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.


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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  • Caroline

    What my mom did for her wedding, and I’m doing for mine, is going to the stylist and having her teach a simple style. The stylist taught me how to do my mom’s hair and I’ll have them teach my mom. I think it was probably more than the usual paid trial, because it took longer to show ny unskilled hands how to do it but still saved money over having someone come to us on the day of. It was also really fun.

    • vegankitchendiaries

      This is a crazy legit good idea.

    • MG

      Such a good idea!

  • JSwen

    I got a hair cut with a new stylist to see how she handled my hair before ponying up for a paid trial. She cut it well and did a great blow-out, so I’m much more comfortable with her now.

    • Eh

      That’s great advice! I have a thing about my hair. I had a bad experience as a child and I didn’t get my hair cut for years. Then I had another bad experience when I was 19 and that was it – I didn’t let people cut my hair. My sister had just started a hairstyling apprenticeship and for years she was the only person I let cut my hair (even as an apprentice I trusted her since she knew what I didn’t like). Then I moved (but she cut my hair when I came home) and then she moved further away so I had to find someone else. My dad was coming to visit and I NEEDED my hair cut so I called around and got a last minute appointment. She did an awesome job and five years later I am still seeing her. My sister did my hair for my wedding but if she couldn’t do my hair I would have had my regular stylist.

  • emmers

    Thanks for this piece! It’s perfect timing, because that’s one of the things i”m doing next.
    It also really helps that Meg, who seems really cool, cried over things like hair and makeup being wicked expensive. Because I’ve definitely cried over various things in the wedding planning process. It’s nice to know others are hit by things like chairs being more expensive than you thought.

    • scw

      lol, let’s talk about how I actually and earnestly used the words “the wedding is ruined” when I realized that FH’s new transition lenses weren’t going to work for our wedding photos (which, at that point, were 14 months away). yeah, backup glasses aren’t a thing, the wedding is ruined. totally reasonable response.

    • Meg Keene

      OMG. I cried so much during wedding planning. I can’t even. I have a post later this week about some of the worst of it. To be honest, it was not a great time.

      • emmers

        It’s nice knowing that this is normal. When I drove away from what I think will be our venue this weekend, I felt excited, for one of the first times. And I was like, wow, it feels so great to feel excited instead of stressed out about this wedding!

      • ART

        I cannot believe how much I’ve cried during wedding planning, and I am already a crier.

      • SO MANY UGLY TEARS. Some of it totally legit, over really hard issues that needed the time and effort I invested. What to do with our names, and why? Or hurt feelings from the friends who told us they weren’t coming, a week before the wedding, because it was too far (it was 10 minutes by cab, 20 by subway) and told us in the next breath they were going to another friend’s wedding in Jamaica in a month.

        But some of it was so silly. At the time I know how silly it was, but the sobbing came anyway. Being married is way more enjoyable than wedding planning!

        • Meg Keene

          Honestly, the further away from it I get, the more I realize that most of the tears were really legit. Most of them that seemed silly were about way bigger issues that I just didn’t understand I was dealing with. Family stuff, interpersonal stuff, stuff that felt stressful but I couldn’t put my finger on why. It was just… a lot to deal with at once. And I think that’s pretty normal.

          And yeah. Nothing like the friends not coming for no good reason. Just, nothing like it.

      • I have cried so much during wedding planning, it’s unreal. It is the most stressful thing I have ever done. I’m three weeks out and finally starting to feel excited because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel… marriage. Thank goodness!!

        • Lawyerette510

          I’ve been crying so much as well. I think some of it is planning, but then also some of it is just the emotional journey of the transition of being engaged and going from “single” and “so-and-so’s kid” to “married” and “FH’s wife”. That said, now I’m here in the last week (7 days from right now) and the tears have stopped (for now).

  • Laura C

    The problem for me is that hands down the worst part of wedding planning is having to talk to prospective vendors. I hate it so much.

