Just two months prior to her dream Tuscan nuptials earlier this year, Emily Law was working on her registry. Clicking through the fashion-focused wedding resource Over The Moon, she came across a service that she never considered — or realized existed.
"I just saw the 'Styling Services' tab," says the bi-coastal web designer. "I read through [the description] and was immediately like, 'OK, I need this.'"
Stylists are pretty common in the realm of celebrity: They're the ones that'll snap exclusive pieces right off the runway, determine headline-making custom designs and help craft a public persona through distinctive fashion for famous clients. You might not come across them elsewhere, though. Still, engaged couples regularly depend on event planners — why not have someone to handle the fashion, too?
According to The Knot's Shelley Brown, interest in wedding stylists began prior to the pandemic. However, the unprecedented wedding boom of 2022 has generated a proliferation of "maximalist" celebrations that extend to a weekend — or even week full — of related festivities, and that has increased the demand for a "curation of an equally maximalist wedding wardrobe," she writes in an e-mail.
"Because it's not just one dress anymore — it's not just your wedding dress," says Micaela Erlanger.
The celebrity stylist expanded into weddings organically in 2019 (with Amanda Hearst's epic nuptials at the family castle) after noticing a "white space" in the market for the luxury experience. "It's your afterparty dress. It's your bridal shower, bachelorette, the mother of the bride — all these different things," she says.
For her picturesque Italian wine country weekend, Law had already secured a hand-embroidered Reem Acra ceremony gown, but felt "overwhelmed" by the sheer number of options online for all the other events on the schedule. "I was scrolling thousands of pages of dresses, shoes and skirts, and I just had no clue what was going to look good," she says.
Anny Choi, Over The Moon's head stylist, stepped in with her fashion expertise and connections, made from six-plus years as a Vogue editor. (Over The Moon founder Alexandra Macon is also a Vogue vet.) Choi first presented Law with a questionnaire and studied her new client's Pinterest boards to hone in on Law's style, taste and wedding vision.
"She made an incredible interactive deck that had a ton of outfits," says Law, who landed on four looks, including a floral handkerchief-hem cami and skirt set that closed the Tory Burch Spring 2020 runway for a wedding brunch and a stunning feather-trimmed vintage Lanvin dress from vintage bridal atelier Happy Isles for the reception. "[Choi] just helped me create this vision of an Italian wedding that I wouldn't have been able to dream up myself."
With multiple events that will be documented and shared through photos, video and social media, present-day weddings have become the equivalent of a very sentimental editorial. Naturally, couples want to elevate their personal style to create ultimate fashion moments to help memorialize their big day.
"Walking down the aisle is the closest thing to walking on the red carpet," says Erlanger, whose specialty lies in luxury wedding styling for a "discerning" clientele. "There are so many parallels: It's a major milestone, it's a high pressure event, it's a live event, you're wearing eveningwear most of the time."
Los Angeles-based Kennedy Bingham — who previously worked at now-shuttered wedding dress start-up Floravere — quickly grew her wedding styling business on TikTok. She debuted her Gown Eyed Girl persona in the early pandemic days of May 2020, and differentiated herself from the more traditional wedding content on TikTok with style-focused videos.
"I didn't really see anybody coming at it from a fashion perspective," says Bingham. Instead of posting videos of the expected "for the beach wedding," for instance, she created content through an editorial creative director lens. "Like, what I would wear if I was a villain? Or if I was in this movie?" She racked up 300K followers within a few months. Now, she's at nearly 975K and 29 million likes (and nearly 68K followers on Instagram), and partners with bridal brands on their marketing efforts.
After dabbling in planning, Bingham began remote-styling for weddings in 2021. Based on a questionnaire and conversations with clients, she'll compile "style guides" themed to the event and aesthetic, featuring brands like Selkie, Catherine Regehr and Toni Matičevski. She'll include links to shop, research, fit and procure their own ensembles from there. (She does in-person styling and shopping for a Los Angeles-based clientele.)
"I always like to say, 'I'm not a wedding person — I'm a fashion person who happens to specialize in bridal," says Bingham.
Over the Moon's Choi credits her Condé Nast days in creating close relationships with both wedding-specific brands and fashion designers, so she can "call in favors" to commission the reissue of a past season piece, customize an existing style in a bridal-related color or fast-track an appointment at a luxury house. Because uniqueness is so important to today's consumer, she also has the insider track on up-and-coming designers who can create custom looks for her clients, and will work with her Garment District network to customize an existing piece for her clients. (Choi channels her fashion assistant days and, as an added personalized touch for clients, will include restaurant and coffee break recommendations in her geographically-optimized schedule of wedding dress appointments.)
Erlanger, meanwhile, says her specialty "is not just the on-site experience — which really is the gold standard — but the custom design. I'm bringing my years of experience designing dresses in conjunction with the top luxury houses for the red carpet."
Erlanger will collaborate with the private client teams and in-house designers for the full "couture experience" in bridal, much like what she does for an A-lister roster that includes Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep and Diane Kruger. Just look to her own 2022 blow-out wedding festivities as an example: Erlanger worked with Prada on an ivory silk georgette ceremony gown with delicate lily of the valley embroidery (top), a crystal-and-feather-embellished reception dress and a two-piece mini-skirt set for late-night dancing. Markarian created the bespoke looks worn by her bridesmaids, which included Nyong'o.
"Judas and the Black Messiah" costume designer Charlese Antoinette continues to grow her prolific portfolio — which includes designing a fine jewelry line and running the Black Designer Database — by wedding planning and styling, recently fine-tuning her mom's beach nuptials in Jamaica. She smoothly transfers her on-screen skills and relationships to secure the resources needed to tailor and fit pieces on a diverse range of bodies, as well as to custom-design looks herself.
"I've done different types of wedding — like it hasn't just been cis-hetero," she says.
Antoinette recalls helping friend and colleague-turned-client Kat Contreras (above), whose custom wedding suit became a wardrobe crisis. "The suit fit terribly, and they're freaking out. So I went with them to a tailor and we pinned and made it fit so much better," she says. Antoinette styled the final look with a suspenders and a matching bow tie and pocket square.
During the pandemic, Antoinette also acted as a personal shopper around New York City for Darrin Maxwell, for his wedding to floral designer Farah Maxwell. "We found this beautiful white tux with a black silk lapel, that was very slim cut and modern with a black tuxedo pants," she says, noting how she helped the bride with final styling touches for their big day, too.
As this unprecedented boom continues and another round of engagements commences, the interest in wedding stylists — and need for more of them — will grow.
Choi noted that "the demand just skyrocketed" for Over the Moon styling services last year, after images of civil and backyard ceremony fashion began going viral on Instagram.
"Gosh, I would say that my inquiries have gone up, easily, like 80%," says Erlanger, who also consults and partners with wedding-related brands, like Forevermark.
In her first six months of styling, Bingham received upwards of "50 inquiries a month," she says, although she's since honed down her client list to focus on a more personalized approach. Eyeing her next goalpost, she would like to partner with red carpet stylists — Law Roach is top on her wishlist — to provide wedding-specific services for a celebrity clientele.
Whether through word-of-mouth recommendations or TikTok and Instagram (especially Instagram), styling is rapidly becoming another essential wedding vendor — and a new (or additional) career path for fashion professionals to shape and grow in their own way.
"With the amazing photos and amazing outfits, most of my guests were like, 'When we do our weddings, we want to have a wedding stylist,'" says Law.