How To: Braided Wedding Hair for Beginners

No special skills or third hand required

A few weeks back, we gave you all our best info on how to choose hair and makeup artists for your wedding without ending up in a puddle of tears. But for lots of you, the best hairstylist for your wedding is going to be, well, yourself (or that one cousin of yours who does hair kind of awesomely). So we asked our resident stylist Yesenia Guinea of Smoke and Mirrors Salon in San Francisco to come back and show us a few tutorials for braided wedding hairstyles that are easy for you (or that one awesome cousin) to pull off yourself, and pretty enough that nobody will ever know the difference.

Prep Work:

But before you even start on today’s tutorial, you’re going to want to pay attention to these tips from Yesenia on how to prep your hair so that it takes the style the way you want.

First, a note about texture: We’ve all got different hair textures, but whether you’ve got full, curly hair or fine, straight tresses, most of us do not have hair that is style-ready without a little product and some heat (a.k.a. a blow-dryer). So before starting any hairstyle, you’re going to want to prep it. Texturing lets you do two things: it smooths your hair so that you don’t have flyaways around your hairline, but more importantly it gives your hair a little extra grab so that it holds better after it’s styled. (If I’ve got any painters in the room, it’s a little like sanding a piece of furniture before you paint it. You’re going for a smooth surface with just enough roughing up that something will stick to it. Except since you can’t sand your hair, you’re instead going to dirty it a little with product. It may seem counter intuitive to both dirty and smooth your hair at the same time, but hair is weird and you’ll have to trust me on this one.) Here’s what Yesenia recommends to get ready for any kind of hairstyle:

How to smooth and add body:

  • First, apply a styling product to your hair that is tailored to heat. There is a whole subsection of products available these days that are formulated specifically for the purpose of prepping your hair before you apply heat to it, and they are magic (if your hair never turns out the way you want when you blow-dry or curl it, applying this stuff first will change the whole game). They usually take the form of a cream or a serum, but the one that is best for your hair will depend on its texture. I use a combination of this Kerastase Nectar Thermique and the accompanying serum when I do my own hair, but your best bet is to talk to your hair stylist at your next appointment to figure out what product works for you. Sticker shock warning: they can be a bit pricey, but I find I use less of the professional products over time than their drugstore counterparts because the formulas are better.
  • Next, blow-dry your hair using a boar-bristle brush. The boar bristle will make it easier to smooth your hair, and adds a nice shine to your hair to boot. (For finer hair, use a metal brush to get more fullness.)
  • For the best blow-dry technique, start close to your scalp, then pull out with your brush.
  • But be careful: you don’t want to go overboard. Too much texture will be difficult to work with (too little will go flat).

Bonus: A note about parts: A part frames your face. Moving it just a tiny bit (less than ¼ inch, even) from the center can add drama and style to your look.

Braids For Beginners

For this hair series, we asked Yesenia to start us off with an easy braided hairstyle that would be friendly to braid beginners, but still look polished and special enough to call it wedding hair (or just fancy enough that you can calm your mom who is freaking out a little bit about you doing your own hair by telling her it’s totally wedding hair).

For this look, you’ll want to first make sure that you have a blow-dryer, curling iron (or wand), and brush on hand, as well as some small rubber elastics and bobby pins that match your hair color. Once you have those handy, proceed as follows:

1. Once your hair is prepped (see Yesenia’s tips above), section three chunks of hair along your part, equal in size, parallel to each other. These sections of hair are going to be turned into three braids in just a moment.
2. Secure the back two sections with a clip, then braid the first section of hair and secure with a rubber hair elastic.
3. Braid the second and third sections next, and secure in the same manner as the first.
4. Remove the rubber bands, then braid your three little braids together into one big braid, working toward the back of your head. Secure with rubber elastic. Repeat steps 1–4 on the other side of your head.
5. Pull one of your braids to the back of your head and secure tightly with bobby pins. Then pull your other braid to the back, creating an “X” at the back of your head. Secure with more bobby pins. Then Remove any remaining hair elastics, and secure any loose ends or stray hairs with bobby pins.
6. Create soft waves in the rest of your hair by wrapping one-inch (or so) sections of hair around a curling iron or wand and holding for a few seconds before releasing. (For more tips on how to create soft waves even on the most stubborn of straight hair, head over here.) For a sleeker look, you can also use a curling iron to smooth your hair and curl it under.

