Beauty editors and writers are used to getting late-night (or early-morning or literally 24-hours-a-day) texts with zero context and burning questions. No, we don't mean of the "U up?" variety. These inquiries are about skin freak-outs, product recommendations and makeup mishaps... and we've seen 'em all. With that in mind, we welcome you to our series, "Fashionista Beauty Helpline," where we address the beauty questions we get asked most frequently — and run them by experts who really know their stuff.
When I first started researching bridal hairstylists and makeup artists for my own wedding, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. After all, I had spent years as a fashion and beauty editor and writer, often testing out the latest makeup, hair products and styling tools as part of my job. I wasn't a professional myself, of course, and had no desire to do my own hair and makeup. Still, I thought my time in the industry meant that I could identify a talented person and get exactly the look I was picturing in my head pretty easily. After a couple of different trials and a whole lot of research, I found my ideal artists, but I also found that the reality of getting my perfect bridal look was a little more difficult than I first expected.
At first, I had trouble navigating how to explain the exact look I wanted; I found myself nervous at the first trial to shoot down an artist's ideas or explain exactly what I didn't like about a certain suggestion. Not only that, but I was completely in the dark when it came to just how much hair and makeup would cost for not only me, but for my bridal party, as well. In the end, I loved how my hair and makeup looked on my wedding day, and I loved the artists I worked with, but the experience also keyed me into just how easy it can be to end up with wedding hair and makeup you're less than thrilled with if you don't have the right tools.
If you're recently engaged and are starting your journey into the world of bridal hair and makeup, it's helpful to have all the resources and information you'll need before signing any contracts or setting up trial appointments. To answer some of the toughest questions when it comes to finding the right bridal makeup artists and hair stylists, I consulted with four experts.
First, I interviewed the beauty experts: Marcia Williams, founder of Embellish Beauty and one of Philadelphia Magazine’s "Black Wedding Beauty Pros To Know" and Lisa Erin, founder of Beauty Lounge LA, who is one of The Knot's Best of Wedding winners. Their experience in the industry mean they've seen it all when it comes to wedding beauty. Next, I talked to two wedding planning experts who know everything there is to know about building wedding timelines and budgets and identifying the most trustworthy and talented vendors: celebrity wedding and event planner David Tutera and Heather Odendaal, founder of Weddings By Bluebird.
Their combined expertise reflects the most important thing about choosing a perfect beauty vendor for your wedding; it's not just about aesthetics (though, of course, that's important). You also have to consider budget, reliability, referrals and timelines. Ahead, the experts' answers to the most important wedding beauty questions.
What should the timeline look like when booking a hairstylist and makeup artist for a wedding?
Tutera: "In terms of the timeline of searching for makeup artists and hairstylists, you can never start too early to find your perfect team of experts to make you...you! I suggest a trial with make and hair three months prior to your wedding day where you can show them ideas of the look you are aspiring for. I advise showing up in a white top so you are closest to the color of a white wedding gown... [and] avoiding trialing with bold, bright or busy patterns, as the time taken to experiment takes away from the time that could be spent securing your perfect wedding-day look. If you find yourself not completely happy with your first trial, I really urge that you don't settle. Take this trial as a good learning experience for what you like and dislike to find another artist."
Williams: "Meet your artist for coffee or do a video chat before you decide to book. This ensures that your personalities mesh and the energy is aligned. Brides should book at least a year out to ensure the artist is available. A great artist tends to book up quickly. You can book a trial at that time and then leave a retainer to secure the date. Trying more than one hair and makeup artist is recommended only if your first choice didn't work out. You should have your wedding day look settled with artists after two to three trials."
Erin: "Weddings can be booked up to a year in advance, and no later than three months to ensure your date. Trial runs should be booked four to six weeks in advance. We recommend booking your trial on a special day, so that you can show off your beautiful look. Many brides will book it on the day of their bridal shower, engagement shoot, or bachelorette party."
Odendaal: "I always recommend scheduling a trial. This trial is usually two to three months in advance of the wedding which allows for the time to schedule a second trial if needed...in addition, if you are making any drastic changes to your hair color or length, you may want to consider booking the trial after you have had this hair style change to ensure the trial closely matches your vision for the wedding."
What resources should you use to find the right hair stylist and makeup artist?
