With 50% of the world’s population under 30, Millennials fall right into the bridal marketer’s sweet spot.
And while many are opting out of expensive, traditional weddings, they’re not shunning the event completely (what’s more Instragram-worthy to the Selfie generation than a wedding, after all?). They’re just getting more creative.
To reach out to today’s bride, who is spending an average of $31,213 on her wedding, marketers must embrace digital.
According to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Study of 16,000 brides, the use of smartphones to access wedding planning websites has nearly doubled from 2011 (33%) to 2014 (61%). About 6 out of 10 brides actively plan their weddings through their mobile device: researching gowns on smartphones (61%), up from 27% in 2011; and researching wedding vendors on mobile (57%), up from 22% in 2011.
One in three engaged couples are using Pinterest to plan their wedding, according to Wedding Planner Copy, so it’s vital that brands, retailers and e-tailers produce lots of fresh copy and coveted looks that can be “pinned” to boards for potential future purchase.
Many sites also offer non-fashion related bridal advice to be more useful.
JLM Boutique notes it’s vital to know who your customers are following on social media.
“Our brides are online—Instagram, blogs and Pinterest,” says Susan Keng, Director of Retail and Marketing Relations. “Hayley Paige, one of our gown designers, recently got married and her Instagram was great. She’s young and really creative and her whimsical style really resonated with our customer.” Keng points out that many brides are opting for a clean neckline—just statement earrings that frame the face—and a beautiful hair ornament that remains after they remove the veil.
When it comes to bridal accessorizing, most brides are totally new to the game, so they need all the help they can get. It’s key that retailers and brands not just show merchandise, but offer real advice like how to coordinate everything with the latest trending gowns or how real brides wear it.
In fact, many bridal retailers allow their customers to post photos of themselves on Facebook or Instagram showing the gowns and accessories IRL—In Real Life.
Free People’s gorgeous bridal blog profiles couples and their enviable weddings. It’s Pinterest page is full of creative ideas for the Bohemian Bride, from the desert to the forest.
Numerous bridal reality shows like Say Yes to the Dress (now set at Kleinfeld bridal), Something Borrowed, Something New (TLC) or David Tutera’s CELEBrations (WE TV)
also draw major social media followings. Clips from all these shows saturate Pinterest, allowing brides to pin their favorite looks as they develop their own style.
ACCESSORIES FOR THE AISLE
As more retailers launch affordable wedding gowns (think $500 options at J. Crew or even the new “affordable” Marchesa x BHLDN bridal collection), women have more money to spend on everything else. The New York Times article “Splurging on Everything but the Dress” underscored how women are spending more on accessories as a way to update a less expensive bridal gown.
Insiders insist that weddings are recession proof but are adding that the market is segmenting into higher and lower price points, with mid-tier product being more challenging to place.
“The current economic climate has encouraged brides to take a closer look at what they are purchasing,” says Anne White, stylist supervisor of BHLDN, an offshoot of Anthropologie that targets the more contemporary bride. “She seeks out heirloom-quality pieces—ones that can be passed down for generations. She strives to find accessories that are beautiful but also cost-effective. BHLDN aims to curate an assortment that is accessible to all brides so that every woman can feel special on her big day.”
David’s Bridal finds that their customer might splurge on a statement piece and stick to a budget for the rest of the look, according to Lindsay Short, Accessories Buyer.
SAYING ‘I DO’ TO CREATIVITY
According to The Knot, couples are showing their unique style by choosing unexpected places to wed, and all this leads to more creative approaches. About 40% are looking for unusual venues that better reflect their personality. Farm weddings, with their Instagram-ready, photogenic barns, have doubled in popularity since 2009.
Beach weddings are another popular option, costing less than a banquet hall and expanding the fashion opportunities. Jewelry designer Samantha Wills has a bridal tab on her website, showing boho jewelry like foot chains for the alternative bride.
The popular Boho Bride also means less bling, says Robin Mayer of Boutique de Voile. “Brides are softening everything and the bling-bling trend is fading to more natural pieces. Hair vines with crystal and pearl have been a trend for a while, but now instead of crazy glam sparkle they are showing a lot of vines with more natural materials like freshwater pearl and organza.”
For the more bohemian bride, gold has come in strong as a metal where silver (mixed with clear crystals or pearls) used to predominate. Botanicals also capture the boho bride, seen in scattered flowers or floating petals that wind around the head and wrap around twisted buns.
Hair accessories designer Colette Malouf also has a strong bridal business. “Hair is slightly tousled whether up or down but luxurious accessories are a must in the hair,” says Malouf. “Halos with flowers or crown-like ornamentation are very versatile.”
Tradition is certainly important for any bride that has navigated herself to a classic bridal store or website, but increasingly she’s adding a modern twist to make the event her own.
“Traditional accessories like veils are still largely popular with the modern bride and are a key element of her final ensemble,” says BHLDN’s White. “That being said, just because they are considered traditional does not mean that there isn’t room to play.”
For the more classic bride, cathedral veils have been the key accessory, partially driven by celebrities. “No one can forget Kim Kardashian’s amazing and dramatic veil, but recently we’ve loved looks from Lauren Conrad, Princess Sofia of Sweden and Nicky Hilton,” says David Bridal’s Short.
And while brides might think they need statement jewelry to show through the veil, the opposite is actually true.
“We recommend delicate jewelry with a statement veil, and when she removes the veil for the reception she can add a statement earring or hair accessory,’” says Short. “Gowns with back interest, illusion sleeves, lace, champagne tones and mermaid silhouettes are also fueling statement cathedrals and lace placement veils, statement earrings and bracelets.“
Orla Stiles, owner of California salon Solstice Bride, calls out eight key trends to watch for in 2016: Off the shoulder dresses that show off necks and collar bones; a shift from 2015’s blush to dove gray as an alternative to ivory or white; Long-sleeve looks but balanced with plunging backs or body conscious cuts; Crocheted lace, interpreted as boho or Eastern European vintage lacework; Personalized details like monogrammed jewelry or kitschy clutches with phrases like Mrs. or Wifey; Fun, flirty fringe with a Gatsby or boho vibe; Unexpected accessories. Like body chains, kimonos or wide-brimmed hats; Alternative wedding shoes, from vintage ankle boots and satin ballet flats to Vans slip-ons.
Another key trend is transparency, aka “illusion,” which is trickling up from the red carpets (think Beyonce’s barely-there transparent Met Gala dress).
For something really fun, Betsey Johnson just launched BLUE by Betsey Johnson, featuring whimsical accessories like bridal skull earrings or wedding cake handbags.
WOOING THE BRIDE
Not all brides are seeking out bridal-specific stores, so manufacturers and retailers have more opportunities to capture her attention. Nina, which launched bridal accessories in 2011, finds its merchandise shows up in various places depending on the retailer.
“At Nordstrom our merchandise is in the bridal suite, at Macy’s it’s online, and at Von Maur, it’s in the jewelry case,” says Joanna Joy Seetoo, Nina’s Director of Bridal.
Nina’s recently launched NinaBridal.com, which features “everything but the dress,” including bridal jewelry, handbags, shoes, hair items and sashes. Nina also has a shoe collaboration with Swarovski.
The bridal party is another opportunity. Black Lace Skin Jewelry recently launched a bridal site BlackLaceBridal.com due to bridal demand. New are its Bridal Bling Boxes, which feature mixes of flash tattoos and white reusable crystal ones for fun bridal showers and bachelorette evenings out. Says jewelry artist Mary Anne Richman, “Brides can wear them overtly as a bridal accessory, or more discreetly under their dress.”