Here’s how to get what you want, what to do if you don’t know what you want and how to deal if it goes a bit wrong…
It’s not a ‘normal’ day by any stretch - it may be a 12 hour-ish event, but a wedding seemingly requires months (in some cases years) of advance prep. I know this because I’m knee-deep in supplier spreadsheets and bunting Googling myself - I’m getting married in August and, while I’m excited to do the ring thing and reel into night (...we’re having a ceilidh), at the same time, it’s a lot of pressure on one day and the decision making is mega. Between sourcing eco-confetti, booking a minibus and getting enough stamps for your invites, the personal stuff, like your um, face, can fall by the wayside. If you’re getting married and yet to book a makeup trial, have yours coming up or have endured a less than successful session and aren’t sure how to fix it, come along with me for the ride.
Before your trial
Book it well in advance
Even if you’re undecided as to what you’d like makeup wise. Planning out exact eyeshadow combos and lip liner options yonks beforehand definitely isn’t necessary, unless that makes you happy, but you want to bag a brilliant makeup artist before the big wedding rush. Makeup artists I spoke to told me that they tend to get a lot of enquiries early in the year post Christmas engagements, so do your research and put feelers out there if you come across an artist you love.
Bobbi Brown pro makeup artist Zara Findlay will be my right hand beauty woman on the day, but if you’re planning on doing your own makeup the Bobbi Brown Bridal How-To service is handy if you’ve got a lot on your plate and will makes the process far less daunting. You can book as many trials as you fancy to decide on both your look and kit and the fact that the 60 minute lessons are available at Bobbi Brown boutiques all over the UK makes it an accessible option. FYI, Kate Middleton went down the private Bobbi Brown bridal makeup lesson route so you’ll be in good company. If you can’t get to a counter, three online bridal tutorials might help you to get a feel for and plan your wedding makeup style - you can choose from a more classic ‘nude lip and defined eye’ look, a city chic option featuring a statement lip or a subtle ‘sheer romance’ how-to.
If you are on the search for a makeup artist who gets you, and makes you look like you, comb any contenders’ Facebook and Instagram accounts for an idea of their aesthetic and service or call on a directory such as The Wedding Collective or Rock My Wedding for respected, tried and tested pros.
As for when exactly to schedule your trial, go with the flow but a few months prior to your wedding day is ideal to give you time to do a 360º if necessary. That said, founder of wedding hair and makeup specialists AMM Anne Marie McElroy, underlines that whenever suits you and stresses you out the least really is the best plan. If you’ve got a destination wedding you may not be able to meet your makeup artist until the week before, so stay in contact and plot in a few Facetime sessions to get your style and preferences across. Even if you’ve left it until a few weeks before your wedding, never fear as in Anne-Marie’s experience this can mean that your wedding makeup vision is fresh in both you and your makeup artist’s minds, plus you’re less likely to be swayed by the endless scroll of filtered beauty looks on social media...
The wedding Pinterest board is apparently a modern rite of passage and can be useful for all of your suppliers to get an idea of what you’re really after - patterns emerge in Pins before you know it. Last year saw an upswing in brides pinning ‘long lash’ inspiration (up by 152 per cent year on year) and ‘lip gloss’ was also a wedding makeup staple with a nigh on 500 per cent increase in pins. ‘Natural wedding makeup’ was a breakout Google search last year, possibly influenced by the Duchess of Sussex’s sheer yet glowy makeup look , and while putting together a wedding makeup mood board inspired by celebrities or imagery you’ve come across on the Internet can help to give your makeup artist a guide as to what you’re imagining, there can be downsides to the bridal social media safari...
….but don’t fall down the scroll hole
Most of us are aware of the ‘compare and despair’ consequences of an Instagram binge in particular, but pinning Facetuned or heavily retouched wedding inspo is not only quite literally practically unattainable when it comes to ‘getting the look’ (real-life filters remain a Black Mirror-esque concept, although give it time), but it’ll make you feel crap in the process. By all means save pictures of that crisp winged liner or subtle smokey eye, but a paint-by-numbers Kim Kardashian breakdown is unlikely to go down well on any level really.
