Help me not look like a garish bridal hobo clown!
November 28, 2015 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Because of the nature of our wedding venue, I will be going solo on my wedding hair and makeup. Fortunately, I have loads of time to practice. Unfortunately, given my current skill and knowledge level, an eternity may not afford enough practice time to get me where I need to be. What are the best resources for the absolute beginner to learn techniques and how-tos for wedding hair and makeup?

My current "beauty" regimen is very much of the ponytail-and-hastily-applied-mascara variety. For my wedding, I would like to upgrade to a look that is still me (i.e. not red carpet glam or anything), but that is a version of me where makeup is actually enhancing my features, and where my hair does not look like it was done by an especially uncoordinated donkey. I have not yet decided exactly what I want the look to be, but these are some inspiration photos I've pinned: hair, makeup. Assuming that I'm an absolute beginner with zero skills and aptitude in this area, my questions are:
- are the above looks even anywhere in the realm of the possible, if I put in the time and effort to practice? Or are they things that should be left to the pros? Do I need to look for simpler examples?
- what are your best resources for tutorials, step-by-steps, and how-tos for people like me, who want to achieve not-basic things with less-than-basic beauty intelligence?
- what essentials need to be in my toolbox in order to create something like the examples above? I'm willing to spend a little cash if higher-end tools and products will help me do a better job and achieve a better result.
- are there rules or guidelines about color choice or product choice for people who are redheaded, pale as fuck, and (given that the wedding is outdoors in the summer) going to be quite freckled?
- in your opinion/experience, would having a makeover or "consultation" at MAC or Sephora or somewhere be worth it? My worries here are a) they're only trying to sell me product (which I'm willing to buy, if they teach me how to use the damn stuff) and b) my skill and knowledge level is too low to really get much out of their time (i.e. I'm worried they'll just be talking over my head)

We're spending a small fortune on our (awesome, gifted, totally worth it) photographers, and I'd really like to be able to look at the photos 20 years from now and not cringe at my embarrassing makeup and hair. Help, please and thank-you!
(And apologies for the constant stream of wedding questions that are bound to keep spewing out of me for the next 6 months)
posted by Dorinda to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Youtube. Lisa Eldridge for your makeup (she has many many "looks" you can choose from, plus technique videos), and then just do searches for hair until you nail down the terms for the kind of looks you really want.

Video definitely far exceeds any photo/written instructions in these two venues. I will tell you that a lot of up-dos are hard to do with arms attached to your own body, so if you have a friend willing to pitch in you should absolutely accept volunteer help for that.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:43 AM on November 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

This sounds like it's really important to you. If you don't have a friend who can do it for you, maybe hire someone to meet you at your venue to do it? This is a thing! A friend found someone who spent an entire weekend at their wedding site doing hair and makeup, giving massages, and taking care of her dogs. It may be worthwhile for your peace of mind.

(Unless you find the idea of learning this stuff fun, in which case, yay! Have fun!)
posted by metasarah at 11:53 AM on November 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I got a makeover done at Sephora just last week and it was awesome! I'm turning 40 and have been using the same makeup and techniques since high school, and I wanted to update my look and the products I use, plus increase my very limited knowledge about application.

I told the makeup artist my budget and she was super respectful and picked products to use that were in my price range. She instructed me on what she was doing and it was very easy to understand. All in all it was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend! By the way, in case you were wondering (I was), they do not work on commission so they don't have a personal stake in how much you buy, though of course it looks good for them if you make a large purchase.
posted by amro at 11:54 AM on November 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

For makeup, definitely seconding Lyn Never, I've learnt so much about makeup application, brands, techniques from Lisa Eldridge's videos. Her looks are subtle and glam. I also love the sister makeup artist team Pixiwoo. Here's a look I replicated for my sister's wedding a few years back.

Insider info about sephora: they do not work on commission. So, while they're super knowledgeable about the brands and products, they tend to not be pushy. At least in my experience. Perhaps after perusing some makeup tutorials online you can narrow down a few brands you'd like to try and get them to help you with the application.
posted by hollypolly at 11:54 AM on November 28, 2015

Honestly, neither the hair and makeup should require a ton of practice. The toughest thing you're going to want to do is wear at least partial false eyelashes (based on your pins, but also it really does make a huge difference in photographs) and there's a bit of a knack to it that you want to be practiced enough to not have it be a frustration on the day.

