Vogue.com has been writing about weddings for nearly a decade, and our coverage has evolved in step with the industry’s biggest news. As nuptials became grander, multi-day (or week) events, our slideshows got longer; when Instagram allowed us to experience weddings all over the world, our own weddings became more Instagram-able, too. That constant documentation of every moment and detail—from the proposal to the morning-after brunch—made way for a complete wardrobe of bridal outfits. Now, designers can’t just design ceremony gowns; most have expanded their bridal collections to include rehearsal dinner dresses, after-party minis, dance-floor jumpsuits…the list goes on.
“More” wasn’t always better in the 2010s, of course. This was a decade of serious cultural change; it wasn’t until 2011 that Andrew Cuomo made gay marriage legal in New York. Strides in equality and representation have changed attitudes about relationships for the better, and we’ve consequently scrapped the “rules” of weddings. Some of Vogue’s most popular wedding stories are about low-key, intimate ceremonies, like Mieka Tennant and Jacq Pablo’s: Their wedding took place outside a California home, and every detail was refreshingly nontraditional, from Pablo’s lace-up sneakers to the couple’s engagement story (they proposed to each other on separate occasions).
The takeaway for 2020? Anything goes. Whether it’s a week-long celebration in Hawaii or a backyard party, the only thing a wedding “should” be is extremely personal. Gone are the days of “needing” to wear a certain gown, use a certain place setting, or be married in a certain venue, like a church. Event planner Michelle Lord Rago said one of her favorite trends of the 2010s was the shift away from religious codes: “Instead of having a religious officiant, couples are having a family member or friend marry them,” she says. “It brings so much heart and warmth to the ceremony.”
Below, we spoke to more planners, designers, and boutique owners about how weddings changed in the 2010s—and what’s to come in the next decade.
Instagram made weddings accessible to everyone, and as a result, weddings became Instagram-ready.
Like it or not, the steady stream of wedding photos on Instagram aren’t likely to disappear. The last half of the decade saw weddings become highly Instagram-able events, thanks in part to the celebrity brides and influencers who shared every detail of their nuptials on the platform. “Women of the 2010s became a lot more knowledgeable thanks to social media,” says designer Danielle Frankel, who won the runner-up prize in last year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. “They began seeing not just their friends getting married, but aspirational brides they follow on Instagram. There’s something kind of cool about researching through real people and their experiences, and the ability to share stories through a social platform.”
Rago added that, beyond Instagram, it’s our increasingly-digital, on-demand world that changed weddings—particularly destination weddings. “When I launched my company 20 years ago, there was virtually no competition in the destination arena. Over the last decade, that has completely flipped,” she says. “Clients went from cautiously admiring destination weddings to embracing them, and destinations have become the norm. So much has fueled this evolution—access to booking travel, enhanced connectivity, and the way we share photography.” Here’s hoping you’ve got some airline miles saved up.
The concept of “trends” is fading when it comes to wedding dresses.
Vogue Runway’s bridal trend reports illustrate just how much the market has grown. In 2016, a corseted bodice or sprinkling of crystals qualified as big news; in 2017, it was trousers. Groundbreaking! Fast-forward to the 2020 shows, and things are increasingly varied: minimalist, maximalist, naked dresses, Meghan Markle dresses, tuxedos, minis—there’s something for everyone now. The general feeling is that today’s bride wants to look like herself, not an airbrushed version, and needs a dress (or suit) that reflects her personal style. Unsurprisingly, that may not be a princess gown. In fact, there’s a rising demand for simpler, less-fussy dresses you can wear again after the wedding; Meredith Stoecklein founded her label, Lein, on the concept.
As we become collectively conscious about our consumption and waste, that feels especially modern; in contrast, a five-figure dress you can only wear once hardly feels right. That could mean we’re coming up on a new era of minimalism: “I’m looking forward to the continuation of simplicity that’s been going on for a few years,” designer Lela Rose says. “Sometimes less is more!”
Many of the people we interviewed agreed, but there was a consensus on one detail that will prevail: the statement sleeve. “Women are returning to the big sleeves of the ’80s, but with the modern approach of the mid-’90s,” Frankel says. “It’s almost a hybrid of two decades in one.” (Consider her sleek, puffed-sleeve satin gown of spring 2020.) Spina Bride’s Giselle Dubois and Shane Clark add: “We are loving the evolution of dramatic sleeves. Designers are getting really creative—we’re seeing more detachable sleeves for a two-in-one look, which will be a big trend for 2020 and beyond.”
“I think we’ll continue to see the rise of the ‘fashion bride,’” Vogue’s contributing living editor and cofounder of Over the Moon Alexandra Macon adds. “The easy access to inspiration and lesser known collections leads brides to be more experimental with statement elements like big bows, bigger sleeves, capes, and color. I know it might seem like we say this year after year, but the standard strapless sweetheart neckline dress with a mermaid silhouette is much less prevalent, and brides are officially going a lot bolder and breaking rules.”
For the fashion-savvy bride who’s buying multiple looks, Macon says the “bridal stylist” is also a trend that’s here to stay. “With the shift in focus from just the dress to the wedding wardrobe, the role of the bridal stylist is becoming a big deal. Which is why we decided to start offering this service at Over the Moon—to help brides put together a wedding weekend wardrobe that feels curated and cohesive, but also organic, and never overly styled.” That extends to the bridal party, too: “Matchy-matchy bridesmaids dresses are gone for good,” she adds. “Perhaps this is a result of the rise in bridal styling, but the old school ‘you’ll wear it again,’ one-silhouette-fits-all bridesmaids dress seems to be [disappearing].”
Last year, Rosemary Hattenbach offered a solution: “Stick with a complementary palette, and let members of your bridal party wear different patterns, styles, hues, and designers that express their individual points of view.” Even better, your friends will have a lot more fun if they feel good about what they’re wearing, not resenting the polyester dress you chose for them.
As weddings become more personal, decor is less delineated.
Like ball gowns and excessively-fancy meals, over-the-top flowers and table settings feel like relics of the past. “My favorite part of the last decade was moving on from typical bridal decor to more architectural designs,” wedding planner Stefanie Cove says. “We also saw a shift toward longer, family-style tables, which then led to looser garland florals [instead of classic arrangements]. I’m thankful that brides began to steer clear of tight centerpieces and mercury glass candles!”
Planner Marcy Blum echoed Cove’s sentiments about florals that “snake down a table and hang over the edges,” which look relaxed and don’t obscure your guests’ vision. Lynn Easton of Easton Events added that, in general, brides are more willing to experiment with color, pattern, and customization: “Whether it’s on the plate, napkin, tablecloth, glass or all mixed together, it’s all about pattern play right now.”
Of course, color and pattern look great in photos, too. The shift away from white-and-beige-everything may just be a result of our magpie tendencies: We need bright, eye-catching things to pique our interest—otherwise we keep on scrolling. If some of Vogue’s recent wedding slideshows are any indication, from a Burning Man-inspired weekend in Lake Como to this fashion-forward ceremony at the new TWA terminal, weddings will be even bolder (and more fun!) in the 2020s. And maybe more dazzling, too: How many brides and grooms will toast the ’20s with a Great Gatsby-style bash? If and when that becomes the next trend, you’ll know where to read about it.