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Nikki Bella on the Power of Being a Sexy, Fearless Bride

Plus, the former WWE champion and television personality shares how she found her big-day attire.

It’s not often that your own wedding celebration kicks off with a cover photoshoot, but that was exactly the case for Nikki Bella, who married Artem Chigvintsev on August 26, 2022, just three weeks after spending the day on set with Brides. “The shoot came at the perfect time. It felt like a celebration of being a bride,” the former WWE champion and television personality says. “I had just had my bridal shower, I came out with you guys, I started my bachelorette party the next day, and then I went to Paris and got married. So you were all a part of my three week celebration.”

Nikki Bella Portrait, Wearing Morilee Wedding Dress

Photo by Tawni Bannister; Wedding Dress by Morilee by Madeline Gardner

The couple’s three week-long celebration culminated with a wedding in Paris, France, a last-minute pivot the couple made when their original plans of a ceremony and reception near their home in California’s Napa Valley fell through. “Artem and I went to Paris on a secret vacation when we were first dating and didn't want the world to know we were a couple yet. After that, we always said, ‘Run away to Paris with me.’ It's always held a special place in our hearts, and when Napa wasn't working out, we were like, ‘We just need to run away to Paris. Let’s make it work.’ It was literally a fairy-tale ending.”

That fairy-tale wedding, which will be documented in a four-part series—Nikki Bella Says I Do will air on E! in early 2023—included four (yes, four) outfit changes. “The cool thing about being a bride is the fashion journey you get to go on,” Nikki says. “This is your time to shine and be a star. Sometimes I feel like some people are scared to express themselves in fashion, so they hold back in real life. When it's your wedding, it's time to be fearless.”

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“Fearless” also just so happens to be the perfect way to describe Nikki, both as a bride and in her everyday life. After spending the bulk of her 20s and early 30s in the ring as a WWE wrestler, in 2021, Nikki—along with her twin sister Brie, and winemaker Ryan Hill—launched Bonita Bonita, a private label with the Hill Family Estate that had been a work in progress for years. The preparation for and the launch of that venture also came during a time of major change in Nikki’s personal life. In 2018, she ended a six-year-long relationship and called off her wedding; the next year, she began a relationship with her now-husband, Artem, then got engaged and welcomed the couple’s first child, Matteo, a year later. “It's crazy for me to look back on the journey that brought me here. I never knew if I would make it down the aisle, but what I realized was that I just needed to be at this point in my life,” Nikki says. “That is what makes me a wife, and a good wife. I’m finally ready for that.”

Her wedding day—and what she’d look like as a bride—is something that Nikki admits she’s been thinking about for as long as she can remember, so defining her bridal style was a process that, quite literally, began in childhood. “My Nana has a wall of family wedding photos in her house, and I would always go and look at my great grandmothers’ wedding dresses,” Nikki remembers. “There was just something so iconic and timeless about their gowns. I always knew that, on my wedding day, I wanted to wear something that would leave my grandkids staring at pictures of me thinking that they’d want to wear it at any age, too.” 

Nikki Bella Laying in Morilee Wedding Dress

Photo by Tawni Bannister; Wedding Dress by Morilee by Madeline Gardner

That doesn’t mean Nikki’s style remained static, though. Over the years, her sartorial preferences—much like her personal life—evolved. A self-proclaimed “Parisian at heart,” Nikki says that the looks she gravitates towards have always been inspired by the City of Love in some way, but admits that her younger self was drawn to sexier silhouettes. “Growing up, my Nana always taught my sister and I that there’s power in being an elegant woman. We've gone in different directions at times,” she laughs, “but something I always wanted to bring into my bridal outfits was elegance.”

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As of late, Nikki says has adopted a more understated approach to dressing, both for her wedding day and beyond, and she’s allowed her inspiration sources to similarly shift. “I've always loved to be sexy, but now I’m drawn to more demure styles,” she explains. “I love very classic and timeless wedding dresses—the ones that could be [worn] in any era. That’s why I’ve always been in awe of brides like Grace Kelly. [I love] Old Hollywood style and how the starlets would dress in the ‘50s. They showed the perfect amount of shoulder or cleavage for that sexy-but-classy balance.”

Nikki, like most women, knows a thing or two about balance. She talks to me from her garage, where she’s watching her son play until his nanny arrives. The next day, I see she’s at the winery that produces Bonita Bonita wines for a photoshoot. The week prior, she had been in Paris, exchanging vows with Artem and celebrating with her closest family and friends. She’s a mother, a wife, a small business owner, and a public figure, and she does it all with a grace and humility you might not expect from a strong, outspoken former WWE star. This, Nikki tells me, is a trait that she firmly believes women should see as their own superpower. “You can be strong and feminine at the same time,” Nikki affirms. “That’s the beauty of being a woman. We get to be both.” 

Nikki Bella in Lace Morilee Wedding Dress

Photo by Tawni Bannister; Wedding Dress by Morilee by Madeline Gardner

And embracing both sides of her nuanced personality through fashion was her main goal for the wedding day. “When I walked down the aisle, I wanted to be the strong, fierce woman, but also have this feminine, graceful side that made Artem melt,” Nikki says.