The upside to makeup is you can practice every night if you want. Just take it off before you go to bed.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:58 AM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also! Very important tip for makeup that will be photographed: do not use products with SPF in them (such as foundations or powder). The light-blocking effects will bounce the camera's flash and created a garish "ghost face" effect. Same is true of Makeup Forever HD powder. You can google images of Nicole Kidman, et al. for examples of this.
posted by hollypolly at 12:00 PM on November 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

Aside from YouTube and practice, another available option is make-up and hair styling lessons. Often salons that do make-up looks or individuals that do wedding services will offer mid-week makeup and hair lessons. You could work with them to craft a look you'd like for your big day, and get them to teach you how to do it, and provide you a list of products to buy. It's going to cost more than going to Sephora for a lesson, but it'll be more individualized and calmer, and the likelihood is that they won't be trying as hard to sell you things. The salons *might* have some of the things to sell you, but the bridal studios won't likely even have the products for sale.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:20 PM on November 28, 2015

Your makeup inspiration pics reminded me of this Lisa Eldridge girly look. Specific products are listed on the page.

Those inspiration pics are very pretty, check out smoky eye tutorials. You may need to watch and read and try several until you find one that works for your eye shape.

You should check out videos from Pixiwoo and Lisa Eldridge for wedding makeup tutorials specifically even if the looks are a little heavy, they will have tips for long wearing makeup that photographs well.

Also check out Emily Noel's YouTube channel - she was a news anchorwoman for years and now does makeup videos, sorry I'm on my phone so I can't link but she has a video about applying makeup for the news that might have good info.

Urban Decay makes a great setting spray that is basically bomb proof.
posted by pintapicasso at 12:30 PM on November 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

You could get good answers to specific questions at Makeup Alley, where you'll need to create a user name and password; they'll never spam you. You'll have to wait a week before participating, but you can start reading and searching right away. The cosmetics forum is full of enthusiastic, friendly people who love to talk about how to get a certain look. Many of them also know about the special requirements of wedding makeup : preventing mascara smudges and streaks, preventing shine, making it last all day, looking fairly natural but still showing up well in photographs. I suggest showing them one picture at a time to get the most useful advice. and even ask about one specific aspect like the eyes or the blush...what shade and how to apply it

It's good that you've been looking at professional wedding makeup on line. Among the pictures you pinned, save the ones with a more "natural" look. No frosted eyeshadow, no moist looking foundation, no heavy eyeliner. Your lipstick doesn't have to be a nudish shade; I think a lot of brides err on the site of lips that are too pale. False eyelashes can be fine if you really love them and put time into learning to uses them. Fortunately, the trend in wedding makeup now is "no makeup makeup" but enhanced for the camera. This style is most likely not to look ridiculous in the distant future.

You can work with a makeup artist ahead of time to learn what suits you and how to apply it yourself. You'd probably pay an hourly rate that's much more reasonable than hiring an artist for the wedding day. I did this for "everyday life" makeup and saved a lot of time and money that would have been spent on mistakes. If yelp is active where you live, it's a good source.

Makeup stores like MAC and Sephora can be good places to learn. Ask for a specific thing -- if they do your whole face it always seems to dilute the quality and educational experience. The sales person might be willing to do one side after they've done the other. You can do this at department stores, but results for the full face can be really disappointing.

If possible, don't buy anything without seeing it in natural daylight. They always have a mirror on hand that you can take outside for a look. Snap a few before and after pics -- you can see the makeup effect more objectively that way. It's absolutely okay to say you need to wear the products for a while and then return to buy them in a while. The associate will be disappointed, but take their name and ask how you can get the sale credited to them if they're not working.

I started wearing lipstick on most days for a few months before my wedding just to get used to it. It's also good to practice the eye makeup a lot. You can do whatever shades you want, just to feel more confident and develop your skill.
posted by wryly at 12:31 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

For your coloring, you probably need to avoid black mascara/false lashes/eyeliner. Dark brown will look more natural. Otherwise, you will look kind of like Elvira or a vampire.
posted by Michele in California at 12:32 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry to be a downer, but I think the answer is that no, you are not going to be able approximate that hairdo on your own if you don't already have a lot of practice. I am not a girly girl either, and if you are not motivated by this kind of thing intrinsically, it is very hard to pull off correctly

That messy updo style in particular is hard to replicate without it just looking, well, messy. A more glam, polished look might actually be easier to pull off. But my vote is to just get a great cut and blow out your hair (depending on the texture) the day before, and maybe add some kind of tiara or flowers to make it look pretty and special. If that hairdo is really important to you then I think you should think again about whether you can get a stylist to your venue.

