On the long list of bridal accessories to shop for to complete your wedding day ensemble, determining the best type of bridal shoe to go with your gorgeous gown—and finding the perfect pair—is a top priority. For some brides, it's the ultimate fashion quest—almost perhaps even rivaling that of the search for the dress—while for other brides, scoring a solid wedding shoe is as simple as considering comfort (which is key no matter how much you value style).
Whatever your priorities might be, at the end of the day, your wedding-day shoes have a major role to fulfill. You have to like them, yes, but you also have to want to wear them—often for long periods of time over a solid, 15-plus hour day (think about that for a moment). So how do you figure out what type of bridal shoe is best for you? We asked a few professionals to weigh in.
Do: Find your dress first...
Even if you’ve stumbled upon the wedding shoes of your dreams, hold off from purchasing them if you haven't yet found the wedding dress to match. (Although, if you really love them, you could buy them “just in case.”) You want your bridal footwear to complement your dress in every aspect—style, color, down to every last detail and embellishment—and the length of your dress matters, too. If you're going with a shorter dress, your shoes can be a major statement accessory, adding color, glitz, glam, whimsy, romance—or simply a dose of modern elegance—to your ensemble. Whereas, if your dress is a full-length gown, they're not going to be nearly as visible.
...But don't wait until the last minute to buy your shoes
While it’s best to find your dress before deciding on your bridal shoe, you should be shopping for them and honing in on a few key styles around the same time—not just because you need to figure out how to match your shoes to your dress, but because you will need to purchase them in advance of your dress fittings and alterations. “Your dressmaker or tailor needs the exact height of your wedding shoes [before they can get started],” says Devoreaux Walton, style expert and founder of The Modern Lady. “That way they can adjust the length of your dress based on your wedding shoe height for the perfectly polished look!”
Do: Start researching bridal shoe options...
While wedding dress shopping is the priority, there's no reason why you can't start researching wedding shoe styles, and the websites of large-scale retailers—such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom—are a great place to start. “Many stores carry far more inventory online compared to in-store, so browsing online gives you access to a wider range of shoes, which helps you to figure out what details you like and dislike,” Walton says. Once you've narrowed your search, it will be a whole lot easier to actually start shopping for your wedding-day shoes after you've found the dress.
...But don't commit without first trying them on
While retail websites are a great way to explore styles and get a feel for what you like, some experts warn against purchasing your actual pair of wedding shoes online. “This is a pair of shoes that you’ll be standing in for hours, so it’s imperative to try out the shoes first and feel how comfortable they are to stand and walk around in before you swipe your card,” says Jessica Chen, wedding expert at WeddingDresses.com. (Although, if an online retailer has a particularly customer-friendly return policy, there's no harm in trying out a few pairs at home and returning the ones don't make the cut.)
As long as your shoes are returnable, try them on at home (preferably indoors on a clean, carpeted surface) for at least an hour while standing, says Burju Perez of Burju Shoes. “If you are not able to stand on your feet with them on for at least an hour, they are probably not the right option for you,” she says.
Do: Define your bridal style...
Since it’s unlikely that you’re buying your wedding shoes and gown at the same shop, having a firm grasp on your overall bridal style is key to ensuring consistency, notes Chen. “If you’re going for a more vintage or retro look, make sure to match the style of your shoes to the same era,” she says.
Pay attention to any detailing or embellishments in your gown that could be echoed in your bridal footwear, as well as specific materials (lace, satin, tulle, etc.) that could be matched.
...But don't be afraid of a little (or a lot) of color
Like every other style decision you make for your big day, what color of shoes you'll ultimately wear will depend on what kind of bride you are. Classic and traditional brides will likely be drawn to clean white, champagne, ivory and nude tones, but if a little footwear flair intrigues you, don't be afraid go outside the box in the color department, says Perez. If you want to step it up, she suggests considering metallics, which “add a little more glitter and shine to catch the eye." A playful twist on tradition, "something blue” bridal shoes range in shades from pale blue to deep royal hues.
For brides who want to make a bold color statement, there are a number of ways Perez suggests tying it in so it all makes sense. Match your shoes to a color from your bridal bouquet or pull a color(s) from your significant other's wedding day style. “If he has a certain color in his suit, tux, vest or tie, you can work that into your shoes as a way to match your spouse to be,” Perez says.
Do: Consider your venue...
Just as you check the weather to make sure you’re wearing the appropriate footwear before venturing outside each day, Chen urges brides not to forget to consider their venue when selecting their day-of shoes—especially if you're having an outdoor ceremony, on a grass lawn or on the beach. “Your wedding venue will influence how much heel you should wear. Trying to look graceful walking through sand on a beach is much more difficult in heels than strolling down an aisle in a church!”
...And don't forget to prioritize comfort
“We always focus on style, but if your feet are in so much pain that you need to take your shoes off in order to enjoy yourself... well, what's the point of having them?” says Perez. Your first consideration should be heel height: The higher the heel, the more pressure on the ball of your foot. A low-to-mid-height heel and even a chunkier heel will keep you standing and dancing comfortably that much longer, and there are plenty of gorgeous bridal flats out there, too. Also, consider width—especially if you have narrow or wide feet, Perez adds, noting that “shoes that have laces or buckles offer adjustability in width, which allows a perfect fit for anyone."
The bottom line: On a day and night when you’ll likely be on your feet twice as long as you normally would be—if not three or four times—you need comfortable shoes.