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How to Find the Perfect Wedding Shoes

Even if you're the only one who may see them, make your wedding shoes special anyway.
Even if you're the only one who may see them, make your wedding shoes special anyway.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

You don't have to be a shoe snob to want the perfect wedding shoes. Your veil may be lovely and your dress may be divine, but once you're wearing that white, cream or colored confection, your delightful shoes are one of the few things you'll actually be able to see and admire when you're not looking in a mirror. Sure, appreciative glances are great, but won't it be nice to look at your manicured and massaged tootsies and see them wrapped in spectacular shoes?

There are some other things you might want to think about, too. Your gown may see the light of day once, but those awe inspiring shoes could become part of your eveningwear wardrobe when you choose them carefully. This isn't farfetched. One big trend in wedding shoes for 2012 is earth tones and colored wedding shoes. Some experts speculate that the cost conscious bride wants something more to take away from her wedding celebration than a lifetime of memories and a photo album. She wants shoes she can wear again -- and again. If you love shoes, or just love the idea of wearing your wedding memories on special occasions (like your anniversary), consider buying wedding shoes that are indulgent but multifunctional.

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Your wedding shoes should also be structural wonders. They need to bear your weight and support your feet so you can appear sure and graceful as you walk down the aisle. The perfect wedding shoes should look spectacular, but they should also fit your feet.

That's not all. The shoes you choose should fit your comfort level, too. We aren't talking about width and length here. If you're used to schlepping around in flip flops and running shoes, making the jump to a 4-inch heel for your wedding may be as hard as making the jump to light speed without Han Solo to help. To wear the shoes of your dreams, you may have to practice and prepare.

On the next pages, we'll look at some important ways you can put your best foot forward when buying wedding shoes. Dressing your feet has never been so much fun.

In recent years, the idea of matchy-matchy style has become a big no-no. That concept may be gaining traction in wedding styles, too. Lots of brides are still matching their shoes to their gowns, but plenty of brides are choosing shoe colors that match their décor, bridesmaids' dresses, flower colors or even their hair ornaments, belts or jewelry. It's a whole new shoe world out there. There's no cause for alarm, because there are no rules. Well, there may be one or two you should consider:

  • Look for a good match -- When you're wearing a white or cream colored gown and want your shoes to match, be careful to match them exactly. The shades between bright white and cream can be subtle, but when they're side by side, the difference is noticeable. Your best bet when matching shades is to ask your dressmaker or retailer for a fabric swatch. Compare fabrics and colors in different lights before choosing, too. Oh, and arrange for the dress first and then buy the shoes. Life will be much easier that way.
  • When you want contrasting shoes -- Choose a color that coordinates with something in your wedding decor. You may want to wear breathtakingly red shoes with your white gown -- which is OK by the way -- but make sure there is red somewhere else in your wedding design. The human eye likes the symmetry of repeated shapes and colors.
  • Textures and materials matter -- The materials a shoe is made from will have an impact on its overall appearance. A white leather pump, say, will look less reflective, and less bright, than a white patent leather pump, or satin sandals or a sling pump that sports a cluster of crystal embellishments. Any of these material options will work with the right dress, just be aware that color isn't the only consideration; texture and shine play a role, too.

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Heels would make for an awkward walk down the aisle if you're on the beach.
Heels would make for an awkward walk down the aisle if you're on the beach.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

If you've ever worn a bra, you know there's a big difference between style and function. A no-nonsense cotton bra with wide straps and a secure hook will be comfortable and stay where it belongs all day long. No one will be writing poems about it, or the way you look in it, though. The flip side is that a delicate, lacy bra that makes your skin look creamy soft and emphasizes your curves may also itch like crazy and make you feel like you've been stuffed into a vice. There's a lesson here: You can have both style and function in your undergarments -- and wedding shoes -- but maybe not both in equal measure.