As for the makeup, that may be more doable. I think if you just use a ton of mascara (like, many many more coats than you think possible) and a shade of lipstick that pops in photographs, that might be enough. You could take test pictures to be sure.
posted by yarly at 12:42 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far, SUPER helpful!
Sorry to threadsit, but I just wanted to clarify that getting a stylist to the venue is 100% not an option. Doing so would involve a seaplane, and overnight accommodations, and it's just not in the budget, nor (and this is really the most salient point) are any of the mobile stylists I've talked to willing to make the long trip just to do one person's hair and makeup since it just isn't financially worth their time and effort, so unfortunately I really am on my own.

Please keep the answers coming! This is great and useful stuff! (And some of those videos make this seem like it might almost be.....dare I say! Maybe?)
posted by Dorinda at 12:51 PM on November 28, 2015

It will be fun! As a makeup-self-confidence booster I just want to add the anecdote that I was a complete makeup novice 3 years ago and due to budget and condition restraints (similar to yours) for my sister's wedding I took it upon myself to binge watch makeup tutorials, study up on some long-lasting brands, and practiced my technique for a few months prior to the big day. I not only did my own makeup, but my mom's as well, and afterwards a few aunts were asking me about my mom's blush, our lipstick, etc etc. And looking over the photographs afterwards, we looked great. You can totally do this, you're going to look great, and as an added bonus you'll have a number of great products in your makeup kit for the future!

Definite musts: focus on getting your complexion as flawless as possible, do wear false eyelashes (they make a big difference in photos, even if they feel like a lot at first... you won't regret it when you see your photos), and tuck a mini mirror and lipstick/gloss near your seat for touch-ups during dinner.

Congrats, and have fun! Lisa Eldridge's videos in particular are not only informative, but incredibly soothing (pair with a glass of wine!)
posted by hollypolly at 1:05 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Keep it simple. I did my own makeup for my wedding and it looked fine, and I am not a professional at all--I mostly hate wearing makeup. But I wore it a lot in high school, so I knew the basics for my skin; what kind of blush, what kind of eye makeup, I used base and powder in a color that blended well. Buy your makeup and practice it. And also remember that a good photographer will compensate for harsh flash lighting and light you well. They will also be able to do some correcting afterwards.

You might actually ask them what they recommend, they may have really good pointers!

For hair; have you considered a small hat or hairnet (if you want to go retro)? or a veil? I ask because simple uncovered styles can be the hardest to pull off by yourself, in a way that looks elegant, not "about to do housework."

If you could find a way to do a very simple braid/bun, cover it up with some kind of decoration/pinning/veiling/hat, and then do a few little curls on the side like you want, you're going to have an easier time than a pinned-up look that's perfect-but-relaxed with a headband that has to be straight. One of the virtues of traditional veils is that they pretty much cover all your hair if you want them to, making one less thing to worry about.

I would also have a few alternate options with you; once you get to your location, your hair may react to the humidity change in unexpected ways. Bring all your supplies, and a couple of different things you've tried, and go with what your hair will do that day. Hopefully you can at least have a bridesmaid or friend help you with it.
posted by emjaybee at 1:10 PM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the hair, what I learned when my hair was long was that having the right thingamajig to put my hair up with was the trick to pulling off certain dos. It wasn't as skill based as I thought. It was much more about knowing which kind of thing held your hair that way, plus a little practice.
posted by Michele in California at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2015

I had a similar hairstyle for my wedding, and even though I do my own hair (fancy braids included) all the time, I definitely could not have managed to do it in a way that a) stayed put all day and b) looked good in pictures. Do you have any friends who can do hair? Otherwise I think you'll need to go a bit simpler. Those headbands are gorgeous, so even just pinning your hair back and having the headband would be nice.

nthing Lisa Eldridge and Sephora for makeup. Use a good setting spray when you're done; falsies are a pain and I didn't use them, but I have quite long eyelashes already, ymmv; remember to pick either eyes or lips as a focus (so if you do heavy eye makeup have a neutral lip and vice versa), lest you look like a clown. I think this is an Eldridge tip but I always put on blush first - it helps a lot with figuring out how much eye/lip makeup you can do before, again, you look like a clown.

