When it came to dressing for her May 6 wedding, Ashley Oliver Thomas had trouble narrowing down the many options available, while at the same time navigating a new job.
“Initially, the whole wedding-planning process, including the pressure of finding the perfect dress, intimidated me,” said Ms. Oliver Thomas, 35, a diversity director for a Cincinnati staffing company.
Her wedding planner suggested that Ms. Oliver Thomas, who is from Lexington, Ky., hire a bridal stylist to help customize the gowns she had already chosen for herself and her bridesmaids. “My wedding planner explained that a stylist would be my bridal concierge, personal shopper, advocate and counselor all rolled into one,” she said. “I instantly felt relieved by the thought of having that support.”
Ms. Oliver Thomas hired Selina Howard, the creative director of Vainglorious Brides, a bridal fashion stylist based in Atlanta.
Upon receiving Ms. Oliver Thomas’s wedding mood board (think Pinterest inspiration), Ms. Howard and her team went to work researching accessories for the bride, bridesmaids and mother of the bride.
“It was way more manageable to look through a list of 12 pairs of bridal shoes in my price point curated by my stylist rather than searching through thousands online,” Ms. Oliver Thomas said. “And because Selina knows the industry lingo, she saved me so much emotional labor by communicating on my behalf with my dress vendors, advocating for alterations I wanted made to my two wedding dresses and making suggestions to elevate my looks.”
Much like a planner oversees the creative aspects of a wedding, the bridal stylist coordinates the various elements of the wedding attire. And business, stylists say, has significantly increased since the pandemic.
“Many brides who had their gowns locked up at boutiques reached out for assistance with alternatives,” said Anny Choi, a New York-based stylist, adding that revenue had jump 47 percent from 2021 to 2022 alone. “Couples are now having big or multiday events that they need outfits for,” she added. “And a lot of brides have started going the nontraditional route by wearing vintage, ready-to-wear or couture, so they want help from an expert who can source their attire.”
Grooms, too, have been showing more interest in elevating their wedding-day looks. “Grooms also want to be styled and catered to, and at times our grooms have had more demands than the brides,” Ms. Howard said.
For many couples looking to document their wedding on social media, bridal stylists are often making the top of their vendor list. “People think stylists are only for red carpet events, but it’s been interesting to see how that has changed in the last two to three years,” Ms. Choi said. “Now I’m seeing brides hiring a stylist as soon as they get engaged, even before booking a planner or other wedding vendor.”
Costs vary greatly, with some stylists charging by the hour and others offering packages. According to Ms. Howard, “A bridal stylist typically costs $1,500 to $8,700, depending on whether you book virtual, partial styling, or a full-service experience.”
Full service typically means shopping for a wedding dress and all the accessories, along with hair and makeup suggestions. Partial styling might include services like shopping just for accessories, as well as alterations consultations and assistance in choosing looks for wedding-related events.
“You can choose and customize your options based on your bridal wear needs and how involved you want your stylist to be,” Ms. Choi said.
One advantage to hiring a bridal stylist is having inside access to what’s new and trending. “A good bridal stylist will attend all of the shows during bridal fashion week and have relationships with designers and boutiques, so they should be well versed on what’s coming out the following season, what the stores currently have in and what would work best for the individual client within that scope,” said Julie Sabatino, a New York-based bridal stylist.
Hannah Johnstone said she hired Ms. Choi, a former fashion editor at Vogue magazine, to help her step out of her comfort zone for her June 24, 2023 wedding. “I’m more conservative when it comes to styling myself, and I wanted someone who could help me push my style and make me feel my very best during my wedding weekend,” said Ms. Johnstone, 28, a founder of Ladder, an education technology company in Palo Alto, Calif. “I also loved the idea of having my seven bridesmaids in different colors and styles of dresses, but wasn’t confident that I would be able to pull together a cohesive look without help from an experienced eye.”
Stylists often work as part of a team of vendors who construct the couple’s vision for the wedding day and events surrounding it. “We spend a lot of time talking with the couple’s wedding planner, and sometimes even the floral designer, about what the overall look and feel of the wedding will be, so that we can make sure that what we’re suggesting coordinates beautifully with what’s being planned,” Ms. Sabatino said.
When choosing a bridal stylist, choose someone whose aesthetics align with yours and whose opinion you feel you can trust, said Gabrielle Hurwitz, a New York-based bridal stylist.
“You’ll be spending a lot of time with your stylist, so find someone you get along with,” she said. “Wedding dress shopping can be a really intimate experience where insecurities come up and family dynamics come into play. You want to work with someone who will be on your team and support you through any stressful situations so you can enjoy the planning and shopping processes.”
Ms. Hurwitz, who charges an hourly fee, says she spends around 30 hours, on average, preparing for a full weekend of events.
And because bridal stylists are very different from a regular fashion stylist, it’s crucial to know that they understand wedding gowns and the entire fitting process, including the alterations, said Jackie Avrumson, another New York-based bridal stylist.
“Look for someone who will be clear from the beginning on how they will work with you to manage your expectations,” she said.