  • Choose shoes that fit -- Insist on shoes that fit your feet. Most shoe stores will measure your feet to determine the right size for you. Take advantage of this service before you shop. Your feet keep growing throughout your lifetime, so they may be a half size larger than the last time you checked. Your two tootsies aren't both the same size, either. Knowing the facts will help you land on your feet -- and into the right shoes.
  • Timing matters -- When you shop for wedding shoes may have an impact on how well they'll fit on the big day. Over the course of the day, your feet swell at least a little. Always shop for shoes in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest. That way, you'll avoid shoes that pinch.
  • Take a walk -- After you try on a pair of shoes, walk around the shoe department in them for a few minutes. Get a feel for the way they respond on carpet as well as hard surfaces. Are they slippery? Do they rub in the heal area? The more comfortable the shoes feel now, the fewer problems you'll have later.
  • Wear what works for you -- Consider wearing what you're familiar with. If you typically wear shoes with 2-inch heels, they may be your best bet. Within that description, you'll be able to find hundreds if not thousands of shoes that will fit the bill. Instead of choosing 4-inch stiletto heels you'll have to train yourself to wear (or risk falling off them in the middle of the wedding), choose pumps with the heel support you expect and a height you know you can manage. Weddings are stressful enough without worrying about potential shoe disasters.
  • Stick with natural fibers -- Shoes made from synthetic materials like plastic can look great, but synthetics have less flexibility than leather and natural fibers like silk. Synthetics don't breathe well either, which makes them hot -- sometimes very hot. If you don't want your feet on fire on your wedding day, stick with natural, breathable materials.
  • Refine and embellish -- There are lots of ways to choose special wedding shoes that aren't flimsy or treacherous to wear. Embellishments like crystals, ribbons and cloth flowers are very popular, as are some unexpected decorative options like metallic finishes and shoes sporting animal prints.
  • Keep it comfortable -- You want your wedding shoes to be spectacular, and you may even be willing to sacrifice a little comfort for the sake of fashion. If that's an acceptable trade, you might be able to have the best of both worlds: Go for the perfect if painful shoes for the ceremony, and then change into ballet flats for the reception. Ballet bridal shoes are becoming more and more popular and accepted -- even for the big walk down the aisle -- and you can't beat them for comfort.

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Don't wait until the big day to loosen up your shoes.
Don't wait until the big day to loosen up your shoes.
Comstock/Thinkstock

Once you have the right shoes, how do you make sure they'll be as ready as you are on the big day? Practice, practice, practice! You can have the perfect dress, the loveliest flowers and the handsomest groom, but if you slip and fall during the ceremony, that's all anyone will remember. You want your wedding to be memorable in a good way, so stay on your feet through the proceedings. This translates to wearing shoes you can count on.

  • Score your shoes -- Most new dress shoes are smooth on the bottom. This looks great from an ants eye view, but it can be pretty slippery. Grab an emery board or a piece of fine grit sandpaper and score the bottoms of your shoes to make sure they'll get good traction on slick surfaces like wood, tile and polished stone.
  • Wear your shoes indoors -- The best way to break in your shoes is to wear them. Don't risk staining or damaging them by wearing them outdoors, but do walk around your home in them. Try making a 5-to-10 minute circuit of your home's interior once a day for a week. That should soften them up and make you more familiar with the way they feel on your feet. If you have stairs in your home, use them. The flexing action of going up and down stairs is a great way to break in a new pair of shoes.
  • Do a little dance -- If you'll be dancing at your reception, take some time to dance in your shoes before the music starts playing for real.
  • Bend and stretch -- If your shoes feel stiff and tight, try wearing them with a pair of winter socks. Walk around in them this way for a few minutes a day over the course of a weekend. This should give them a roomier and comfier feel.

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Sources

  • Bride's Day. "Bridal Fashion – Ballet Bridal Shoes for a Comfortable, Monumental Walk." (4/25/12). http://www.weddingbridaltips.com/bridal-shoes
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  • She Finds. "How to Survive Your High Heels." 3/2/09. (4/25/12). http://www.shefinds.com/2009/shefinds_solution_how_to_survive_your_high_heels/
  • Simply Bridal. "How to Buy a Good Pair of Wedding Shoes." (4/25/12). http://www.simplybridal.com/pages/how-to-buy-a-good-pair-of-wedding-shoes-article
  • YouTube. "Bridal Shoe Shopping Guide." Sears. (4/25/12). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imeLvIxmiuE&feature=related
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