It's hard not to be transfixed by our latest cover story: Every shot of Nikki Bella—wearing a variety of different wedding fashion looks, from mini dresses to gowns—is somehow more captivating than the last. But behind every polished photo and curated look was a crew of experts, from a photographer and hairstylist to a makeup artist and fashion stylist, who worked diligently to bring our vision to life. Their contributions ultimately demonstrate that wedding fashion is about so much more than just the clothes someone chooses to wear down the aisle.
It truly takes a village to create a cover story. Here, we're highlighting a few of the talented professionals who made it all possible. Ahead, the pros share their background, their favorite behind-the-scenes moments, and their top wedding tips.
Tawni Bannister, an editorial photographer based in Los Angeles, was the creative behind the lens at our cover shoot. Although she's been in the industry for over a decade, Bannister has been interested in photography for much longer. “My mom took a photography class in college and had some of her photographs on our wall when I was growing up,” Bannister recalls. “I was always fascinated by her experience working in a darkroom, so I took my first photography class as soon as I had the opportunity in high school.” Taking that course ended up clarifying her calling.
From there, Bannister studied advertising photography at Rochester Institute of Technology. After graduating, she began her career as a photo editor and producer at a magazine while shooting weddings on the side. It didn’t take long for Bannister to realize she wanted to pursue photography full-time. “Photography and art in general were an escape at first,” the photographer shares. “Then, I learned how much I loved connecting with people, and photography allows me to do that and enter the worlds of people from all walks of life.”
I try to create an environment where my subjects feel at ease, and we’re able to connect deeply during the short time we spend together.
Now, Bannister spends her days taking photos of models, actors, or other notable figures for publications and brands, including Teen Vogue , Allure, Nordstrom, and Ulta Beauty. The expert approaches every shoot with a relaxed demeanor, so she’s able to capture the most authentic shots. “I try to create an environment where my subjects feel at ease, and we’re able to connect deeply during the short time we spend together,” Bannister explains. “I always feel like that produces the most natural and effortless imagery in the end.”
Although the photographer works on many fashion and beauty shoots, she says having the opportunity to snap photos of wedding fashion for Nikki’s cover shoot was an exciting and rewarding experience. Instead of arriving on set with a certain expectation or agenda, Bannister let the cover star guide the shoot. “I first let Nikki move in her own way to really observe what her vibe was,” Bannister notes. “She definitely had a bubbly and playful personality, and I tried to capture that with each look.” Bannister also played around with unique angles to reflect the wrestler’s sunny disposition and animate the attire. “That way, the photos felt more editorial and less like a traditional wedding lookbook,” she illustrates.
To Bannister, taking natural photos is also one of the most important elements of a wedding. Unposed images, she says, are what will help you relive the extraordinary event whenever you look back at your wedding album. The secret to taking the best photos? “Try to focus on your partner and not the fact that you’re being followed around by a camera,” she recommends. “You’ll get more authentic moments that way.”
Since our digital issue is all about wedding fashion, we gave stylist Ali Mullin room to get creative by pulling looks for all parts of a bride's nuptial journey. Luckily, this is where she excels. After spending much of her childhood dressing her friends, Mullin knew she wanted to turn her love of fashion into a career. “I look at clothes and instantly see all the variations I can do with them,” she says. “It’s how I express myself, and it’s my own language that I can speak so fluently.”
When she was 18 years old, Mullin made her first foray into the field as an unpaid intern. Then, the stylist enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising but decided that a formal education in fashion wasn’t meant for her. So, she set out on her own. “I started three years ago, having no idea what I wanted to do and began assisting,” she reflects. “Then, I took on more and more responsibility and finally began creating my own contact and client roster.”
There is nothing greater than being part of the reason why someone feels confident in their own skin.
Her hard work and determination soon led to her first career milestone: styling an album that made it on a Times Square billboard. Since then, there have been countless rewarding moments, but the best part of her job is the impact she makes. “There is nothing greater than being part of the reason why someone feels confident in their own skin,” she shares.
Because Mullin doesn’t usually piece together outfits for brides, working on set with Nikki was a learning opportunity. To tackle this project, Mullin began by researching bridal designers and styles and perusing lookbooks and websites until she found pieces that felt like Nikki. “Some outfits started with a shoe or an accessory that I loved, and then, I built the rest around it,” she says of the process. Regardless, Mullin made sure that every detail represented Nikki’s personality. Although the cover star wore various looks, the stylist’s all-time favorite to assemble was a tulle mini dress with pearl platform heels. “It was everything I would want for a Nikki Bella cake topper,” Mullin summarizes.
Since fashion gives you the ability to communicate who you are, choosing the right outfit for your big day is crucial. To start, Mullin suggests exploring your own personal style. “Start looking around on Pinterest, scroll through Instagram, read Brides, and start finding the path of styles that you love,” she advises. For Mullin, wearing what you love instead of following fleeting trends will make your wedding more meaningful. “Pick what you want,” Mullin emphasizes. “It is no one's day except yours.”
Since no wedding-day look is complete without an amazing hairstyle, Paul Norton gave Nikki a variety of different styles for the shoot. At 13 years old, the hairstylist first took an interest in cutting and dyeing hair. “I was the guy that all of my friends went to for a punk rock haircut,” he reminisces. “I was obsessed with coloring my own hair. It was a lot of self-experimentation, and that became noticed by my friends and family.”
