride, a dark cake for the groom, and a larger cake for the guests which was sliced and boxed, and then distributed as guests left the reception.
The groom’s cake was cut into as many pieces as there were attendants, and often there were small favors hidden inside for luck. Each charm had its own meaning:
The ring for marriage within a year;
The penny for wealth, my dear;
The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born;
The button for sweethearts all forlorn.
This tradition died away at the turn of the century as bridesmaids did not wish to soil their gloves looking for the favor. The cake the bride cut was not eaten but was packed away for the 25th wedding anniversary.
History of the Venue
The Brightside Music & Event Venue building was originally constructed in the late 1800’s to serve as a coal depot for the City of Dayton. Over the years, a variety of businesses occupied the space until it was eventually left vacant. The space was then used to gather Katrina donations, which were never distributed, so for years the space sat filled with over 90,000 garments and later other construction debris.
Carli & Hamilton Dixon bought the building in 2009 in an effort to help Dayton bounce back from a major economic downturn. At that time, the building had boarded windows, no running water or electricity, and the piles of clothes and debris remained inside.
Over the past decade, with the help of family, friends and tenants, the Dixons have renovated the entire 18,000 sq. ft. building to serve as the showroom and manufacturing space for Bloombeads/Freezeframe floral preservation and The Brightside Music & Event Venue.
To see before photos, check out our website at https://www.thebrightsidedayton.com/our-story. #shineonedayton
The Décor Details
The vision for this shoot developed after first visiting the venue in 2018 while still under construction. The industrial space with exposed brick and wood accents, high ceilings, and the large metal door provided the inspiration to create a takeoff of a Steampunk theme.
I wanted to use some elements of Steampunk, but I mostly wanted to focus on the Victorian era since the building was first constructed during the 1800s. I also wanted to emphasize a juxtaposition between the dark elements of Steampunk (dark metal lanterns, black tablecloths, gears, and mixed metals) with the vibrant colors of Victorian China.
It was then that I first connected with Gina Wilson of Ruth & Rose Mismatched Vintage China Rental and fell in love with all the beautiful plates, teacups and colorful goblets in their inventory.
The China then provided the inspiration for the florals. Incorporating the Pantone Color of the Year, Living Coral, was important to us, and we added pinks and purples into the mix. The Flowerman! Provided beautiful garlands and wreaths of Victorian Kahala roses in peach and coral, lavender bouquet garden roses, free spirit roses in orange and coral, Darcy garden roses in magenta, white anemones, magenta anemones, orange ranunculus, purple Scabiosa flowers, light blue delphinium, magenta stock, dark purple lisanthus, silver dollar eucalyptus, spiral eucalyptus, green ivy, pink peonies (in the bridal bouquet) and lavender spray roses.
The napkins were folded to represent fans as inspired by a traditional place setting where a fan was placed to the left of the forks. By the mid 1800s, the fan was an indispensable fashion accessory, and no woman of stature was ever without one. Fans often became works of art, and the particular type of fan carried by a Victorian woman was based on her social status.
High tea was a truly Victorian tradition, and served as the inspiration for incorporating the silver tea service and teacups into the décor of this shoot.
I love everything about the Victorian era — the timeless beauty of the architecture, the charm and chivalry, the beautiful flowing gowns. This styled photo shoot had a touch of the Steampunk style, with an emphasis on the beautiful China and vibrant florals. I hope you enjoyed learning more about Victorian weddings, as well as the inspiration for this Industrial Victorian theme.
It is with great excitement that I share the news that this shoot was published on May 14, 2019 by Wedding Day Magazine in their online blog. Click here for more on that publication and you can click here to see more photos of this photo shoot.
None of this would have been possible without the dedication and teamwork of many talented and amazing wedding professionals. You will find links to their websites at the end of this article.