For Los Angeles-based couple Jess Jacobs and Bryan Keller, the planning of their May wedding — on the picturesque island of Salina, north of Sicily — started way before season 2 of The White Lotus, set in Italy, came out on HBO Max. After waiting out their pandemic engagement, the actor/writer and her musician fiancé are now maximising the occasion with a multi-day blowout complete with five themed events for their 100 guests.
Working with her bridal stylist Gabrielle Hurwitz, Jacobs compiled style moodboards for all of the events. In addition to the “Creative Black Tie Optional” ceremony, the inventively branded affairs include “Mediterranean Cocktail” for the welcome drinks gathering, “Dolce Vita” for a boat party (think: circa ‘60s Sophia Loren wearing sunglasses and a headscarf), and, for the rehearsal dinner, “All White Festa” (where the couple will be wearing bold colours, while guests compose an alabaster background in all-white looks). Jacobs will disseminate the moodboard PDFs on their wedding website to help guests prepare their looks.
Couples determining uniform fashion for their wedding parties and mandating guest dress codes for nuptials has been a longstanding practice. But involvement in determining the overall sartorial aspects of weddings — which in 2023 are trending toward multi-event destination nuptials — has rapidly escalated and expanded in the past year or so. Take, for example, last June when bridal and evening-wear designer Jackson Wiederhoeft created 32 custom outfits for a single wedding. The Halloween- and Wizard of Oz-inspired confections included a suit for officiant Deepak Chopra, pyjamas for the stepfather and corduroy groomsmen suits in rainbow colours.
“It's a new level of styling,” says stylist and former Vogue editor Anny Choi of the growing trend. “Now, with all the content that's being shared [from the wedding]... it's not just five pictures of the bride in five outfits. It's everybody.”
Before March 2020, stylist Micaela Erlanger was hired to style and shop for all 50 guests for a four-day destination bacchanalia — at the client’s expense. While that wedding was scuttled by the pandemic, these days, Erlanger finds more and more of her clientele requesting custom moodboards that harness her experience, styling editorials and A-list stars like Lupita Nyong’o and Diane Kruger, for wedding events. “The purpose [of a moodboard] is to inspire and evoke a feeling and lend a direction,” she says. “Depending on how personalised the clients are looking to get, we will include some recommended items that are available [for guests and wedding party members] to buy.” (Jacobs is also contemplating incorporating links-to-buy in her PDFs.)
Now, with all the content that's being shared ... it's not just five pictures of the bride in five outfits. It's everybody.”
Anny Choi, STYLIST
“After being locked up in confinement during the course of the pandemic, people are really trying to create memorable events,” says Making the Cut winner and bridal designer Andrea Pitter-Campbell whose New York City-based line Pantora has created multiple looks for the bride and party, for the ceremony and surrounding events, in the past. “Everybody is curating their wedding.”
Indeed, after many rescheduled nuptials, couples may feel extra pressure to manage and achieve their sweeping vision. “You're labouring and spending hours over every detail on your invitations or your tabletop design. Why wouldn't you close the loop and see it through in terms of wardrobe and attire [for your guests]?” asks Erlanger. Hurwitz confirms this sentiment, adding that couples don’t want their pinnacle moment marred by “Uncle Jim in jeans and tennis shoes… That ruins the vibe.” She’s experienced guests mostly appreciating the direction, which lessens confusion and prevents a deluge of texts to the hosts asking what “Creative Black Tie” means to the couple.
This is especially true for VIP guests like siblings and parents, particularly mothers, who may also want styling services, whether suggested by the couple or of their own accord. “They, too, have their friends and family there,” says Hurwitz, who has found herself working with more and more moms. “They don’t want to show off but just feel really good and confident.” Added bonus for the couple: “Usually the bride is involved and has some veto power if she really hates something.”
Patricia Voto — designer of sustainable, made-to-order line One/Of — is also increasingly working with mothers of her bridal clients on one-of-a-kind wedding looks, in particular to avoid twinning with another guest at their child’s nuptials. (Voto and Hurwitz both say this is a common concern as “mother-of-the-bride” fashion options remain limited.) “A lot of people are thinking more as the collective, versus just the bride being the focal point,” says Voto. Even more so as the Great Wedding Boom of 2022 continues strong, further incentivising Millennial and Gen Z couples — already prone to personalised experiences — to further customise their milestone life events.
A lot of people are thinking more as the collective, versus just the bride being the focal point.
Patricia Voto, ONE/OF designer
Over the past five years, Choi has observed this evolution of couples “fully curating” their wedding events. “They're coming at [their weddings] like it's an editorial spread [in a magazine],” she says. “It’s like everyone's going into their wedding weekend [focusing on] the content that they're going to get.”
Pitter-Campbell agrees: “Everyone is really searching for this curated content, and it's all starting with fashion. Because fashion is going to be what shows up in the pictures.” Beyond their own social media roll-out, couples may request tags from their wedding vendors, like dress designers and photographers, and submit photos for a profile in a bridal publication.
For the Playa Del Carmen wedding of San Francisco-based tech consultant Anjali Gill, Voto designed custom pieces for Gill’s sister and her now mother-in-law. The two family members noticed the benefits of the personalised attention and designs that the bride and groom were enjoying and decided they wanted a similar, specialised experience. While Gill wasn’t concerned about the picture-perfect guest aesthetic, she appreciated the emotional aspect that the experience added. “I was excited that we were all working with the same designer and having this shared experience,” says Gill, who treasures the cross-country red-eye flights with her sister to Voto’s Manhattan atelier for fittings. “It became a fun excuse for us to be in New York together.”
As the past few years have shown us, weddings are also about honouring how precious our relationships with friends and family are. And, fashion, for the couple and guests alike, is a definitive channel to convey that love and joy, plus help make the most of those cherished moments to share through ever-increasing mediums.
“Our friends are just so creative and so beautiful. So getting to see them all express themselves through fashion in a collective way just feels like it would be so much fun for us,” says Jacobs. “Of course, the pictures will look amazing.”