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The Best Celebrity Wedding Dresses From the 1980s

by Alexandra Wolf
Last updated on November 4, 2020

The 1980s were a dramatic time marked by excess, self-expression, and rapid advancement. The Cold War quietly wore on, while innovations in technology like Apple’s computers progressed at an unprecedented rate. MTV started in 1981, transcending the definitions of music, art, and fashion, and forever changing our culture. Everything was bright, bold, and larger than life. As the world stage became more uncertain, people began focusing on themselves. Shoulders were padded, neon tracksuits shone bright, and nothing was impossible. All aspects of the ‘80s wedding day were bigger: the dresses, the cakes, the guest lists. The goal was to get as near to Princess Diana’s bridal ensemble as possible on a regular budget. Dresses were meant to take up space, with dramatic elements and as many frills as possible. Gowns with high lace necklines, larger and puffier gathered sleeves, and lacey details were all the rage. Bigger is better, after all! Along with the grander dresses of the time, equally substantial beauty routines and accessories became popular too. Brides wanted cathedral-length veils and cascading bouquets of baby’s breath and gardenias. Hair was often worn in an updo with lots of voluminous curls, while makeup was colorful and bold with red or pink lips and pastel eyeshadow. Some women even chose to add bridal gloves to their look! 

Princess Diana 

The Royal Wedding in 1981 was the event of the decade. No 80s wedding (or other) trend list would be complete without Diana’s show-stopping dress at her wedding to Prince Charles. A crowd of 600,000 spectators filled the streets to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple, and 750 million viewers watched the event on television. Her ivory taffeta gown was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, and was intricately embroidered with sequins, frilled lace, and 10,000 pearls. Her huge puffed sleeves, and 25 foot long train set the pace for her 153-yard tulle veil that floated down from her tiara. The amount of fabric was so excessive that Princess Diana had to be stuffed into her horsedrawn carriage on the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Talk about a grand entrance! 

Barbara Bach

International supermodel Barbara Bach’s face has been on almost every magazine cover in the world. Best known for her role in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bach married Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr in 1981. Naturally, her wedding dress rose to the famous occasion: she wore a cream silk v-neck dress. She stayed sleek while trendsetting in the ‘80s with puffed sleeves and a lace-trimmed asymmetrical hemline. Her hair was wavy and light, and her flowery hanging bridal belt swayed in the wind as they left the ceremony.

Christie Brinkley

Christie Brinkley is one of the great American beauties and looked perfectly 80s at her wedding to rockstar Billy Joel in 1985. Her huge and gleaming ivory lace skirt followed her, leading up to a tight-fitting white lace midsection. Topped off with puffy-shouldered long sleeves, and a lace high neck. So 80s, but totally classic! She was definitely an Uptown Girl at their intimate ceremony on a boat.


Madonna and Sean Penn’s relationship drew much attention and controversy, but their summer wedding in 1985 was certainly a fun and fashionable event. Madonna wore a surprisingly traditional strapless off-white bridal gown, with some trendy twists.  The veil, attached to a small round black hat, cascaded down to her long, fluffy tulle skirt. Diagonally across her torso lay a sash of pink tulle embroidered flowers, and ended at yet another row of tulle peplum at her waistline.

Rita Wilson

Tom Hanks and his bride have been fan favorites forever. “I didn’t know what being in love was until I met Tom,” Wilson once told Vanity Fair. They’ve been together for over 30 years and have produced many incredible films together, including Mamma Mia! Rita Wilson’s wedding dress was quite the spectacle; she wore a super-short bodycon dress, with tons of ruffles and a lace bodice. Her veil trailed for miles, and to top it all off, under her dress she wore metallic tights — it doesn’t quite get more 80s than this!