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Wedding Makeup: 18 Tips Most Bride-to-bes Should Know

Makeup I swear by, what to pack in your purse & how to keep lip color in place


Wedding Makeup
Kate Middleton did her own wedding makeup

Kate Middleton did her own wedding makeup

Getty Images

Chanel's Ultra Wear Lip Colour


I got married in September, 2013, and my wedding makeup was the easiest part of the entire event. Why? Because I did it myself, I came prepared with all my best products and I wanted to look like myself on my day. But there's so much to wedding makeup I learned that I want to pass on to you. Here you go:

The Key is To Look Like Yourself, Only Better

It was widely reported that Kate Middleton chose to do her own wedding makeup because she wanted William to recognize her as she walked down the aisle. If you wear little makeup in your regular life, your wedding day is not the day to try out a smokey eye. You should look like you, only enhanced. The same rule holds true if you are a huge makeup junkie like Kim Kardashian. When she walked down the aisle at her 2011 wedding in a full face of makeup, she still looked like Kim Kardashian.

Should You Have a Pro Do Your Makeup?

Many brides get their hair done professionally for their wedding and many of these stylists do makeup, too. If you're booking a pro for your hair (find out more about hair trials and consultations in Wedding Hair: My Best Tips & Tricks in One Spot), ask if you can have your makeup done, too. Make sure to consult with the artist and do a trial run before your big day. You don't want your wedding day to be a big surprise, makeup-wise.

You Know That Friend Of Yours Who Really Knows Makeup? Enlist Her Help

If Kate Middleton can do her own makeup for her wedding, I suppose the rest of us can, too. Unless, of course, you have never worn makeup in your life, in which case you might ask a friend to help you out.

When my friend Heather got engaged a couple years ago, she asked me to help her figure out her makeup. (I have to admit, I was like, "really? Me?") Together, we went to Henri Bendel in New York City and I pointed out the makeup products I felt Heather would love including my favorite eye shadow (Dior, always Dior, nothing is as lush as Dior). At every station, Heather sat down with a makeup expert and tried out the product. I hit a homerun: she learned how to use each product, she bought everything I suggested (no commission for me!), and she looked AMAZING at her wedding. More on what I told her to buy in a bit.

Another option is to ask your friend to do your makeup. I recommend a practice run a week or so before the big day.

If you're doing your own makeup, don't miss How to Apply Makeup.

The Most Important Part of Your Makeup: Your Skin Tone

It doesn't matter how big your eyes are or how glossy your lips look, if your skin looks blotchy or oily, you won't look your best on your wedding day. Your first priority should be making sure your skin looks great, then move on to your eyes, cheeks and lips.

Everything you need to know about getting your skin to look great are in these 2 articles:

Pick Your Eyes or Your Mouth

A basic rule of makeup is to either play up your eyes or your mouth. Play up both and you risk looking like a clown. So if you decide to go all-out on your eye makeup, keep your lips light with a gloss or a light pink lipstick. If you want to play up your full lips, do so with a bright or deep color, but keep your eyes relatively light.

This is the Day to Whip Out the Eyelash Curler

Unless you're one of those people with such amazingly long eyelashes you are regularly asked if you use Latisse, you'll benefit from an eyelash curler. Curling lashes will make your eyes "pop." I like to heat my eyelash curler for 3 seconds with a blowdryer before I curl my lashes. Just be sure to test the curler first on your wrist to make sure it's not too hot.

Some women with super short eyelashes go the false lashes route. I'd advise getting them professionally done, but some of my friends are really good at applying their own and swear it's super easy. See False Lashes: How to Apply Them.

Two Words: Waterproof. Mascara.

Perhaps you will be in that 5 percent of women who don't tear up at some point at their wedding, but if you're not, today is the day to whip out the waterproof mascara. And ask your maid of honor to carry a tissue for you. Also, if you have light skin and blonde hair, don't wear black mascara, brown is your better bet.

Prime, Prime, Prime

Just as you would prime a wall before you paint, you should prime your face before you apply anything powder-based. I swear by eyeshadow primers -- nothing, and I mean NOTHING works better to keep your shadow from melting into your eyelid crease. (See Keep Eyeshadow in Place for Hours). I use a primer every single time I wear eyeshadow. If you're wearing foundation or tinted moisturizer, apply primer beforehand. Primer fills in pores and fine lines and you'll find your foundation glides on effortlessly.

Invest in a Highlighter Pen

One of the products I recommended to Heather was Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Concealer, the makeup artist's secret. Although it's called a concealer, it's really a highlighter. Trust me, nothing brightens the face more.

Apply a bit under the eyes, above the brow, in the creases of the jowls (along your nose) and under the chin. Pat in with the pad of your finger. One great tip is to look in the mirror with your chin down. Apply Touche Eclat to the dark, shadowed spaces.

There are many highlighters on the market. Read more about the wonders of highlighters in my Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat review.

The Trick to Keeping Lipstick in Place

Who has time to apply lipstick or gloss every half hour when they have 200 guests to entertain?