Williams: "It's best to have a legitimate website of the artist that you are interested in, which displays professionalism and should display and showcase their work with photographer credits. Secondly, Instagram is a great way to see social proof. I think reviews and referrals really speak for themselves and stand on their own."
Odendaal: "Referrals and reviews are my number one in this case. Instagram is a great place to see some of their work and general style, but what Instagram doesn't tell you is whether they were good at communication, whether they completed the hair and makeup on time for the wedding and how easy they were to work with."
Tutera: "Your best resources are looking through current bridal magazines, as well as inspiration on Instagram, in addition to asking for referrals. I also always note when sourcing wedding day makeup artists that just because you may like the work of an artist that you've come across, that doesn't mean you will like their energy or personality. It's critical to have those around you on your day of your wedding that add joy and not stress you out. It's important to keep this in mind while looking for artists."
What questions should brides ask during their hair or makeup trials?
Williams: "Ask about timelines and how long it will take to complete each participant in the wedding. Also ask how she should prepare her skin leading up to the special day [and] what's included in the wedding makeup application — will the artist prep skin with the proper products the day of? She should also ask if she has a large party [if] there be more than one artist to carry out the tasks."
Tutera: "How much would it cost to have you with me the entire wedding day and night? If you're not staying, can you leave me with touch up supplies? How many are in your team? How long will the process take on the wedding day? How long can I expect my hair and my makeup to stand the length of the wedding?"
What should brides know going into a trial? Is there anything specific they should bring, or a certain way to prepare?
Tutera: "If you're not succeeding after three [trials] it might be because you're not showcasing clarity of what you're looking for. There are already a lot of moving parts when planning your wedding, so it's important that take the time to show your artists examples of what you what you love and what you don't in order to simplify the process."
Williams: "My recommendation is that brides bring photos of the looks that inspire them. They should look for their stylist to create a mood board of the look that they would like to recreate. They then should be able to provide you with a diverse kit with everything they'd need. It's never a good idea for a bride to bring their own products. This can be a liability to the artist if the bride has a reaction to something. It's good for the artist to have their own kit that is diverse in color palettes and foundations as well as stocked with cleansing and disinfectant agents."
Erin: "In addition to any headpiece or veil, we recommend that the bride brings in photos of makeup and hair ideas for the wedding day. The bride's hair should be clean and completely dry — washed the night before — in order to have the hair set properly [for the trial]. Brides should moisturize their skin prior to the trial run; this will enable the makeup to go on smoother and last longer."
What are some common mistakes brides make when searching for a wedding hair/makeup artist?
Erin: "We hear too many sad stories about individual freelance artists falling through [on the wedding day]. Sign a contract that ensures you are locked in [with a professional beauty expert]. Secondly, find artists that are all professionally trained in bridal beauty. They know what looks good on camera and what will last through sweat and tears."
Odendaal: "A common mistake I see happen is when brides make their selection for their hair and makeup artist purely based on Instagram and don't speak with someone who has worked with them before. They also often forget to read actual reviews. I also always recommend sourcing an artist who is local to your wedding destination — you would be surprised how important this is. As an example, I'm a destination wedding planner in Whistler, B.C., Canada. We're in the mountains, and you can literally get many different types of weather in one day. There are certain makeup products and hairstyles that suit a mountain wedding better than others, and the artists also understand the challenging weather that we're sometimes dealing with (bring me my waterproof mascara, please!)."
What are some important things that brides should know about budgeting for wedding hair and makeup?
Williams: "Understanding that artists should always be compensated for their time is important."
Erin: "A deposit is required to secure your chosen artists for your big day."
Odendaal: "When booking a hair and makeup artist, you will need to get a quote first for all of the services required: Bride, Bridesmaids, Mother of the Bride/Groom. They will take a deposit ranging from 25 to 50%, with the remaining amount due at the wedding. If your bridesmaids are paying for their own hair and makeup, I recommend engaging one of the bridesmaids to help you collect the money (save yourself the headache)."
What is the standard for tipping when it comes to wedding hair/makeup?
Williams: "It's essential that the team working with you is given at least 20% gratuity. Keep in mind that travel and valet parking should always be covered by the bride. It takes a lot to pack and unpack to make your day special."