Since Norton had an aptitude for styling hair, he decided to attend beauty school in New York when he was 17 years old. Once graduation rolled around, he moved to Hollywood and started scoring celebrity clients. After grooming his first notable customer, Taylor Swift, his career skyrocketed. “Breaking into the business is tough, but once you’re in, it becomes word of mouth, and your reputation is everything,” Norton shares. Ever since then, the hair expert has done everything from working backstage at the Grammys to creating an epic hairstyle for the cover star of Vogue. “I’ve done things that people just dream of,” he reflects. “Sometimes, I have to pinch myself and be like ‘I can’t believe I get to actually do this.’”
I get to know someone’s comfort level pretty quickly, and then, I gently stretch those boundaries to help the client grow and have some more range within glam.
What sets him apart is how he encourages his clients to challenge themselves and try new, dramatic looks, even if those styles are outside the bounds of what they would typically gravitate towards. “I get to know someone’s comfort level pretty quickly, and then, I gently stretch those boundaries to help the client grow and have some more range within glam,” he explains.
Whether Norton is beautifying an actress for a red carpet event or styling hair for his regular hair salon clientele, he loves how his job gives him access to a community. “It’s with people that I actually love and adore,” the hairstylist expresses. “I have these personal relationships with my clients.” Nikki is one celebrity Norton has been working with for the past six years, so styling her hair for our cover shoot was just as fun and fulfilling for him as usual. Since the hairstylist has a deep bond with the judge of America’s Got Talent: Extreme, he selected hairdos based on her temperament and the outfits she donned.
For the shoot, Norton converted Nikki’s bob into a soft updo with tendrils in the front, a long weave with brushed-out curls, and anOld Hollywood-inspired side hairstyle. The updo was one of his favorite looks because the style was so different from what Nikki would normally choose and how it complemented her gown. “For this giant dress, it would have been such a shame to have her hair down,” he notes. “You want it lifted up off of the neck, so you can see her body, not just completely covered in fabric. So, we went up with the hair, which became this ethereal, soft-yet-sexy and very classic look.” Even though Norton adopts a less-is-more approach when it comes to products, he used Texturiza by Unite to add volume and texture to each hairstyle.
Since Norton believes playing around with bold hairstyles is a worthwhile experiment, he encourages brides to do the same. “If you’re going to invest in this wedding, have a couple of trials where you do something that you really wouldn’t have done otherwise,” he advises. To find a hairstylist whose vision resonates with yours, Norton recommends exploring portfolios to get a feel for their projects. “You’ll want to find a hairstylist that has an imagination and range of work,” he illustrates.
Eileen Sandoval worked her beauty magic to complete every look. Although the celebrity makeup artist has been a professional in the field for 10 years, this wasn't her intended career path. Sandoval was on track to receive a degree in child and family counseling, but changed course when she realized she could turn her love of makeup into a profession. “When I realized that I could get paid for being on set, being creative, and doing something I truly enjoy and love, I knew I had to pursue it,” Sandoval shares.
After enrolling in makeup school and getting certified in film and television makeup, Sandoval started doing fitness and lifestyle shoots, which soon turned into music videos, a reality TV series, award shows, and red carpet events.
I like to enhance someone’s natural beauty and glam it up in a way that is still part of their personal style.
Whatever job she’s working on, Sandoval makes sure to select a look that accentuates a person’s features, so they’re recognizable but elevated. “It’s important to me that my client still looks and feels like herself,” she notes. “I like to enhance someone’s natural beauty and glam it up in a way that is still part of their personal style.” For Sandoval, the end result is empowering. “The most rewarding part is seeing the boost of confidence it can give someone,” she illuminates. “Making my clients look and feel good is most important to me.”
Nikki is someone Sandoval has gotten the chance to beautify for over eight years, so the cosmetics expert was the right person for the job. For every look, Sandoval used Pat McGrath products, starting with Divine Skin: Rose 001 for a hydrated and glowing complexion. Then, she blotted on Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Foundation as a base, Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Concealer for under-eye coverage, and Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Setting Powder to finish it off. The other items she applied to Nikki’s skin varied depending on the look. For the cover, Sandoval selected a minimalist makeup look with Skin Fetish: Divine Blush Duo in cosmic coral, a matching shade of lipstick, a few coats of FetishEYES mascara, and Mothershop X: Moonlit Seduction for eyeshadow. She took Nikki’s style and the set into account when choosing the products.
Choosing your wedding-day makeup, and the person who will apply it, is a huge decision. Not only do you want to look your best, but you also want to make sure your glam stays on all night. Sandoval reveals that the key to maintaining your beauty look lies within your skin prep, which varies depending on your skin type. “If you have oily skin, you'll want to control the oil with an oil control primer,” Sandoval mentions. “If you have dry skin, you’ll want to add extra hydration, maybe some drops of oil into your moisturizer.” Another non-negotiable? Completing your look with setting spray.
If you’re stuck on selecting your cosmetics, Sandoval emphasizes staying true to your everyday makeup routine rather than concealing your features. “You should feel like the most beautiful version of yourself on your wedding day," she says.