Another pressing point to raise is that, since becoming immersed in the bonkers online landscape of wedding planning, as in many areas of life, there’s a sinister whitewash over the vast majority of wedding content. Search ‘wedding hair ideas’ and a sea of blonde braids will come back at you, and the situation is similar in the makeup arena. While there is a much-needed focus on diversity and inclusivity in the beauty industry at large currently, there’s a chronic lack of either in the bridal beauty space. ‘Could do better’ doesn’t really cover it, but accounts such as Brown Beauty Talk are leading the charge and change in the UK, with regular inspo posts and live tutorial events with the likes of Bobbi Brown, while Black Beauty Mag has a dedicated bridal section.
Summarise your vibe
Anne-Marie asks to see photos and general ideas of everything from your dress to your wedding flowers, shoes and jewellery before a bridal makeup consultation, and she also highlights that, while bringing along imagery of models can give her a feel for where you’re going with your makeup mood, photos you love of yourself are even more helpful. Whether it conveys your idea of what constitutes a “natural look” (she highlights that visual definitions vary wildly) or helps you both to identify that actually, a dark lip is your thing, pictures of you quite literally living your best life will bring the focus back to what you actually want, not what a glossy Insta feed is telling you to want.
Start a skincare routine
You’ve heard this old chestnut before, but if there’s an opportune time to establish a consistent skincare routine, the run-up to your wedding is up there. Bobbi Brown Pro Makeup Artist and bride to be Amy Conway recommends adding a vitamin C serum to your routine early on to brighten skin and help to keep pigmentation at bay and also advocates keeping things gentle and light pre-makeup trial, with fragrance-free skincare , plumping and hydrating hyaluronic acid in spades and cooling gel textures . She advises against using creams that are too heavy before your makeup run-through, especially around the eye area as these can “cause makeup to slide and lead to milia developing in the long-term”.
Tellingly, when makeup looks mask-like, greasy or just off, as long as you’ve been shade matched, Amy reckons that “nine time out of ten it’s the skincare that’s not working for you rather than the makeup”. Keeping things structured but simple, with effective cleansing and exfoliation, a treatment that suits you and a moisturiser and SPF that protect and nourish without irritating are the cornerstones of healthy skin, but if you hit a skincare stumbling block consider seeking a professional opinion before self-medicating in the skincare area.
Come fresh faced
Speaking of keeping it simple, coming clean faced to your trial will allow your makeup artist to accurately assess your skin and colouring for the get-go and makeup removal also won’t eat into your appointment time. Not to mention, more time for a lie-in.
Tan (if that’s your plan)
If you’re considering fake tanning on the day itself, apply your tan before your trial to so that your makeup artist knows what they’re working with and can tailor colour palettes and products accordingly. On that note, here are the do’s and don’ts of bridal tanning from those in the know, because self-tan plus expensive white dress was always going to present a bit of a challenge even for the tan hot shots among us.
Do. Not. Panic
You’re in expert hands, and if you discover that you’re actually not, you can change pros pronto. Otherwise, bridal makeup artists tend to be extremely skilled at soothing fraught nerves, politely encouraging less than helpful wedding party members to pipe down or do something “useful” (make tea/ open prosecco/ go away) and they’ve also obviously got the technical stuff down too. They know that you want to look and feel like a goddess while being able to master such tasks as eating, drinking, kissing, speaking and greeting for hours on end, and they’re practised at giving makeup staying power and ensuring that it ties in with everything else you have going on on the day.
During your trial
If you’re wearing white on your wedding day that is - if you’re opting for a different colour just go for a close approximation of that so that you can build a better picture of how makeup will look sitting next to your outfit.
Don’t bring the whole herd
This goes back to the earlier ‘do not panic’ point but bringing the entire wedding wagon is likely to result in much uninvited conjecture, general confusion and you losing sight of the end game (awesome makeup that you really, really love). By all means invite your best mate, mum or a close family member for the fun of it and a second opinion, but don’t feel the need to haul everyone along, unless you really want to.
A little like when you’re wedding dress shopping, it can help to give you perspective if you pull off something unexpected or consider new ideas and products. Many of us haven’t had a close encounter with a professional makeup artist prior to our wedding day so it can be a good opportunity to learn new tricks and techniques and experiment with new makeup categories and tech. Your makeup artist’s kit will be extensive, so be open to trying a fresh shade or texture.
