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How to Prevent a Beauty Disaster from Ruining Your Wedding

Brides to be, I beg of you: please learn from my mistakes.

I got married about a month ago, and I don’t mean to brag, but I will tell you that when it came to my pre-wedding attitude, I ranked extremely low on the Bridezilla scale. I bought my dress within the first hour of my search, planned my own bachelorette party and managed to keep my Pinterest use — and hours spent on wedding blogs — to a minimum. Two weeks before I left town for the Big Day, I thought I’d successfully made it through the year-long planning process without having a nervous breakdown(!), but when I went to check one of the last items off of my to-do list — a hair color touch-up at my usual salon — disaster struck.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a fan of ombré balayage highlights to brighten up my very dark hair, especially since they require so little upkeep. While I’d experimented in tone (from a subtle, light brown caramel to a more extreme warm blonde), I decided to ask my stylist to go the more natural route right before the wedding. Armed with an iPad full of hi-res photos — my reference was the Queen of Ombré, Victoria’s Secret Angel Lily Aldridge — and clear instructions about what I wanted, I was confident throughout my appointment that my hair, as it usually did, would turn out just as I’d planned. But I was sorely mistaken. 

After a rough blow dry that allowed me to see the results, it became clear that the light brown highlight refresh I’d requested was more of a “cinnamon” tone — and that’s if I’m being polite. My hair was straight-up red, and I was devastated. Because I had no idea how to properly react, I told my stylist that it wasn’t the color I’d requested, and she said that I could come back next week to “tone it down” if I still wasn’t happy with it. Although I was screaming on the inside, this seemed relatively fair, so I paid, tipped and went on my way. However, when I got home and examined the situation in my harshly lit, tiny apartment bathroom, that’s when I lost it.

My now-husband could not believe how I was behaving: it was a mix of uncontrollable sobs and rageful cursing. Yes, I was more consumed by vanity than I’d ever been in my life, but I felt that since I was getting married in less than three weeks, I was entitled to a tantrum. As soon as I could string a sentence together, I consulted my beauty expert friends, Cheryl and Britt, who both suggested that I visit Aura Friedman at Sally Hershberger Downtown salon, who’s known as a hair color savant within the fashion industry — but not until after I marched myself back to the original studio and demanded a full refund (which I received). Thankfully, she had time a few days later to squeeze me in, and I trustingly put my strands in her hands.

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Upon examining the situation, Friedman was just as confused as to what had gone wrong with my coloring (I swear my usual stylist normally did a fine job), but she assured me she'd be able to correct it. When I asked her if any brides-to-be had come to her with similar beauty emergencies, she said no, but that's because she encourages her clients who are getting married to come up with a plan of action for their hair as soon as they get engaged — sometimes up to an entire year before the wedding will take place. "I like to slowly do what it takes to get the person where she wants to be, color-wise — you don't want to damage the hair," she explained. "You want to be careful about the growing process and gentle with the coloring process so you don't do anything to cause the hair to break."

While Friedman carefully color-corrected my hair — encouraging me along the way to be very diligent about conditioning, as the double-dying would likely dry it out — I asked her if she had any other tips for brides who found themselves in my unfortunate circumstance. Her main warning (besides never waiting until three weeks before your wedding to color your hair) is to avoid doing something totally different, so now's not the time to go a bright, baby blonde if that's not your usual tone. Also, take care to choose the best, most flattering shade for your skin tone, so you ultimately look like the most polished version of your normal self when the day arrives. Lastly, it's always good to take how you plan on wearing your hair (whether it's down and wavy or in an updo) before you color it — that way, you can add dimension so you can actually see the style.

Two hours, a couple of processes and a lot of tin foil strips later, Friedman had completely fixed my hair disaster. While I will probably never know what originally went wrong or how she managed to remedy it, I am forever in her debt. Full disclosure, I've since cut five inches off of my hair; it had nothing to do with the snafu, although Friedman did point out some breakage that resulted from the first coloring. But as someone who's freshly experienced the extreme stresses and joys of getting married, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and carefully plot out your beauty look as soon as you can in the planning process — it just might save you from having the dreaded bridal breakdown.