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She also wanted to be surrounded by feminine strength, either in person or in spirit, so she carried two rosaries, one from her grandmother and another from Artem’s mother, and wore her great grandmother’s rose-shaped ring, throughout the celebration. ”I walked myself down the aisle, because I'm about to be 39 and I don't need to be given away. I’m a mother. I'm an entrepreneur. I’ve done a lot of things on my own in life, so while I knew I wanted to walk myself down the aisle, I also wanted to have the presence of all these strong women with me.”

Her other goal? To wear as many incredible bridal outfits as possible. After all, she’s only planning to have one wedding, and she wanted to look back on her attire with zero regrets. “People are going to think I’m crazy, but I didn’t choose my ceremony dress until 30 minutes before I walked down the aisle,” Nikki laughs. “My poor mother!” While she won’t share any hints about what any of her big-day fashions looked like, Nikki did share how she found her lineup of gowns.

Nikki Bella Portrait, Wearing Strapless Textured Wedding Dress

Photo by Tawni Bannister; Wedding Dress by Nicole and Felicia; Jewelry by Celeste Starre; Shoes by Sophia Webster

One of the four, she explains, was purchased during her last engagement. “I had two beautiful dresses that I loved, and they were going to be for a different marriage, but they were my dream and I love them. So, I brought them out to see if I could make them work,” she says. “What brides will realize when they start searching for the dress is that what you wear is about you as a woman. It has nothing to do with the person that you're marrying or the people that are attending. It has everything to do with what you've envisioned for yourself and how you feel.”

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“I bought those dresses for me,” she stresses. “People will try to make you think differently and say, ‘Oh, but it was for that person and that wedding.’ But after being on this journey, what I realized was no, I didn’t buy those dresses for that person. Yes, it was going to be for that event, but that event didn't happen. So my advice to anyone who already has their [wedding] dress and is in the same situation is: If that dress is something you love, wear it. If you don't, you're always going to think of it. It's kind of like your first love, right? You have an attachment to it. Do what makes you happy.”

Her wedding dress search didn’t end in her own closet, though. Nikki still had three more looks to seek out, and she went straight to the professionals for their help. “Maybe it’s because I’m in the wine industry, but I like working with an expert,” she says. “When I go to a restaurant, I want to talk to a sommelier. I want to tell them exactly what I'm craving, give them my price point, and ask what they think I should have. And that's what it was like going to bridal salons: I told them my style and asked what they had.” She also relied on the honesty of a trusted sounding board: her twin sister. “Brie was with me every second,” Nikki explains. “I knew she was going to be brutally honest and I really trust her opinion.”

Nikki Bella in Pearl and Feather Mini Dress

Photo by Tawni Bannister; Dress by Safiyaa; Earrings by Maria Tash

That’s Nikki’s biggest piece of advice for anyone shopping for wedding attire today. “Bring people you trust along with you…but don’t bring more than four!” she laughs. “And make a day of it. Have fun! Book a lunch, have some Champagne. You might not find ‘the one’ the first time you shop, but that’s okay. It’s out there, and you’re going to find it.”

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As for her favorite bridal trends, Nikki has two tried-and-true winners: lace (“I’ve always been obsessed with lace,” Nikki says. “I used to get sent to the principal’s office for wearing lace T-shirts in school,”) and pearls (“When you get your first set of pearls, it’s a sign that you’re a woman, not a girl. I love when they’re added to anything for a wedding—they feel so bridal”).

With that being said, Nikki doesn’t think brides should feel pressured into wearing a certain style because it’s trending or because someone else tells you that you should. At the end of the day, you should walk down the aisle in a look—be it a gown, a midi dress, a suit, or something else entirely—that feels authentically you. “It’s your day, no one else's. If you want to wear black, or red, or pink, or whatever speaks to your soul, you have to do it because this is your moment. The worst thing would be to look back and think, ‘I wish I took that chance.’” In her mind, fashion is all about “taking chances,” and Nikki says there’s something undeniably empowering about wearing exactly what you want to on your wedding day. “It's your moment to go as big as you want, as sparkly as you want, as chic as you want, or as sexy as you want,” she says. “You get to be you.”

Nikki Bella Holding a Champagne Glass in a Sequin Gown

Photo by Tawni Bannister; Dress by RVNG Couture; Earrings by Maria Tash; Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti

And, in the end, what matters most is that you walk down the aisle in something that makes you feel incredible. “When you wear something you love, even if it’s a little non-traditional, you put off this incredible energy and that’s all anyone around you will see,” Nikki says. “The bride makes the dress, the dress doesn’t make a woman a bride.”

Wedding Team

Talent Nikki Bella

Photography Tawni Bannister

Photo Assistants Tommy Blanco; Graham Austin

Creative Direction Jenna Brillhart

Fashion Direction Corinne Pierre-Louis

Set Design Bette Adams
Set Design Assistants Kylea Meredith; Nicky Buzzerio

Hair Paul Norton

Makeup Eileen Sandoval

Styling Ali Mullin

Videographer Micah Hamilton

Video Editor Wes Films
EDGE Studios

Booking Talent Connect Group

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