Less Kim. More Kate. That's how wedding scales have tipped in the months since the world watched Kate Middleton marry Prince William, and Kim Kardashian file for divorce from Kris Humphries after 72 days.
Away with the excess lifted from Hollywood red carpets. Back in with something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue "and a sixpence in your shoe," stresses Monte Durham, fashion director of Bridals by Lori, home of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta."
Brides are reaching back — sometimes way back — into the bridal archives as they style their weddings with classic charm. But they're not just dusting off traditions. They're using modern technology to reshape them to their liking.
"Brides are looking to capture the sweetness of their grandmothers' weddings while also staying current," said Veronica Sheaffer, who designs sophisticated wedding gowns incorporating nostalgic fabrics such as dotted swiss, starting at $1,500 at http://www.vsgowns.com. "There's been a return to old-fashioned, handcrafted weddings — lots of DIY decor — and that's reflected in the bride's look as well."
Sheaffer married a year and a half ago in her parents' backyard, garden-party-style, wearing a Ginger Rogers-inspired dress she made and a long veil of antique lace from curtain panels she bought on eBay.
Even the most formal weddings are adding intimate touches. "We had a bride this past fall who had a lovely strapless ball gown for her wedding and reception," said Kelly Seizert, who with Maria Cooke runs Ritzy Bee Events in Washington, D.C., and co-wrote "The Southern Living Wedding Planner & Keepsake." "After the entree, she changed into her mother's dress from the '70s, altered and shortened, and danced the night away in that. It honored her mom and changed things up a bit."
That element of surprise is a new, common thread. "We've had the last 30 years of this expected wedding, and every one is the same," Sheaffer said. "And those are fun, but now brides are really looking to personalize them."
Brides are inspiring other brides by spreading their DIY ideas on http://pinterest.com and posting photos on http://tumblr.com.
That meeting of technology and tradition is leading down these aisles:
Bridesmaids in white: For years, no woman but the bride dared wear white. But even before Pippa Middleton's bridesmaid gown earned her the nickname "her royal hotness," maids at weddings like Sheaffer's were wearing white. It's not as unorthodox as it may seem. Sheaffer notes that bridesmaids once wore white to confuse evil spirits who might be shopping for unspoiled souls at the wedding. "It's about as old-fashioned as it gets," she said. Besides white (and black), other neutrals are gaining momentum, too. "Gray is very popular right now," Koch said, "and navy has really come into play again — it's softer than black but very versatile."
More coverage: The Internet buzzed after Kate Middleton and the fictional Bella Swan (in the "Twilight" movie) wore wedding gowns with long sleeves. Would strapless gowns topple from their perch? Not exactly. "You put a sleeve in the gown and to get a beautiful fit you need a tight armhole, and that really eliminates movement," Durham said. "I've seen brides spin their arms around like a propeller when they're dancing. Sleeves hinder that." Kate's example is being felt, however. Cap sleeves are gaining popularity, as are illusion necklines, as in a strapless dress with a sheer overlay that rises to a boat neck. Longer veils are back, too. More than three in every four women in a David's Bridal survey conducted last fall planned to wear a veil. Many brides are wearing their hair partially down with a veil, as did Middleton, for a modern twist.
Eye-popping shoes: "Especially with social media, where shoes are popping up on tweets, we'll see the girl who would never spend $100 on a pair of shoes drop $700 on shoes for her wedding day because she wants to wear a specific colored sole," Seizert said. "It goes along with what brides want in their photography. They want detail shots of shoes and jewelry." Colored shoes are becoming the norm for brides, particularly as their "something blue." Fun socks and shoes also are becoming a vehicle for groomsmen to display their personality. "Overall," said Andrea Wasserman, national bridal director for Nordstrom, "there's a trend toward couples wanting to infuse a little more of their everyday lifestyle into their event."
Costume changes: "Having two gowns is a very big trend," said Kristin Koch, senior editor for http://www.theknot.com. "Brides are wearing a big, frothy gown with a train that is gorgeous, but hard to dance in, to the ceremony and to make that grand entrance. Then they change into more of a party dress, still white, for the reception." Emily Sprague was the aforementioned bride who changed from a strapless Monique Lhuillier gown into her mother's wedding dress, shortened, last fall in Washington, D.C. Koch said a friend of hers found a reception dress on http://etsy.com. "Brides are getting creative on the second one," Koch said.
The wear-it-again bride: Susan Metropoulos, owner of The Left Bank Bridal Finery and Accessories (http://www.leftbankjewelry.com), sees brides who are redirecting their dollars from the dress, which they wear once, to accessories they can wear again. Metropoulos cites a recent off-site styling appointment she had with a bride at an alterations studio. The bride bought her White by Vera Wang dress from David's Bridal. "It was probably $900. I sold her a veil, earrings, necklace, bracelet and shoes; it was probably a $1,600 sale. She's a doctor — she goes to black ties all the time," Metropoulos said. For one-time-use accessories, brides are renting from http://www.renttherunway.com. "We love that this has enabled brides to step up their look," Koch said. "They have so many more options than our mothers and sisters had. They're really showing it's not just about the dress anymore."