...but rein it in
If things are going off-piste, don’t be afraid to firmly steer things back on course. If you feel in any way uncomfortable, hesitant or just not yourself, that’s a sign that you might need to go back to the drawing board, but then that’s exactly what a trial is for. Your makeup artist will appreciate the feedback and work with you to achieve what you have in mind.
Consider an AM/PM makeup switch
If you would like to mix things up with your makeup but aren’t totally sold on all-day drama, upping the ante in the evening could be a happy medium. I went for a ‘PM’ makeup trial with Lancôme Education Manager Antonia Basile at the launch of the Pronovias Dancing Lights 2020 collection and she explained what a bold lip can bring to your day:
“For this lip we wanted something a little more playful - this could be worn for the whole wedding day or used as an option for the reception to take the look from day to night. I still wanted to keep the look modern and beautiful so opted for a plum matte tone over a classic red which complemented the shimmer in the dress collection perfectly. “
The lipstick in question was Lancôme L’Absolu Matte in #50 , £27, and Antonia emphasises that it’s especially important to apply a brighter or darker lip colour with a lip brush to extend the wear - lipstick applied from the bullet won’t last as long. Antonia applied a lip liner all over in a shade that closely matched my natural lip colour beforehand and blotted between coats to give the bold lip even more legs and prevent transfer.
The result was beautifully wearable and not quite as shouty as a pillar box red lip, but as above, you do you. Antonia adds that the look works especially well with fresh, radiant skin (what look doesn’t?) and relatively minimalist makeup elsewhere - she used a lot of cream textured products and dabbed Lancôme Custom Highlight Drops in Champagne Glow (apt), £26, along cheekbones and temples to create that much coveted lit from within effect.
A little colour in the cheeks also balances out a statement lip - Antonia used Lancôme Blush Subtil in #022 Rose Givree , £29.50, but if you prefer a bronzer Zara suggests using the same shade on both skin and eyes for makeup harmony - she swept Bobbi Brown Golden Light Bronzer , £30, across my cheeks in in the crease of my eye for depth and definition.
Document the lot
Ask your makeup artist to take photos from every angle and in different lighting to give you a thorough appreciation of what’s gone down. I made videos, but tbh that’s probably taking it a bit far. Having your makeup on file will give you a canvas to work from if you’re having your trial well before your wedding day, or alternatively provide “evidence” if you’re not entirely feeling it.
After your trial
Go about your normal business
Zara highly condones making fun plans afterwards, for practical testing purposes and to see how makeup sits, but also just to take you freshly made up face out really. Makeup artist Lisa Eldridge affirms that seeing your makeup in different situations is also especially important where base is concerned, as “foundations can become lighter or richer in texture and tone as you wear them”. She always conducts two base makeup trials with celebrity clients before a big event - one during the day to ensure that foundation looks natural in daylight, returning for the real deal in the evening to see how the makeup has “behaved” and whether any adjustments are required. She also highlights the importance of considering the full picture and evaluating your neck and chest as well as your face, especially if you’re wearing a lower neckline, as this ain’t the time for tidemarks.
With thanks, thoughts and any changes or adjustments you’d like to make after wearing your ‘wedding face’ That way your makeup artist can come fully equipped and prepared on your wedding day.
Rinse and repeat if you want to
Whether your makeup headed for hills soon after your pro left the building or you’ve done a U-turn on that coral lip, if booking in another trial will make you feel more confident about the wedding day plan, do it. In the grand scheme of things it’s an additional hour that could make all of the difference and it means that your expectations should be crystal clear.
Check the schedule
Nail down how many of the wedding party will need makeup (be prepared to tell hangers-on to sort their own thing) and alert your makeup artist and their team in good time so that they can establish timings and, mainly, ensure that you get ALL of the time you need on a morning that will probably be a fair bit busy. Anne-Marie remarks that everything from pouring fizz to helping you into your outfit and securing veils comes under her remit and she’s happy to provide concrete timetables on request if you suspect that the makeover chain could encounter hitches. If you’re the spreadsheet type, that’ll be music to your ears…
Follow Anna on Instagram @annyhunter