I've been to a lot of weddings and honestly the women who do their own makeup tend to look better. It's sort of weird when folks go super glam for the wedding - maybe it looks nice in photos, but in person, they look like they are wearing a disguise. Freaky.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:07 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

All of the makeup pictures you posted feature very dramatic eyelashes. False eyelashes make a huge difference in photos, but are really tricky to pull off. Not that you couldn't, but I'm a big makeup person and I have never gotten them to look right. So my suggestion is cheat a bit in advance... Either get eyelash extensions a few days before or try something like lattise (takes like 16 weeks to grow long lashes though so plan on time for that).
posted by KMoney at 2:11 PM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you do go with false eyelashes, you can find them in dark brown, which will be most flattering for your coloring. I don't use them often, but when I have I've found the piece-y false lashes much easier to place than the kind that comes in one long strip. My aunt did makeup for brides for years, and she would insist that false lashes make all the difference in photos.
posted by katie at 2:22 PM on November 28, 2015

Assuming you are red/ blonde with long hair? Begin assembling some color matched (blonde will work) accessories for your hair that will enable you to pull of some sort of an updo without showing- meaning not dark brown or black.
Particularly useful to you will be hairpins (try to find some with texture) hair elastics that match your tone to disappear into hair, and donuts and rolls. Then look online for techniques and trick for working with them. You can do a lot with a good box of hairpins, but they are a little hard to find, so check the link below to get you started.
Also, there's a good basic hair technique that simulates a good blowout- sleek at the head, and wavy at mid to ends, that women do using a sock rolling their hair to dry. Google "dry hair with sock" for loads of suggestions, and see if that wouldn;t be a good place for you tot start your style with, so you'd have more time for the roll you want.
posted by TenaciousB at 2:39 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I bet you could pull off a messy Gibson roll with some practice. Spray your roots with lift spray, apply some hold creme to the rest of your hair and set it in rollers. Once cool, finger comb and use something like the Goody brand Gibson roll cheat headband. Lots of practice is the only way. You're already going to be stressed, so you have to practice enough to do it with your eyes closed.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:42 PM on November 28, 2015

You know lessons are a thing right? You can go to a wedding hair and makeup artist for an in-person lesson!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:59 PM on November 28, 2015

If you cannot pull off fake lashes, I have found that using a lash curler before doing mascara makes a big difference. That plus eyeliner really goes a long way towards defining the eye. Just make sure to curl them first, otherwise the mascara can glue them to the eyelash curler. Also, eyelash curlers can be a little freaky to use for some folks.
posted by Michele in California at 3:57 PM on November 28, 2015

It looks like there is so much great advice above that most of what I could add here is probably redundant. What I would suggest is that after you have worked out the look that you want and which products you will be using, to do a test run under similar conditions to what your wedding day will be, and take photos of it. Then look out for where you need to apply the makeup a bit heavier, where you need to use a lighter hand, and what products just do not work in photos.

I did my own makeup for my brother's wedding and while it came out great for the most part, the product that I used under my eyes looks far too light in the photos.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:12 PM on November 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you choose to wear foundation, blending with a brush is so much better than using your fingers. You basically only want to apply foundation to your problem areas (which for me is cheeks and above my brows to hide redness) and then blend it to your natural skin tone. Also, get your eyebrows done before the wedding. A well groomed brow does amazing things for the overall look.
posted by Ruki at 4:16 PM on November 28, 2015

Do it several weekend lunch dates in a row to lovely places before the wedding. Set aside the morning, practice like crazy and get comfortable doing your hair and make-up and then go out for a great lunch at a cafe and have your fiancee take lots of photos in the sunlight with your regular phone and look at them later. Your look is really beautiful but not nighttime glam, so you would be able to get away with that and a pretty dress/blouse for a special date look, without seeming way over-made-up, and that would give you an idea of how long it takes to do the look, especially the hair, and in what order putting it all together works best.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:42 PM on November 28, 2015

I did my own wedding makeup -- I went to Sephora on a weekday morning (when they weren't busy) and had three people helping me to choose the perfect makeup "look". The best part -- they did one side of my face (in front of a mirror, explaining what they were doing) and had me do the other half. I bought a bunch of stuff there - including a great foundation (that I use to this day -- Makeup Forever HD) and brush. After that, I just practiced every weekend until I got it right -- we got engagement photos done, so I used those as my test for photography and the makeup.

Unfortunately, I can't help with the hair - I had a hairstylist do mine, but second asking a hairstylist to give you lessons and then practice, practice, practice.
posted by echo0720 at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2015

I also did my own hair and makeup, and look fine in the professional shots, and ok in the friend pics, given the camera and film quality.

The tiaras is the first few shots are available on Amazon. I just bought half a dozen different tiara for gifts, they all came in looking fantastic for their price point. The look with the tiara and the loose bun is dead simple with just a little practice, and requires not much more than a scrunching and a couple of pins, and that's with my waist length, thick, wavy hair.