    Anyway, I did a trial with a person who would have come to us and then I decided instead to go to a salon. Figured Aveda was a solid bet, looked at Yelp reviews of the Aveda places in the area, and chose the one with the second-best reviews (because the first-best reviews on was nearly twice the cost). Then I had a bridesmaid call to make the appointments because, again, I hate that stuff. We’ll see how it turns out, but honestly it would have to be pretty bad for me to feel like making a whole bunch of phone calls and having long conversations with strangers about my hair and makeup would have been worth it.

  • I asked on Twitter about hair & makeup options for my remote-ish wedding and ended up hiring one of my tweeps (who is also a legit stylist at the Aveda salon I already go to, just not [previously] MY stylist). She’s coming to me for the cost of her regular day wages: $160.

    We’re not having a bridal party, so I get my hair & face done conveniently on-site, and she gets paid a full day’s work to do one head and some travel, and has the rest of the day off. Win/win!

  • Figuring out hair and makeup for my morning wedding (in a super small town, no less) was actually really challenging! While I did end up paying extra for the early morning and the traveling, here are some of the things that helped me:

    1. I got my hair done by my trusted stylist a week in advance (I know my hair and I know how long it takes my hair to “settle” after a styling) and then just scheduled time with the wedding hair stylist to do touch-ups the morning of. I am so, so glad I made this decision. Having my hair stylist travel from Houston was going to be crazy expensive and just not necessary for what I wanted done. If you are thinking about doing your hair yourself, consider booking 30 minutes with the stylist doing your bridesmaids’ hair so she can fix anything you missed and add that professional touch.
    2. I had my makeup trial the day before the wedding, so I had nice makeup for my rehearsal/rehearsal dinner, and didn’t have to make a separate trip to Austin for it.
    3. Arranged to have the makeup artist do partial applications for bridesmaids — they could choose two of the following: eyes, lashes, lips, or cheeks. Then they did everything else themselves. Since it was a morning wedding, no one needed crazy amounts of makeup and they were all comfortable doing the rest themselves. Since eyes and lashes have big impact, we got more bang for our buck. This saved money but also TIME, as we didn’t want to be getting up at 4 AM.
    4. Used YELP. I found Yelp way more helpful for finding hair/makeup than Google or wedding blogs.

    • Grace

      Yelp! Why didn’t I think of that? Weddingwire was mostly just so discouraging…the first place on the Yelp results though, looks fantastic. Magic.

    • MG

      Yelp is a GREAT source. I get probably 75% of my bridal clients through Yelp. And the other 25% through past client referrals or from fellow artists who are already booked on that person’s date.

  • It was really difficult for me to find a stylist for wedding day hair and make up because we were married on a Sunday in Lancaster, which apparently means every salon (of which there are 3) is closed or fabulously overpriced. I ended up randomly finding a freelance hair and make-up artist online who came to the hotel with her assistant. She charged $50 for non-bride hair or make-up, and my trials and hair/make-up for the wedding day was $250. She was amazing and I was so glad that I found her because otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done! I definitely didn’t think about how difficult it would be to find someone, but I guess having it on a “non-traditional” day in a smaller town can make that problematic!

  • DC Bride

    Again, APW, your timing is so apt. Our wedding is still 5 months away, but my latest struggle had been hair/make-up vendor selection. I have no attendants, but two moms and a future sister-in-law who want some styling “help.” There appeared to be NO reasonable options for our little party in expensive DC, until I happened upon a blow-dry bar via a coupon. It was the perfect solution – these girls are trained to make you look event-ready – and for the cost of what I alone as the bride was quoted from other vendors, I’m able to rent the entire salon and bring along 7 other people for blow-outs. Granted, up-dos are a small surcharge and make-up is separate, but this totally solved my hair problem. Not to mention the $20 spent on the coupon was my own trial of their service and they blew me away (pun intended). Highly recommend!

