Your essential guide to getting the perfect wedding glow, plus how to avoid a self-tan trip-up on your big day

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Whether you’re a committed self-tanner  or a faux-glow newbie, many brides crave a veil of bronze on their big day, but the risks associated with taking a punt on a potentially streaky, stinky or just plain orange self-tan can put many a woman off, and that’s before you consider the horror of it transferring onto your precious, actually rather pricey white dress. Let there be no more tan-guish (apologies) - here’s how the pros do wedding planning from a tanning point of view. Now glow forth and get hitched.

The Dos

Book a trial. Make that two trials.

You can never road-test your tan too often, particularly if you’re not used to tanning. Calling on a tanning specialist is most likely to produce optimum results in terms of colour and uniform application, so if it’s within your budget to book a spray tan, figure that into your getting ready regime. St Tropez  tanning and skin finishing expert Emma Kotch explains why prior consultation is crucial:

“For me, a trial spray tan is essential. With so many options and finishes, finding one that compliments you and your dress can be a minefield. Just as you would with a hair or makeup appointment, make sure that you’ve trialled your tan so that there are no surprises on the day. It also gives the opportunity to bond with your tanner so that you both understand the colour you’d like to be.”

“I’d recommend having a trial at least two weeks before your wedding day, and after you’ve chosen your dress to ensure that the tan complements the colour pallete of your outfit. Opt for a lighter tan if you’re wearing a white dress, or a more medium tone if it’s ivory.”

Better still...

Take a picture of your dress

This will not only give your tanning pro an idea of your style, but also allow him or her to tailor your tan, right up to the day. Whether it’s coloured, backless, low at the front or going to show your legs, everything from the shade of your tan to subtle contouring can depend on the dress. Which leads to…

Synchronise your hair and makeup test runs

So as to avoid dreaded tidelines and general colour clashes, if you’re planning on a tan for your wedding day, make sure that you’ve nailed your desired shade for your makeup trial - that way your makeup artist knows what to hook your look on and can enhance accordingly.

Book a tan “warm-up” two days before your makeup trial to allow it to settle, and it can be handy to let your tanning expert in on your  bridal hair  plans too, just so that they’re aware if your neck will be a focus in an updo, or if your hair will fall to your collarbones, etc. Plus, they’ll have an appreciation of your overall vibe, be it polished, beachy or somewhere in between, which will allow them to chip in on finishing recommendations, from a gloss over shoulders (try Tan Luxe The Gloss , £33) to a matte bronzer to add depth.

Get your timing right

A hurried dash through the tanning booth the day before probably won’t cut it according to Emma:

“For bridal tans, I recommend having a tan at least two days before the wedding - that way you are guaranteed that there will be no transfer onto your dress. If you only have time to have a tan the day before your wedding, make sure that you shower that evening and then again in the morning to ensure that no traces of tan are left on the skin. I generally feel that a spray tan’s best colour is on day two anyway, so if you’re getting married on a Saturday, have your tan on the Thursday. Then the tan has time to develop, set and calm for a flawless photo finish.”

Be yourself

This is ‘advice for life’ kind of stuff, but as with hair and makeup, don’t veer too far from what you’d normally go for, and especially your God given skin tone in this case. Going a few shades darker than your colouring will look radiant and healthy, but miles from your skin tone is highly likely to look fake, especially considering that a white dress can be unforgiving in the self-tan department.

The most important thing is to be comfortable in your own skin, quite literally, so if you do want to go a bit darker, do so well in advance of the wedding for an idea of the result, or opt for a gradual tanner to ease yourself in gently if you’ve chosen the DIY route - check out our reviews of gradual tanning moisturisers  to find the best fit.

Prepare the ground

To maximise your chances of a seamless tan, you first need to prep your canvas. You likely know the drill, but here’s a brief reminder: wax or shave the day before (leave at least 24 hours between tanning and hair removal), exfoliate beforehand and don’t slather yourself in body lotion pre-tan- just apply a little to dry areas where tan ‘catches’, such as elbows, knees and heels.

Nick-of-time tanning

Not had the time or inclination to set up a spray tan plan but still want to look bronzed on the day? A reliable, non-transferable wash-off tan  will do the job when buffed on evenly with a mitt (recruit a bridesmaid/ makeup artist/ family member). Today of all days, be sure to leave enough time for it to dry before dressing.

The Don’ts

The hot wash

A shower or two between tan and matrimonies will make you look naturally glowy and do away with any ‘tan on dress’ peril, but don’t crank up the heat, as hot water and lots of steam is likely to break your tan down quicker. Speaking of shower etiquette…

The foam party

RSVP no to that - lots of suds and bubbles could spell the end of your tan, or at least lead to patchiness.

The rough dry

You’re aiming for ‘pat dry’ rather than rub. You know why.

Lotions and potions

Body oils, deodorants and perfumes can all endanger your tan in the first few days. Stick to an oil-free body cream, or better yet, one designed to boost the longevity of your tan (try St Tropez Tan Enhancing Moisturiser , £10).

Tea and toothpaste

Clearly we need both to merely survive as Brits (the tea, mainly), but sipping hot drinks and brushing your teeth straight after your tan could cause colour to run or stain around your mouth. Wait for your cuppa to cool and preferably brush your teeth before your spray tan appointment.

Bridal Tan, St.Tropez

Bra and baggage

This goes for anytime you tan, but particularly pre-wedding, pack loose black clothing to wear afterwards, ideally without needing to put a bra on (you don’t need those lines in your life). Beware also of lugging big bags around afterwards, as the straps can mark arms and shoulders. Hands-free and bra-free is the best way to be.

Going for a dip

Foreign nuptials? Try to resist the pool post-tan, no matter how inviting. The chlorine within is a fake-tan foe.

Tan gone wrong? Here’s how to fix it

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