Half-up half-down hair is the easiest way to have your cake and eat it too. Add braids and suddenly that cake is ice cream cake (a.k.a. a hundred times more awesome, and why didn’t think you think of it before?). But if you’re not ready to dive into the depths of advanced Pinterest braided hairstyles, start here instead with our user-friendly braided wedding half-updo. You can’t miss.


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  • K

    I love these braids and really appreciate the tutorial on the pre-hair process. BUT I’m wondering about very fine and oil-prone hair. I know it’s ok for a hair to be a bit “dirty” when styling, but every kind of product that I’ve used really ways down my hair and makes it look flat(ter) and oily(er). I don’t want it to look like I didn’t shower on my wedding day…any suggestions on products that won’t make me look like a teenager?

    • Kari

      eek, I mean WEIGHS (not ways)…Mondays are rough, man.

    • Meg Keene

      I THINK dry shampoo might work well. I’m no expert, but I have Pantene dry shampoo sitting on my desk right now, and I think that’s one of the things it’s good for.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        I was going to suggest dry shampoo too! Also, it sounds counter-intuitive, but my hair got less oily when I started washing it less. I think I read something online that basically said that cleansing your hair a lot makes your body produce more oil, because it strips your hair of its natural oils. My trick to not getting super greasy hair, though, is that I condition every time I shower, even on days I don’t shampoo. For some reason this makes all the difference (if I just get my hair wet and put nothing in it, it’s grease city.) And then I apply an oil serum to my damp hair before I blow dry it. All those things combined sound like they’d make your hair super greasy, but for some reason they just make my hair feel really healthy.

        • Meg Keene

          Oh yeah. I used to have oily hair, and then I started washing it only once a week. (You have to EASE off. Mine was so oily I had to move hair washings by like half a day at first). I don’t condition every day (because I don’t want to re-straighten it). But when I do wash, I put oil serum in it.

          But dry shampoo is designed to absorb oil, and it also roughs up the hair a little bit.

          • Guest

            I did know the bit about washing hair less frequently, but

          • K

            Eek, disqus hates me today…BUT, what I was going to say that after over 2 years of forcing myself to only shampoo every other day, my hair is STILL oily/flat on the 2nd day. I always have to resort to dry shampoo or baby powder to be able to deal with going out in public. Either this is a SUUUUPER long adjustment period or my hair is just non-conformist :/

            I’m going to look into oil serum, though!

          • Jess

            I wouldn’t worry too hard… I can’t shampoo less than every day and a half without getting stringy greasy hair. I just ask people to use a texturizer (which often still isn’t enough to get the big fancy hair look). One day I’ll figure out my hair, but until then…

          • MirandaVanZ

            Yeah, I tried the whole washing my hair less often thing too, I think a small portion of us just are naturally oily. I’ve just decided to accept it and not worry about it to much (and use lots of dry shampoo)

        • I’ve had the same experience with washing my hair less. I now wash it three days a week, the days I go running. It spends that day in a bun and then the next day I can style it super cute and do curls. If there are 2 days between runs I put it in some kind of braid the second day.

          Washing my hair every day not only makes it more oily, but also makes it more brittle and prone to breakage.

    • MirandaVanZ

      I have the same hair type and dry shampoo is the only styling product my hair comes in contact with. Batiste is a brand I really like.

      • Helen

        I replaced that stuff wuth plain old corn starch – cheaper and no fragrance!

        • MirandaVanZ

          Is it messy? I usually end up using it at work and don’t want to make a mess.

    • Jess

      have you tried doing an apple cider vinegar rinse on your hair when you shower?

      • Jess

        to add more info, and to jump on meg and maddie’s conversation below, i use this: followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. and, similarly, i space out my shampooing pretty far. (I also have fine hair, but a LOT of it.) even when i don’t use the dirty poo linked above (cause it is a bit of effort to use and do) i like the vinegar rinse. awesome detangler too. and sometimes, i use a bit of the dirty poo powder on my fingers and kinda work it into the roots of my hair…since it’s made of clay, it sucks up the oil, and adds a brown residue, not a while residue like some dry shampoos. tho i also sometimes still use dry shampoo. i’m a half the time hippie.

      • Lisa

        ACV rinses are the best. I’ve completely eschewed traditional shampoo (even sulfate-free ones) in favor of the baking soda/ACV method!

      • Guest

        I tried ACV a couple years ago when I went completely no-shampoo, and it was (collectively) a disaster. Maybe I’ll try just the rinse again though? I already use ACV on my face as a toner so I may as well go all out with the vinegar smell.

