When envisioning your wedding day look, the first thing you probably think of is the dress, and rightfully so. With so much emphasis on finding the perfect wedding gown, the dress is typically a key component of a bride’s look—but it's not the only item that matters when creating a cohesive ensemble.
Meet the Expert
If you’re wondering how to style a wedding day look, celebrity fashion stylist Madison Guest says it’s all about channeling your own personal aesthetic, then elevating it. “Yes, we like the fairy tale moment, but you don’t want to look like you’re in a costume,” she explains. Before selecting a princess gown just because you think it’s what you need to have, do a little style soul searching first. What truly matters is that you feel beautiful and authentic on the special day, and to do that, you need to create a cohesive bridal ensemble that speaks to your style, your venue, and your dream bridal aesthetic.
So, to help you create your dream look, we spoke with two bridal fashion experts to provide insight on everything you need to know from selecting your gown to picking out the perfect day-of accessories.
What Makes a Bridal Look Cohesive?
Is it the dress and shoes? The veil? Adding in jewelry? According to Edmundo Castillo, the senior vice president and global head of product design at Stuart Weitzman, what makes a bridal look cohesive will vary from person to person. “What’s cohesive for one bride might not make sense to another,” he explains. “While it may sound counterintuitive, cohesion comes when you pair things that make you feel confident rather than following ‘fashion rules.'”
Prior to selecting your day-of dress (or bridal suit, jumpsuit, etc.), you’ll want to first evaluate your overall theme. The feel of your celebration will play a big role in pulling your look together in a way that's true to both you and the venue. For example, “you don’t want to pair a blinged-out veil with a romantic, vintage gown and beachy shoes,” explains Guest.
That’s not to say you have to completely adhere to the style of your space. In fact, Castillo loves inspiring brides to break free of social constructions by adding unexpected pops to their day-of ensembles. “I love the idea of a rebellious bride, someone who might wear pink over-the-knee boots with her dress because they make her feel confident,” he says. “It’s okay to turn tradition on its head."
What to Consider When Styling Your Wedding Day Look
Cohesion comes from many places, and as you start piecing together your day-of look, Guest urges brides to think outside the box. “Always be willing to try something, even if it doesn’t feel like what you had in mind,” she explains. It’s a good idea to start with the vibe you're trying to exude, then tweak your look from there depending on how you feel in different silhouettes, necklines, and skirts.
Once it’s time to shop for accessories, Guest says it’s important to keep functionality in mind, especially when it comes to the shoes and the veil. “Are you getting married in the grass? Then you need to look for a chunky heel instead of a stiletto. Is your ceremony in a small space? Then a cathedral-length veil might be a logistical nightmare,” she explains.
Ultimately, your accessories should compliment the dress, not compete with it. “If your gown feels more clean and classic, then you have room to play with your veil and jewelry,” Guest says. “If your dress is more ornate or dramatic, a simpler accessory may be the way to go.”
Must-Have Bridal Pieces to Always Remember
According to Guest, there are only two must-haves for any bridal look: the dress and the shoes. And while the dress normally gets most of the attention, your shoes are usually just as important as the gown. “Shoes are something that can lift someone up, both literally and figuratively,” Castillo explains. “They can elegantly and boldly complete a look.”
As for the rest of your ensemble, it really depends on your personal taste, style, and celebration type. “If you’re sticking with traditional pieces, you want to make sure to have the dress, shoes, veil, and jewelry,” Guest explains. “If your wedding is in a cold month, you’ll also want to make sure to have some type of outerwear like a wrap or shawl.”
Here’s a closer look at the most common bridal components that create a cohesive wedding ensemble:
The biggest factors that will determine your bridal gown are typically the venue, season, formality, and theme of your celebration. Beyond that, selecting a style that makes you feel confident, comfortable, and "bridal" is what really matters.
As you’re searching through the racks, Guest says it’s completely okay to gravitate toward an off-white or even colored gown, if that’s what feels best to you. While some brides prefer to stick with classic styles, others want something on-trend or unique. Neither option is better than the other as long as it feels true to you.
Second only to the dress, wedding shoes are one of the most crucial elements of any bridal look. While you’ll want to consider your footwear as it pertains to your gown and the terrain of the venue—stilettos and grass never mix—you shouldn’t feel pigeonholed into any shoe style. In fact, your shoes are the perfect chance to showcase a different part of your personality.
“Brides should have fun with their shoes,” urges Castillo. “From standing at the altar to dancing the night away, a bride should wear shoes that will uplift her.” Another important factor? Comfort. Make sure to walk around plenty to see how the shoes feel, and break them in before the big day to limit blisters that’ll keep you from the dance floor.
While veils are a popular addition to bridal looks, Guest says more and more to-be-weds are skipping this former staple. Instead, many are now opting for floral wreaths, decorative combs, or even hats. Whether or not you go the veil route, it’s a good idea to select your wedding dress before choosing a headpiece. The style, fabric, and color of your gown will greatly influence what you do—or don’t—wear on your head or in your hair.
Your wedding jewelry—from the earrings to the necklace to the bracelets—plays a special role in customizing your day-of look. To ensure your bridal ensemble is cohesive, Guest says playing into the other elements of your outfit is vital. If you have a high neckline dress, skip the necklace and instead, opt for dangling earrings. If your dress is heavy on embellishments, go light on jewelry to really let the gown’s details shine.
Looking for a way to add a touch of color? Sapphire earrings, a birthstone necklace, or a blue topaz bracelet can give you that extra pop. Just make sure to work the color in elsewhere (like in your shoes, bouquet, or bridesmaid dresses) so it doesn’t look out of place.
For most brides, outerwear is only essential if you’re having a celebration in colder climates. Choosing a jacket, coat, shawl, or shrug that will keep you warm, match your outfit, and complement your overall aesthetic is ideal. This is also a fun way to add a quick touch of personality that can easily be removed and won’t detract from your look all night. Think faux fur for a glamorous wedding, a customized denim jacket for a boho celebration, or even a leather jacket for an edgy twist.
Styling and Shopping Tips 101
- Select your wedding gown first. “The dress sets the tone for your entire look,” Guest explains. “However, I would start thinking about your wedding look from a holistic approach the minute you pick your venue and date.”
- Pull from elements of your partner’s look for a cohesive couple aesthetic. Wear matching Converses, utilize the same metals in your jewelry, or have your partner wear a pocket square that matches the color(s) of your bouquet.
- If you’re stuck on a shoe style, Castillo suggests a classic pump or slingback. He also notes that many brides swap their heels for funky flats or customized sneakers after the ceremony.
- Guest’s number one piece of advice is to be open-minded as you pull your bridal ensemble together. Shop in different boutiques, check out online consignments, and try on pieces you might not typically gravitate toward. “Don’t necessarily go to your normal spots,” Guest says. “Look at new, vintage, and even your friends’ and families’ closets.” By doing this, you can ensure your bridal look will be unique, cohesive, and positively you.