I took Heather by the Chanel section to show her Chanel's long-wearing lipstick, Chanel Ultra Wear Lip Color (read my review), which she loved. Once you put this stuff on, it's like a stain and doesn't budge. The problem is there aren't too many colors, so if you don't LOVE the shade, you can try this 3-step process using any liner and color:

  • The morning of the wedding, exfoliate lips by slathering them with Vaseline. Scrub them in a circular motion with an old toothbrush.
  • When you apply makeup, fill in lips with a lip liner.
  • Apply lipstick or gloss over this. The lip liner is key to keeping color locked in place.
  • Keep your lip liner close at hand so you can refresh your lips a few times during the evening. Better yet, put one of your bridesmaids in charge of lipstick/gloss duty.

Thou Shalt Not Wax the Day Before Your Wedding

You may be able to cover up a red upper lip or brow with a thick concealer, but trust me the redness will wear through at some point. It's best to wax no less than 48 hours before a big event.

The same goes for your bikini line. Unless you get regular bikini waxes and know how your skin reacts, give yourself at least 48 hours before your wedding to get a bikini wax or Brazilian or risk walking down the aisle with Talcum powder liberally applied to the inside of your thighs.

If you're a newbie at waxing, take 2 Ibuprofen at least an hour before your appointment. The more waxings you get, the less painful they are.

For more details see, The "Brazilian Wax" (Or, What to Expect When You Sign Up to Get One).

Oily Skin? Carry Blotting Sheets

To keep your oily skin at bay, definitely set your makeup with a loose powder before you walk down the aisle, but don't keep overpowdering skin as the day and night wear on. Instead, carry blotting papers. This way you don't have to keep powdering your face all night long. The blotting papers soak up the oils leaving your makeup in place.

Don't Go Overboard With the Fake Tan

If you like the tanned look, get a spray tan or at least use a self-tanner you know works. If you're new to fake tanning, be careful because the orange look on your wedding day is not cool. Also, self-tanners reek (find out why). You don't want to reek on your wedding day.

See How to Fake a Summer Tan.

Say "I Do" to a Classic Manicure and Pedicure

Personally I hate French manicures and pedicures (I wrote a blog about it in May 2006 and to this day get comments from people who either vehemently agree or disagree with me). I also loathe long, fake acrylic nails. A classic look for a wedding is a soft pink.

On the other hand, I always wince when I'm told a bride is not going to paint her nails for her wedding (my friends tend to be the laid-back, no-frills sort, so this happens to me sometimes). Even if you have no interest in painting your fingernails (I can't imagine you'd be reading this article if you're that sort, but who knows?), at least get them professionally shaped and ask to have them "buffed." As for your toes, a pedicure will make you feel spiffy even if the only person to see your toes on your wedding day is your husband.

Exfoliate in the Weeks Up to the Wedding

To make sure your skin looks its best, exfoliate your face and neck once or twice a week a couple months before the wedding. You can make your own facial scrub by mixing a generic white sugar with coconut oil, grapeseed oil or even olive oil or you can buy one. See my list of the best facial scrubs.

The days before your wedding, I always recommend treating yourself to a professional facial (give yourself at least 48 hours for the skin to calm down) or do your own at home. It's easier than you'd think. See How To Do The Basic At-Home Facial.

A Word About Teeth Whitening

One of the best investments I made was professional teeth whitening at my dentist's office years ago. I still have white teeth. There are a bunch of over-the-counter teeth whiteners that work, too. (People also swear by Crest Strips). Just be careful not to go too overboard with teeth whitening. Chiclet-white teeth looks unnatural.

How to Keep the Sweat at Bay

Wedding dresses are hot. Very, very hot. And since many weddings take place outdoors in the early summer months, you may find yourself a sweaty mess on the day of your wedding. But have no fear, I have major tips to keep you sweat-proof on your wedding day.
  • If you have tons of money at your disposal, I recommend getting Botox in your armpits a couple weeks before the wedding. It's expensive ($1500 in New York City), but so was that chocolate fondue machine you insisted on. And the Botox will last you at least 3 months -- enough time to get you through the wedding and the honeymoon with sweatless pits.
  • A less expensive option is to pack baby wipes and deodorant on your wedding day. Why the baby wipes? It's best not to apply deodorant to moist skin. Wipe your armpits with a baby wipe first, let it dry and then re-apply deodorant.
  • To combat sweaty thighs and the chafing that comes with it, I strongly suggest swiping anti-perspirant on your inner thighs. Some people wear by baby powder, but I find baby powder sweats right off, while a potent antiperspirant won't. Note: Wash off before head to bed. Other good chafing relievers include Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel, DERMAdoctor Med-E-Tate and BodyGlide anti-chaff stick.

Just Say No to the Gum

Another good item to pack is breath strips. Today is not the day to be chewing gum or sucking on mints.

Finally, A Quick Tip About Your Hair

Stylists always talk about how dirty hair makes the best updos. To this I say, "Gross." If you are like me and you can't bear to show up on your wedding day with dirty hair, try the hair stylist secret and ask your stylist to use baby powder or dry shampoo to give hair that "dirty" texture so needed for an updo.

And don't forget to pack extra hairspray and pins. My updo fell in the middle of my senior prom and I couldn't do a thing about it. To ensure you don't get caught in the same position as me (or in a downpour), make sure you're prepared.

See Wedding Hair: My Best Tips in One Spot for more wedding hair tips.

More on weddings:

  1. About.com
  2. Style
  3. Beauty
  4. Eyes
  5. Wedding Makeup: 18 Tips Most Bride-to-bes Should Know

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