        • Jess

          haha. yeah, that smell….i haven’t tried it as toner yet.

          i find the dirty poo method i linked below to be a nice in-between btwn regular shampoo and no poo. but its certainly more work.

        • Helen

          I’ve found a tiny pitch of citric acid dissolved in water does the same job of smoothing the cuticles, without the vinegar smell. No pickle head! Also, My miracle cure for puffing up oily, fine hair is corn starch. Dab onto dry roots, give your scalp a rub, then brush out with a boar bristle brush. Same idea as dry shampoo, without the pricetag, or the gross fragrances. I can go for three or four days between washes now. Do you also avoid conditioning/seruming your roots? I just focus on the ends and leave my natural oils to do the smoothing higher up!

  • Lisa

    These braids are gorgeous! I think I’m going to have to try it out on my hair this week… for practice…

    • As a fellow curly girl, I’d be excited to hear how the style works out for you! I am always a bit intimidated by braids because with my hair braids are a one shot deal. If I fail with a braided style, I’m stuck with a wonky half-straight, half-curly do for the rest of the day because the act of braiding my hair straightens those pieces out. I really like the look of braids, though, on a bride so I guess I should just invest some time in practicing…

      • Lisa

        My hair works in exactly the same way. I actually love trying braided styles, and I’ve found that rope braids actually stand out the best with my dark/curly hair. That doesn’t keep me from loving 3 strand ones though!

        I’m wanting to do a half-up style for my wedding to show case my curls, but I’m struggling to find something that feels “fancy” enough without being ridiculously time consuming or difficult, especially since I’ll probably be doing it myself.

        • vegankitchendiaries

          Lisa, let’s brainstorm together! :) I’m also looking for a similar hair style (lots of curls, which mr. vegankitchendiaries-to-be feels should be ‘showcased’ as you put it)

          So did you (or Christina) try this? I’m thinking of giving it a go this week…

          • Lisa

            I tried it on my own (fourth day) hair this morning! I’m probably not the best model for this since my hair is so dark, and I lack professional camera equipment to actually highlight the braids properly. (I did go in on Photoshop and lighten my hair a bit so you can see the effect better.)

            The sort-of final product!:

          • I’m aiming to try the style over the long weekend!

      • Lisa

        Hey, so I tried this out on my fourth day hair below if you want to see!

        • Lovely! Perfect amount of volume in the front. And I’m generally impressed with your fourth day hair! I’m going to try out the style soon (hopefully this weekend)!

          • Lisa

            Good luck! Let us know how it turns out!

        • vegankitchendiaries


  • Nina B

    Pretty! Has anyone tried this type of hair prep on asian hair? I’ve never used hair serum. I just put my hair up when it’s wet then it magically stays put after drying in place.

  • I’m with you right up until you say to secure the whole thing with bobby pins.

    I don’t trust those things. How do I put them in so that we can have a more trusting relationship? What’s the secret to getting them to stay?

    • Helen

      It’s about not asking too much of each pin. Bobby pins fall out when they’re trying to hold too much hair. If you watch how hairdressers do it, they don’t stretch the sides of the pin apart. They also sort of weave the pin through the hair in the wrong direction, then switch it back on itself for a really strong hold.

    • Lisa

      I actually found this tutorial rather helpful!

  • The hairstyle is awesome and all, but I am really jazzed about the model’s greys. I keep wondering if I “need” to dye my hair since I’ve got some noticeable greys in pretty much the same spot. Answer? Nope!

    • vegankitchendiaries

      Is it legit tho? I’d convinced myself this was fashionable faux-grey! All my greys look like they are made of wire and spring out of my head Emmet Brown stylies…

  • Alyssa M

    More more more of these! My best woman is doing my hair and I LOVE braids. :)


  • Mel Stevens

    If you’re looking for a curling iron or wand to get this hair style, there’s one brand I highly recommend: the karmin clipless curling iron. It’s more like a curling wand, and it makes the most awesome curls ever, which last all day. Make sure you always use a heat protectant before you curl though!

  • raspberrycake

    Thank you, thank you for this! This is exactly what I wanted and couldn’t find before now! It’s a bit daunting having to do my own hair for my wedding, but I’m going to try this out and see if it works for me. It also looks like I have a similar hair type as the model so I’m really hopeful!

    Also, side note, I love that the model has grays (in the exact spot as me) and she looks absolutely beautiful. It’s one of the first time’s I’ve seen someone else whose hair looks like mine, and the fact that she’s so stunning makes me feel a bit better about myself as well ;)

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