Personalization and Customization Make Modern Weddings Affairs to Remember



Modern wedding ceremonies are casual, customized, connected—and wholly unconventional.

Bridezillas are so yesterday. Gone is the over-the-top, ostentatious quest for the perfect wedding. Instead, brides are pursuing smaller, more intimate affairs with comparatively unassuming accoutrements. Even if the dress itself is embellished to high heaven, the overall feel of bridal fashion is more akin to ready-to-wear—­something she can wear again—than formalwear. Brides also see the fine jewelry they choose for the big day as more than just bridal; they want the pieces to fit into their everyday lives. And often, their fine jewelry choices break from convention. JCK spoke to editors at wedding publications, bridal designers, fashion directors, and consultants to get a sense of the overall bridal aesthetic of 2015 and how fine jewelry could best complement it.

Casual Affairs

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An ethereal fall 2015 look from the Pnina Tornai for Kleinfeld runway show

One of the most intriguing evolutions in the bridal business is the shift in the bridal season itself. In 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, TheKnot.com noted that 35 percent of couples chose summer weddings, down from 41 percent in 2009. For the last several years, fall had been steadily climbing as the season. Now, spring is gaining traction, with 26 percent of brides choosing the season; 7 percent opted for a winter wedding.

Weddings are more laid back but by no means cost-conscious. According to TheKnot.com’s survey of 2,000 brides, budgets are at an all-time high. In 2013, the average cost of a wedding (excluding the honeymoon) was $29,858, the highest level to date.

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Today’s bride and groom want to create an experience for their guests. In 2013, cost per guest rose to $220; compare that with 2009, when couples spent $194 per guest. “People are trying to spend more on meaningful details…such as paying for guests’ airfares,” says Kat Johnson, senior editor at Weddings by The Ritz Carlton magazine (published, like JCK, by McMURRY/TMG). More weddings are also turning into weekend affairs with rehearsal dinners, after-parties, or morning-after brunches. “[Couples] want personal style to shine through,” says Shane Clark, senior fashion and accessories editor at Brides.

Custom Appreciation

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The rising tide of personalization is part and parcel of the shift in bridal direction. Whether it’s customizing a ring or opting for a family member or friend to officiate at the actual ceremony, personalization is at its all-time peak, according to TheKnot.com.

At New York City’s Kleinfeld Bridal, which caters to more than 18,000 brides per year, the No. 1 service a designer can provide is customization. Brides are altering gowns—changing necklines, changing colors or fabric, adding beading or a cap sleeve—and, for the most part, designers accommodate. “Nobody wants a who-wore-it-better moment,” says Terry Hall, fashion director at Kleinfeld, adding that these services generally start at $50. “Every bride wants her red-carpet moment on her wedding day. By dropping the waistline or extending the train, she feels like she kind of helped design her dress.”

In fine jewelry, personalization often means repurposing heirloom pieces. Or making your own rules, such as opting for multicolored rings (mostly rose gold and gold), a definitive shift from platinum and white gold. Brides are also rethinking the marquise diamond setting. The center stone can be set east/west instead of vertically, for instance. And customers are embracing colored stones such as yellow and black diamonds and pink sapphires.

“General rules, the rules of our grandmothers, are breaking down,” says Naima DiFranco, fashion and beauty editor at Bridal Guide. “People are doing what they want to do to express themselves.”

Minimal as well as personal jewelry is a big trend. Pearl strands often feature edgy gold detailing. Hand jewelry, chain bracelets, and ear cuffs are gaining momentum. “It’s still opulent, but modern opulence: stacking rings, stacking bracelets, or layering smaller diamond necklaces,” says Kate Berry, creative director of Martha Stewart Weddings and editor-at-large at Martha Stewart Living. “People are giving initial [jewelry] and birthstones as gifts.”

Unconventional Fashion

As for bridal fashion trends, everyday fashion trends are a big influence. “The look is more appropriate and effortless as opposed to casual,” Clark says. “Dresses look fuller and the materials are significantly lighter than they used to be. A skinny cropped pant and a fitted blazer is less like a tuxedo and more like a fitted tailored pantsuit. It’s a great alternative to a simple white dress.”

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As in ready-to-wear, fringe and metallics feature prominently in bridal fashion, along with layers, lace, cutouts, and ethereal fabrics. Back detailing—think low cut, illusion, or embellished—makes clear that this is the zone of the moment. “Bridal is much more fashion-forward; it’s much more about everyday living,” Berry says. “Every aspect, whether food, decor, or fashion—it’s not as cookie-cutter.” Adds Johnson, “Weddings have become much cooler.”

There is also an exciting movement toward separates; skinny pants with blazer or a cropped top with full skirt or pants make a strong statement. Gold or platinum belts are suddenly appropriate for wedding dresses. And more brides are opting for color, primarily blush, oyster, and champagne. “As weddings get more casual, brides are getting more daring in their fashion choices,” says Jamie Miles, editor at TheKnot.com. It’s not unheard of for brides to wear three dresses or a convertible dress (layers that can be removed to reveal a short dress). And multiple looks require multiple accessories.

In accessories, the clutch is gaining in importance. Tiaras are still seen on the runways as well as headbands, veils, and headpieces. “Embellished vintage headpieces have become a chic alternative to a veil,” says designer Monique Lhuillier.

In Lhuillier’s bridal business, silhouettes range from embroidered trumpet gowns to embellished lace and tulle drop-waist gowns. “Most recently, I incorporated two-piece wedding dresses into my collection for a more refreshed look—perfect for a second look for the reception,” the designer says. “Additionally, I encourage a bride to opt for an unexpected hue versus the traditional white or ivory when it comes to selecting a wedding dress. I love pastel shades of blush, hydrangea, pistachio, and mist. I think it can be quite enchanting for the brides looking for something nontraditional.”

The Connections

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Technology is becoming a bigger consideration at ceremonies and receptions. TheKnot.com recently reported on supercharged versus unplugged weddings. Supercharged couples leave place cards to encourage guests to publicize the wedding through images or custom hashtags on social media. They’ll also ensure that phones stay juiced all night by ­providing charging stations at the reception.

In the private camp, which is popular with celebrities, guests are asked to forgo their smartphones and tablets in exchange for different phones with codes. If any unauthorized photos are leaked, the couple can trace them back to the offender.

Couples are also using drones to take photographs. Some are even tucking GoPro cameras inside wedding bouquets or attaching them to bottles of liquor to capture unique images and videos.

Sooner or later, jewelers may find themselves creating pieces to accommodate the latest technology. Just think: a brooch that doubles as a camera, or a necklace that snaps surreptitious pics of the wedding guests. It’s not as farfetched as you think.