What gives a bride that million-dollar look?
- Happiness of the day?
- Graceful curves of her exquisite dress?
- Her jewelry highlighting, framing, and flattering her face and body?
- All of the above?
Helping the bride look her best is certainly a team effort, but it’s as if without jewelry, there was no magic. Have you ever wondered why?
Funny enough, it’s the illusion that jewelry helps to create.
Human brain is a gullible thing. It uses available context to quickly draw conclusions about reality, and it never doubts them.
Let’s say the brain needs to draw conclusions about the size, color, and brightness of a thing. It just uses the size, colors and brightness of other things nearby, distance to these other things, angles and their movement against each other.
Everybody knows about optical illusions! But most people don’t realize that that’s also how jewelry works. Once you put any piece of jewelry on – whether carefully chosen on not – it immediately sets to work highlighting body parts and creating illusions.
Did you ever notice how much brighter your eyes seem when you put on shiny earrings?
When you place a piece of jewelry somewhere, you make people look there, and you tell them what to see.
For example, the earrings of the bride on the picture to the right echo the shape of her eyes, and this make us look at her eyes.
How does it work, exactly?
The first part, where to look, is fairly obvious. Earrings draw attention to your neck, shoulders, cheeks and jawlines. Necklaces draw attention to the naked bosom and highlight the curve of your neck and shoulders. Bracelets emphasize the curves of wrists and hips.
Then, what do we see? Vertical lines make us see length, while horizontal lines make us see width. Round objects make us see roundness, and angular objects make us see angles. Tight spaces between objects make us see something as bigger than it is, and big spaces between objects make us see something as smaller than it is.
Maybe you want to resemble the stereotypical picture of feminine beauty (which none of living, breathing women actually exemplify): big eyes and delicate facial features, oval face and swan neck, long arms and sizable breasts, tantalizing eye-catching curves and perfectly proportionate body. Or maybe you want to emphasize the features that make you uniquely and unapologetically yourself.
Well-chosen jewelry can help you with either goal. Why else do you think all the gorgeous celebrity women we know from TV and magazines spend so much time and money on most talented stylists?
We’re often pretty good at selecting jewelry for the outfits we wear in the daily life, but most of us don’t wear wedding dresses every day, and don’t have all eyes and cameras on us. So, let’s do that for you: let’s style you with the right bridal jewelry for your wedding day.
We’ll assume that you already selected a wedding dress, and that it’s a shade of white or off-white. A wedding dress is a once-in-a-lifetime garment and a complicated structure, and finding a perfect dress is already a difficult task. It’s not too hard to find jewelry – quality costume jewelry, or the expensive kind – that fits a dress you already have.
1. The scope of the task – how much jewelry will you need?
Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, tiaras, and brooches. Just because you can afford them, doesn’t mean that you should plan to wear them all.
Here’s the first difference about styling a wedding dress: once you consider elements such as lace, sparkle, folds or other embellishments that catch the eye, you’ll see that most wedding dresses are, themselves, wearable pieces of jewelry.
So, err on the side of slightly understated. How do you do it? Coco Chanel advised: “before you leave the house, look at yourself in a mirror and remove one piece of jewelry”. You don’t have to be so austere, but you certainly don’t want to have many pieces compete for viewer’s attention.
Ensure that, whatever you do wear, goes well with each other – and with the dress and your hair – in terms of color, shape, style, and balance. Colors of your metals should match. Shapes and patterns should echo each other (although perfect match often looks a little tacky).
For example, take a look at the picture to the right, and notice how the line of diamonds on the necklace echoes the ring, while the shape of the necklace echoes the hair.
And, finally, balance. Once you get the basics down, jewelry styling is all about balance. A more prominent piece should be balanced by… naked skin, or perhaps by modest, complementary ‘supporting actors’ around it. So, for example, be careful with matching ‘necklace + earrings’ sets. Consider each piece on its own merits – and you may see that together, they look unbalanced. Both are often too small, and get lost in the overall look, or they are too big, and compete for attention.
If you hate the thought of not being able to wear a piece of favorite jewelry – perhaps because it looks a little busy together with the other pieces – consider switching between different jewelry looks throughout the day. Changing your jewelry will make your dress look a little different, too – of course, assuming that each look goes well with the dress.
2. What colors should you favor?
You have lots of classic options when it comes to color. Silver or white gold, gold, and rose gold metals. White and off-white shades of pearls. Precious gems, of course, come in a variety of colors.
Bridal styling tends to be a little conservative, and so the classic advice is to avoid mixing metals and be selective as to what other colors you bring in. A color that echoes the color of your eyes, or a complementary color that looks great on you, will truly liven up the image. Ensure that your florist is aware of the color scheme that you’re developing.
For example, take a look at the picture to the left and notice how the blue color on the bride’s necklace matches her hairpiece, an element on her bouquet, as well as the groom’s bow-tie.
As you probably know, some people look their best in white gold, while others swear by yellow or rose gold – and others yet look great with both. Your skin tone (whether it is so-called ‘warm’ or ‘cool’) affects what metal colors look particularly good on you.
The shade of white in your dress will also influence how a metal will look on you.
Here’s a quick primer on colors of metals and other common jewelry elements:
Silver and white gold look great with pure white dresses, as well as with darker ivory toned dresses. White gold generally suits ladies with skin of cool undertones (skin that tends to burn easily and often has blue or purple veins, hair that’s either light or dark with blue undertones, and eyes that are light blue, green or grey. It tends to be skin that has tones of pink hues).
Yellow gold looks beautiful with creamy and darker ivory tones of dress, as well as light beige (champagne). In terms of skin tone, go for it if you have darker skin, or skin of warm undertones (one that tans easily, has green veins, dark hair with red undertones, and hazel brown eyes).
