For the modern bride shopping for her perfect wedding shoe, one mantra persists: comfort is key.
Today’s to-be-wed wants to walk gracefully down the aisle, mingle with guests and dance the night away. And with the increasing popularity of outdoor weddings, she might end up traipsing through a grassy field of wildflowers or soft sand dunes, too.
Conquering the elements while remaining photo-ready would be a tall order for the stiff, satin stilettos of yesteryear. But the bridal footwear market is evolving, and today’s options are built for all-day wear.
“Comfort is essential in determining what shoe style she’s wearing,” said Amanda Pavlik, a senior buyer for David’s Bridal.
Erina Ardianto, co-founder and creative director of Bella Belle Shoes, echoed the sentiment. “The shoes carry you the whole day,” she said. “You want to be comfortable, not limping in pain.”
Instead of sky-high heels, many brides are reaching for flats and block heels—especially for outdoor weddings. “When selecting her shoes, the bride is opting for comfort and a way to express her personal style,” said Lindsey Love, an online stylist for BHLDN. “Block heels continue to be the perfect choice.”
Ready-to-wear choices at retail don’t seem to be cutting it for modern brides, according to Ardianto.
“We’ve found that those styles aren’t really targeted to brides,” she said. “We try to focus on what is missing from the marketplace and what we can offer.”
Bella Belle got its start as an occasion footwear label, but quickly moved into bridal once Ardianto recognized a gap in the market. “It’s funny because a lot of brands have seen a decline in their bridal category, but we’ve seen a huge increase,” she said. Ardianto credits social platforms like Instagram for helping establish a “real-time” connection with brides, which serves as inspiration for the brand’s designs.
Many brides discover Bella Belle in their quests to find alternatives to stilettos, Ardianto said. The increasing popularity of styles like flats, block heels and kitten heels initially surprised her. Now, those silhouettes have become major volume drivers for the brand.
An embellished pointed-toe flat, which she nicknamed “the glass slipper,” is one of Bella Belle’s cult favorites. The shoe’s mesh upper is translucent, with intricate beading that adds dimensionality, according to Ardianto. Summer brides love the shoe, she said, because the breathable mesh helps keep them cool under layers of lace or tulle.
Along with prioritizing comfort and functionality, brides are looking to break from tradition with footwear that reflects their own taste, said Pavlik. “The shoe should speak to her personal style.”
“I would say over the past year trends have evolved,” Pavlik explained. Today’s bride is partial to pointed-toe pumps, mules, and even booties. “She’s really going for more modern, contemporary silhouettes,” she said, explaining that brides are increasingly wearing styles that are already part of their daily lives.
David’s Bridal added sneakers to its offering last year in an attempt to gauge whether consumers had an appetite for casual options. A year later, crocheted white sneakers are a top seller for the retailer.
“I never thought we’d be selling sneakers,” Pavlik admitted. But, she explained, the David’s Bridal bride wants “something that represents who she is.”
Brides are also becoming increasingly willing to inject color into what is traditionally an all-white affair.
“We definitely see brides who are opting for a metallic shoe rather than white or ivory,” Pavlik said. The retailer has seen a rise in rose gold, which “complements gowns that are more blush-toned or have a nude underlay.”
Bella Belle does well with metallics, too, Ardianto said, and Champagne has been a bestseller for the brand.
“Brides are also always looking for that ‘something blue,’” she added, pointing to a handful of styles available in a muted cerulean.
Forgoing ivory appeals to brides looking to get more mileage out of their shoe purchases, according to Pavlik. “Our shoes are definitely bought with versatility in mind,” she said. “If she’s opting for a metallic block heel for her wedding, she would wear it after the fact. She can take it on her honeymoon and into the next season.”
There’s a “nostalgia factor” for brides who want to re-live their special day by wearing the shoes that carried them down the aisle on their honeymoons and into the future, Ardianto agreed.
“Wear-it-again options” are becoming increasingly important to the BHLDN bride, too, Love said. She pointed to jacquard, leather and suede as popular materials for shoes sold in stores and online. “We’re seeing her shift away from luxury brands,” she added, noting that specialty brands like Bella Belle, Rachel Simpson and Something Bleu are top sellers for the retailer.
Comfort, versatility and personal style are the most prominent factors influencing the modern bride’s decision on what shoes to wear on her wedding day. “We take our cues from our consumers,” said Ardianto. “In a way we go through a journey together. It’s all about expressing their individuality, and we fully embrace that.”