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Choosing an Artist for Your Wedding Day

By: Mailey Gonzales

Getting ready for my wedding

So you just got engaged? Congratulations! Now you have to plan your wedding and find a hair and makeup artist for the big day. You likely have dozens of artists to choose from and it may seem overwhelming. It was easy for me to choose an artist for my own wedding day. I chose myself! You need to make sure the artist you choose isn’t just good at hair and makeup, she needs to be able to work with your style and be good at doing weddings.

You have your own style. You need to realize that every artist also has her own style. Life will be much easier for you if you choose an artist with a style similar to yours. If you hardly ever wear makeup, you may not want to pick an artist whose work all looks like full glam. If you do like the full glam, you shouldn’t choose someone with a super natural looking portfolio. If you’re somewhere in the middle, I recommend reaching out to an artist you like and talking to her about it. You should be able to quickly tell whether she can achieve the look you want by asking for examples of her work that are more your style. You also need to consider your hairstyle preferences. If you want a loose, natural hairstyle, you probably should avoid an artist whose work is highly teased, sprayed, and dramatic.

If you want the results on the left, don't choose an artist who specializes in looks like the photo on the right.

Talking about ethnicity can make people uncomfortable sometimes but I’m here to help you get results and avoid disappointment. If your artist’s ethnic background is different from yours, you need to ask her questions and make sure she’s going to be a good fit. She may still be a great choice, but you need to verify her experience. An artist may feel embarrassed admitting she isn’t a good choice for you. Then you’re in the danger zone because you have an artist who doesn’t know what she’s doing with your hair or skin tones but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or look inexperienced. She may hardly have any suitable products for you in her current makeup kit! I’m always flattered when brides tell me they want to work with me. But if I know I’m not the right artist for them, I’ll let them know. You probably don’t want to be on the job training for your artist on your wedding day.

While we’re on the topic of skin tones, unedited photos of yourself without makeup will help you get off to a good start with your artist. I had a trial with a bride who shared highly edited photos with me. She looked completely different in person and had a vastly different complexion. I brought all the wrong products with me, and the makeup she wanted was very different from what I expected to do based on her photos. Everything worked out fine, but it would have been a smoother process had she given me reasonably accurate pictures. I understand you might like how you look in a picture where you happen to be either very washed out or have an incredible tan. In either case, those aren’t good pictures to send to your artist.

After you find an artist whose style matches your own, you need to make sure she actually knows weddings. There are so many things that happen in the day and your artist needs to know what those things are. Usually you won’t be the only one who needs hair and makeup. You’ll have your maid of honor, bridesmaids, mom and sometimes grandmother who also need services. You need to find an artist who can work under the pressure of a wedding timeline. In addition to working efficiently, your artist needs to know what events take place after all the hair and makeup is done. Things like the typical photo shoots with your bridesmaids and family, a first look, taking the veil in and out, the ceremony and the reception.

A good artist can make natural looks last.

Your artist needs to help your hair and makeup survive the day. When an artist is not used to working weddings, the hair and makeup often won’t look good for very long. Sometimes a bride shows me inspiration pictures from very editorial photo shoots where the hair looks like it would completely fall out in a gentle breeze. In a case like that, I will tell her I have to make her hair tighter because it has to last all day. I also know how to prep the skin and apply makeup so it lasts. None of the three brides above wear a lot of makeup. I was able to give them a natural look that still lasted all day because that's my specialty and I've had a lot of practice. You can also pay an artist to be on call. You’ll get the full celebrity feeling from being touched up throughout the day. I’ve personally even had brides who wanted two different looks between the ceremony and reception. That’s a lot of work but it’s doable.

Finally, when choosing a hair and makeup artist, it helps to look in the right places. A lot of women want to use their salon or longtime hairdresser. I’m here to tell you, you want to find a hair and makeup artist who specializes in weddings. You will be much happier with the results. Most salons will assign you a time slot when you book them for your wedding day. Your bridesmaids will be put in a time slot with other stylists at the salon. A lot of the time those stylists have very different skill sets. You might get a stylist who is amazing at cutting hair but is barely mediocre when it comes to styling and giving you an updo.

I’ll give you a personal example. A few years ago a bride came to me for help. She spent hundreds of dollars at her salon and did three separate trials. She thought her hair stylist, who cut and highlighted her hair for years, could easily do her hair and makeup for her wedding. But she was wrong. She came to me very frustrated and upset about spending hundreds of dollars without the results she wanted. She showed me the hair and makeup she wanted and I knew exactly how to do it. I did the trial and she could not believe the results. It was a night and day different from what she got at the salon. That’s because the stylist at the salon specialized in cutting and coloring hair. I’ll be the first to tell you I can’t cut or color your hair. That’s not what I do. Your artist should be honest with you about her strengths and not try to wing it on your wedding day.

When you move away from the salon setting, your wedding typically gets much more individualized attention. You will often be a freelance artist’s or wedding hair and makeup company’s only customer on your wedding day. And the artists, if you have more than one, will usually be hand picked because they have a consistent style. Everyone’s hair and makeup has a much better chance of being cohesive here, and that is often not the case in a salon. If you hire a single artist who can handle your wedding by herself, that’s going to ensure the looks go together very well and you don’t have the 1980s clashing with the 1920s.

Another big difference between a traditional salon and independent artists is the issue of travel. When you book services at a salon you usually have to travel to them. You have to wake up on your wedding day, get your services done, and then travel back to your hotel or venue. A freelance artist will usually travel to you. When you hire that kind of artist, you get the full salon experience right in your hotel room or venue.

I highly recommend seeking the help of experienced, wedding specific hair and makeup artists. You can find them on The Knot, Wedding Wire, Thumbtack, and just by spending some time on Google. I promise there is an artist in your area who can give you the look of your dreams for your wedding. If you’re near Richmond, Virginia, that might even be me!

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