Everybody has mentioned the you tubes, and that's great advice. I just taught myself, for a given value of taught, how to do this cool braid, and that site has some great links and instructions, if like me, you like to have a static picture of a tricky bit.

And lastly, you got this. No worries!
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:26 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

The makeup is more doable than the hair, but I'm going to encourage you not to practice one SPECIFIC, it's GOTTA BE THIS EXACTLY look but rather spend the next few (several?) months just getting more comfortable doing your hair and makeup in general. Nthing the Lisa Eldridge videos, and I also like the tutorials on the Beauty Department. For hair, I like the videos on Cute Girls Hair Styles, which is, but has a LOT of really helpful videos, especially as you're looking for technique and not just end results.

I'm pretty into hair and makeup, and here's my not-quite-expert guidance: Have an idea in your head of what you want to look like, but BE FLEXIBLE because nothing ever goes the same way twice. I find *especially* when I'm not getting ready at home (with my own mirror, having washed my hair in my regular shower, with my regular shampoo/conditioner/water whatever), things go...differently. It's a lot easier to say "well, I wanted to do XYZ, but the humidity is killing my hair, so I'm gonna do ABC instead" than to despair over things not curling just how you practiced it. If you have several good looks in your arsenal, you'll be a lot better off.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want to just kibitz about possible looks, this is like, my favorite topic.
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:53 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Focusing more on the hair: this DIY wedding updo is a good start for you. (My sister did my wedding hair based on that look, but with a little practice I could have done it, and I'm not great with hair.) Start with hot rollers instead of the blow dry/iron the tutorial recommends. As you put them in, use lots of hairspray. Wait until they are very, very cool--at least 40 minutes. Tease a little at the crown, as the tutorial suggests. Then instead of the roll the tutorial suggests, do a sideways french braid, not too tight, and secure it with a small elastic; this will be much more secure. Now gently smooth the teased part. Then start building small buns around the end of the braid, using lots and lots and lots of bobby pins. The buns should be close to your head and feel flat rather than stick out, if that makes sense. You're going to need a mirror you can sit at and a big hand mirror so you can keep looking. If you have someone just to be an extra set of hands/eyes for this, that would be huge.

Keys here: the texture and curl the hot rollers create will camouflage a lot of messiness. The buns at the end will transition the braid so it doesn't look so braid-y and hide where you smooth the teased crown. If you start with hair that hasn't been washed since the day before, the whole style will stay in place much better. You'll want to not only practice this at least a few times, but actually wear it for a few hours and see how it lasts.

Memail me if you'd like a picture of my hair in that style; I'm too self-conscious to post a link publicly!
posted by mchorn at 10:08 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

So much great advice here! In addition to practicing DIY techniques, have the pros do as much as possible before you jet to paradise. Get your eyebrows threaded and your lashes extended -- both make a bigger different than you'd think. (It's weird.) Then get that blowout. Obviously do test runs of all grooming services first.

Pack extra bobby pins.
posted by jessca84 at 12:44 AM on November 29, 2015

I went to my stylist a few weeks before my wedding for a lesson on how to do my hair myself (because he'd be out of town). Perhaps you could book an appointment to learn how to style it the way you want?
posted by vitabellosi at 4:16 AM on November 29, 2015

My kids just found some of the wedding pictures - since we divorced, it's not something I have on display. But I learnt something from them.
The designer who did my (fabulous) dress, styled me into a very natural look. The hairstyle was similar to the ones you have shown, and she did it (the only thing I regret are the silly hair-pieces she made instead of a tiara).

The makeup was even more minimalist. Her mother was the photographer, so she knew about working with that, and she basically focused on avoiding shininess and enhancing the eyes a bit. Her general idea was to go for as natural a look as possible, and while I missed all the fuss a bit back then, 25 years later, those wedding pics are just wonderful. I look a lot more glamorous than those of my friends who bought the full "do", whose wedding pics are a scary look into 90's bad taste.

With todays' products and style, what she did would be achieved with some like a Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturizer in your skintone and a light powder. Maybe a bit of blush to highlight your facial features. Then sculpting and maybe toning in your brows very carefully. Then an lightly applied eyeshadow which suits your skin tone, and mascara, or even better, get your lashes colored before you go.

For the hair, focus on healthy shine, which depends on your hair-type.

(The designer even coerced me into not wearing a bra, so I bought special underwear for the polterabend instead)
posted by mumimor at 5:27 AM on November 29, 2015

Lisa Eldrige and Sharon Farrell on Youtube. Both are great artists who are able to simplify and explain while they demonstrate...and Sharon even showed her own wedding makeup look in a tutorial.
posted by SassHat at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2015

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