Anyi Lu's comfortable wedding shoes.
Credit: Floyd Bean
Here comes the bride, all dressed in wh … wait, are those sensible shoes? As the June wedding season blossoms, brides — especially older ones — are increasingly forsaking sky-high heels and skin-tight dresses for a little comfort on their big day.
That trend is driving wedding-related business owners to update their product offerings. And it's creating opportunities for wedding businesses that , traditionally, have been left out of the spending bonanza.
"There is a movement in the bridal market toward comfort," said Anyi Lu, a designer of couture comfort footwear for women, who introduced a line of bridal footwear this spring. "We see a lot of bridal gown designers answering that request and it was a natural for shoes, as well."
Lu's company was already focused on creating comfortable, sophisticated footwear for professional women, but the addition of a bridal line of shoes — which cost between $445 and $525 a pair — marks a move in a new direction.
Part of what may be driving the trend is simply the rising age of the average first-time bride.
"There are many more people getting married older," Lu said. "Not all brides are 20 or 25 years old. They really care for how they feel at the end of the day."
Lu is right, according to U.S. Census bureau statistics, which indicate the age of brides is quickly climbing — from 22 in 1980 to more than 25 in 2003.
The comfort trend, however, is being driven by more than just age, according to Amy Eisinger, associate editor of WeddingChannel.com, who watches bridal trends closely.
"Brides are choosing wedding dresses and shoes that meet their comfort needs," Eisinger said, adding that brides are, in some cases, choosing to change into more comfortable dresses for the wedding reception. "Brides are also changing into flats or more comfortable shoes so they can relieve their feet from heels, and designers have done a great job at making them look just as fancy and elegant as a pair of heels," she said.
Eisinger cited a number of companies, like J. Crew, BHLDN, The Cotton Bride, Adele Wechsler, Coren Moore, Jenny Yoo and BCBG, who offer wedding clothes with comfort in mind.
In yet another example of companies catering to brides' desire for comfort, TOMS shoes , a company known for creating simple, comfortable shoes and also for donating a pair of shoes to those in need for every pair sold, recently launched its own line of bridal shoes.
Style has evolved
It's a trend that also been observed by wedding dress giant, Kleinfeld Bridal, which is featured on the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress."
[An interview with Kleinfeld's chairman of the board and M*A*S*H actor, Wayne Rogers ]
"Comfort has always been on the minds of brides, but fashion has not always allowed it," said Mara Urshel, Kleinfeld's co-owner. Until recently, it was hard to find wedding day attire that was both fashionable and comfortable.
Urshel said strapless dresses have given brides a more comfortable option because it allows them the freedom to move around and lift their arms without restriction.
"Strapless was considered a trend, but it's not a trend," Urshel told BusinessNewsDaily. "It's something brides will wear forever because it's the epitome of comfort. If fitted properly, you can dance and jump up and down if you want to."
While brides still want to look good on their wedding day — in fact, the trend is toward sexy and glamorous — a trendy look that's not comfortable won't usually catch on, Urshel said.
"The 'Kate syndrome' was a fleeting moment of one day," Urshel said. "Everyone thought people would come running in for her dress, but nobody did it. It looked wonderful on her, but brides want comfort and want to be free."
In addition to carrying dresses that brides will find comfortable, Kleinfeld has also added a line of bridal shoes that contain inserts similar to those in athletic shoes.
[Read Mara Urshel's three tips on how to break into the wedding business .]
While "comfort" is making its way down the aisle and into wedding reception halls, the trend may be a reflection of a larger movement by brides and grooms to focus more on comfort in the start of their new lives together.
"We see a lot of people adding things to their registries like decorative pillows, candle sticks, candelabras, sofas, beds, pillows, even Xboxes," said Nancy Lee, CEO of MyRegistry.com, a website that allows brides and grooms to register for wedding gifts from any retailers.
Lee believes it is part of an overall "nesting" trend.
"A lot of things that people are turning towards are things that make them happier while staying at home," Lee said.
Lee also thinks the age of newlyweds is altering how couples approach their weddings. As couples wait longer to marry, many already own the items couples, traditionally registered for, she said.
"The gift registry was about putting things together so you could entertain, such as flatware and place settings," she said. "Because so many people are getting married later, they already have those things, so they want to make life comfortable with their new spouse."