APW Basics: How To Find Makeup And Hair Stylists For Your Wedding

Hair and makeup, minus the crazy

I did my own makeup for our wedding, and I had a friend do my hair. It turned out beautifully, and I don’t regret it for a second, but it wasn’t exactly my first choice. So, today is all about helping you figure out how to find a hair stylist for your wedding.

There is nothing I love more than getting my hair done (full roll and set? Yes please!), and getting my makeup professionally done is like Christmas. So I set my mind to finding a stylist. The trouble is, I had several hurdles. Money was tight, I didn’t want a crazy wedding industry vibe happening while I got ready, and our morning wedding meant that someone would have to come to me at about 7AM. Plus, I had no idea what I was doing.

I asked my hairstylist for a recommendation. He suggested someone in his salon who seemed cool, and quoted me about $300 for my hair and makeup. It felt like a stretch at the time, but worth it. I told her yes. She emailed me a week later to say she’d checked with some friends who’d done weddings before, and she needed to adjust her quote. To $800. For just me. I cried, told her no thanks, and gave up. And cried again, because WHAT THE HELL?

All these years later, I want better for you guys. We produce a ton of hair and makeup tutorials, specifically so that those of you doing your own looks will feel confident and look hot. But I also want to give you the info I desperately wished I’d had on how to find a bang up stylist. I interviewed APW’s resident hairstylist Yesenia Guinea of Smoke and Mirrors Salon in San Francisco to find out all the things I wished I’d known. (Other than, hire Yesenia, she’s the best. But maybe you’re not in the Bay Area. Or maybe she’s booked. In which case, read on…)

1.A Free consultation, then a paid trial. We hear a lot about the paid wedding hair and makeup trial. You get your hair done up, then you go out to dinner. (In my case, you go over to a friend’s apartment, have her do your hair, put on the makeup you bought after the free Sephora consult, get tipsy on white wine, and then both go meet your fiancé a the divey-est indian place in the Tenderloin.) That’s fun and important, but it shouldn’t be the first step. If you don’t already know your stylist, they should have you come into their salon (or meet you for coffee if they’re freelance) and spend ten minutes looking at your hair, talking about your wedding, and giving you their best advice. If you two feel like a fit, then you book a paid trial. If you don’t, you move on, no harm no foul. A free consultation is industry standard, and more than that, industry advised.

2.

Find a Price That Makes you Feel comfortable. Yesenia’s most basic advice is this: the amount you spend on a stylist should never make you feel uncomfortable. There are stylists at almost every price point, with the more expensive ones being more experienced. So if an amount you’re quoted doesn’t work for you, keep looking (and never feel shamed into thinking DIYing your hair and makeup isn’t an option).

3. Travel Pricing. For me to not feel ripped off—particularly in the wedding industry—I always need to have unbiased information on what to expect. Here was Yesenia’s break down. If you need a stylist to come to you (early morning wedding, remote wedding, you’d just prefer it that way) expect to pay as much as double their normal in salon price, plus mileage for the stylist. As a business owner, my advice is this: instead of thinking of it as a huge markup, think of the price you get in-salon as a markdown because all the overhead and logistics and travel are otherwise taken care of.

4. The Bride’s hair is more expensive (but probably not for the reason you think). If you’re looking to get your ladies’ hair done, expect bridesmaids, moms, and other loved-ones hair to be priced at about half what your hair costs. This isn’t a random bridal markup, this is because the stylist is going to spend more time and care on your hair than on anyone else’s. Yes, that’s because she wants to make it as perfect as she can for you (because damn it, it’s your wedding day). But it’s also because she’s going to invest time in making sure you feel emotionally taken care of. If you’re not feeling your hair, she’s going to change it, or start over, or do what it takes. (Editor’s note. I said, “Oh, I’m sure the bride is usually the most emotionally draining person of the bunch to work with anyway.” And Yesenia gives me a blank, jaded look and said, “Try the bridesmaids.”)

5. Not pushy. More like Loving. I often point out that you spend a ton of time on your wedding day with your photographer, and they should really be someone you like. The same holds for your stylist. You spend less time with them, but they’re running the show while you get ready, and get centered. They should be someone who makes you feel comfortable, cared for, and confident. Yesenia emphasized that they should be informed, but not pushy. You’re looking for someone who can give you professional advice. “I think this or this would look great. I’ll do that if you want it, but here are my reservations about that style,” is far more helpful than, “I’ll do whatever you want.” But they should never force their opinions on you. If you say you don’t like something, they should immediately respond, and try to find something you do love. And on the day of, as they’re doing your hair, they should tell you what they’re doing each step of the way, letting you watch, and ask questions and suggest changes as needed. You know the TV makeover shows where they do your hair and then turn you around for the big reveal? Fun on TV, but terrifying on your wedding day. On your wedding day you should feel informed and empowered. And pretty as shit.

And finally. I’ve run that “$300, no $800” quote past several stylist friends now. Every single one of them has looked horrified. Not just at the $800-for-just-me thing (though they seem displeased with that as well), but mostly at the fact that someone tried to change their price, once they’d quoted me. That, apparently, is not professional behavior. So if it happens to you, skip the crying, and go straight to “next, please.”

What have you learned about hiring a wedding stylist or DIYing your hair and makeup? What did you get right? What mistakes do you want to save someone else from? Dish.

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