Rose gold, the ultimate vintage femininity, will look stunning on you if you have a pure white dress – or a blush (light pink) dress. Just like yellow gold, it tends to work best with warm skin undertones.
Diamonds or imitation diamonds (such as Swarovski) go well with any colors.
Pearls are a classical bridal choice. They shine up your eyes and work particularly well with matte and lacy dresses. Remember that pearls come in different shades (white, pink, silver, grey and other hues), and you need to coordinate the colors of all jewelry items with the dress and with each other.
Delicate metal mesh can go very well with netting on your dress.
When it comes to precious gems, colorful beads and colored crystals, you have so many options! Just make sure that you carefully coordinate your color palette and avoid looking ‘busy’.
If you were to limit yourself to one jewelry item, go for earrings. They draw attention away from the brightness of the dress and onto your face and eyes, balance out the wider expanse of fabric underneath, and are least likely to look like they are ‘too much’ on a bride.
First, let’s consider the size of your earrings.
Go for small stud earrings if:
– You have delicate facial features;
– Your hair will be done up (so that the earrings do not get lost behind the strands of hair);
– Your earrings are your ‘supporting actors’, for example, because you also wearing a necklace, or if your dress has a higher neckline or a fairly elaborate neckline.
Go for medium-size drop earrings if:
– You have very delicate facial features (large earrings may look a bit disproportionate on you);
– Your hair will be done up, and you won’t have a necklace or a neckline to compete for attention;
– Or your hair will be down, so the earrings may be partially hidden by the hair, but you are also wearing a small necklace or your dress is fairly elaborate at the neckline
Go for large earrings if:
– If you’re not wearing any necklace, your dress’ neckline is not competing for attention, and especially if your hair will be down, partially hiding your earrings. Same considerations will apply if you are wearing a veil over your face.
Shape of earrings:
– Go for rounded earrings if your face is long or angular and if you are tall (conversely, choose something else if you have a round face or your body is short and rounded);
– Go for elongated earrings if your face is round or your body is short and rounded (don’t go for them if you have a long face);
– Go for wide earrings (chandelier-style, perhaps) if your face is long;
– Go for geometrical or curvy / flowery shape of earrings if that echoes the lace / brooche / anything else on your dress. A great off-the-beaten-path example would be crawler earrings.
Next, we’ll talk about bracelets.
Earrings and a bracelet is a classic bridal combo: not too close together to create a distraction, and a great way to direct the eyes towards your engagement ring and wedding band. You can be sure that your photographer will take many pictures of your hands!
Same logic applies to the size and the shape of the bracelet. Go for a small bracelet if you have dainty hands and a smaller, sheath dress. Conversely, go for a larger bracelet if you have larger arms/hands, a dramatic voluminous dress, or, overall, a larger body.
As for shape, consider echoing the shape of your bracelet to the shape of the earrings, hairpiece or some elements of the dress.
Your everyday watch is likely not to suit the dress, so consider skipping it.
Next, let’s discuss necklaces. A necklace is often one piece of jewelry that stylists don’t rush to put on a bride.
Put your necklace aside if your dress has any sparkly elements, lace, folds, or any other visually interesting details near the neckline, or if the neckline would touch the necklace (for example, if it’s a halter, strap, asymmetric or illusion neckline). Also, consider foregoing the necklace if you have a short neck or big bust that you don’t want to draw attention to.
On the other hand, if your dress has a low, understated neckline (such as strapless or sweetheart) and you’re not wearing prominent earrings, you’ll look beautiful in a tasteful necklace. Ensure that the only thing that surrounds the necklace is your bare skin.
The shape of the necklace has to flatter the shape of your face. For example, round faces look better with long necklaces while squarish faces look best with pendants (V-shaped necklines also look great with pendants). Pointy chins look best with chokers and short necklaces, as do long faces and long necks. However, avoid chokers if you are too tall, because it leaves your length a little unbalanced. If you would like to visually enhance your bust, small, dainty necklaces make it look bigger.
How about a brooch? If your dress does not have many embellishments, a brooch can really liven it up. You could place a brooch anywhere on the dress – not necessarily the traditional place near your shoulder.
For example, strategic placement can add visual interest to your bosom, your skirt, or even the back of your dress.
Think of the parts of the day when your guests will only see your back (such as during the ceremony). Adding visual elements to the back will be a special touch that will keep all eyes on you at all times.
Brooch size can do some magic, too. A large brooch is great at breaking up the expanse of the dress and making your body look smaller. A couple of brooches, strategically positioned in a diagonal or almost-vertical line, will elongate your body with a slimming effect.
6. Tiaras and hairpieces.
This is your day to be a princess!
Let’s talk about tiaras and hair pieces.
You would look great in a tiara if you are relatively short (they visually heighten) and if your face is rounded (and not overly long).
Coordinate your tiara with the rest of your jewelry, and with your hair carefully. In particular, it could clash with your earrings.
A clip-on or string hairpiece is a more subtle equivalent of a tiara. It directs the eyes upward and to your face. The more subtle the hairpiece, the easier it will be to coordinate.
If you don’t want to go for subtle, of course, there are fascinators. A fascinator is the ultimate modern royal hairpiece. Check out our advice on bridal accessories, including fascinators, here.
Give yourself enough time!
With so much choice out there, it can be a little difficult to choose the right jewelry. Take your time. Give yourself a few months. Select jewelry that works with your wedding style, but remember that jewelry doesn’t have to be real (read: expensive) to look great. Quality costume jewelry will look great on you. You should only invest in something that you would wear on other occasions.