  • That changing the rate business is nonsense! There were definitely times when I was starting out when I quoted people prices that were well below what I was worth and below the standard. But once I quoted someone, I certainly didn’t change it!!!

    For those in the NYC area, Anni Bruno of NYC faces did an incredible job on my wedding makeup. (And she came the day after hurricane Sandy when a lot of other people would cancel!!!) I have pretty bad acne, and she made me feel pretty without making me feel like I was spending an exorbitant amount of cash!


  • Kayjayoh

    I wonder if 300/800 stylist started kicking herself for listening to her friends and losing a $300 gig.

  • Anna

    Anyone have tips for hair/makeup at a destination wedding? I really want to have both professionally done, but my sister is freaking me out with how she thinks the make-up will be way too much since I won’t really have a chance to have a trial. I mean, I plan on taking pictures with me of the sort of thing I want, but is it crazy to just have someone do my hair who I’ve never met before? It would be the salon in the hotel where we’re having the wedding.

    • JSwen

      I would say that you should leave a ton of time between the appointment and the rest of your day so you won’t freak out if you decide, “nope, I look like a clown. do it over,” and have to wash your face.

      • swarmofbees

        Agreed. My mother had a hair debacle at her wedding 40 years ago, and rewashed her hair and did it herself. The pictures look gorgeous, but she did spend a while lying in bed with cucumbers on her eyes to deal with the puffy post-crying eyes. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I also booked with a stylist I have never been to before for my wedding. It is just what works for our wedding.

    • AG

      I had an out of town wedding and did my trial when we got in town, two days before the wedding. I understand that it’s not an option for everyone, but it was helpful to have. If you really can’t swing a trial, maybe schedule a phone consult with the stylist? And the day of, just give yourself some time, try not to stress, and remember that if their first try isn’t great, you can still fix it. I didn’t love my makeup after my trial, but was too embarrassed to say anything (I also felt like she was the expert and maybe I was wrong). On my wedding day, I told her I wanted something slightly more natural than we’d done at the trial, she totally understood and I was THRILLED with the results. So whether you manage to have a trial or not, remember that it’s OK if you’re not thrilled with her first effort, but it is worth it to try and articulate what it is you really want. Maybe even bring a trusted friend to help stick up for you.

      • Anna

        I think that’s what I’ll do, thanks! We arrive a couple of days before the wedding so there should be time for that. And we’ve got fewer people coming than expected so we have a little room in the budget!

  • Eh

    The biggest challenge I had when finding someone to do makeup was that I was getting married in a small town (where I didn’t live and didn’t know any of the vendors). I looked online and found three places. I didn’t know much about any of them and my friends/inlaws didn’t either. I contacted all three. Two were out of town (5 to 15 minutes) and would not do makeup at our venue (I got married in a theatre and was using the dressing room to get ready). The one in town would come to our venue so after asking her lots of questions about the products she uses (I have sensitive skin) I had her do a trial. I ended up going with her since she did a good job (she listened to me which is really important – I don’t where a lot of make-up and I wanted my make up to look natural). In the end it turns out that she used to work with my husband’s cousin at a salon (before she opened her own business).

  • MisterEHolmes

    I wish I had had this months ago. Instead I defaulted to my normal hairdresser, who is a great guy and is marvelous at the “everyday cut” but it turns out he really doesn’t have a lot of experience with updos. So when I went to the trial, it turns out…he doesn’t do braids. At all. And all the ideas I had were for braids. Crushing blow 6 weeks before the wedding.
    We settled on something else that will be just as pretty, but last week had an awful moment where I thought he was quitting on me…really he was trying to be nice in case I had another stylist who COULD do braided updos, but my stress-brain read that as “go find someone else with only a few weeks left” and completely panicked me. I wish I’d known ballpark prices and how to go about it from the beginning!

  • C_Gold

    This is excellent! I was just wondering how to go about this sort of thing. Here’s my question: I’m getting married in March 2015. What should the hair-and-makeup timeline be? When should I ask a potential stylist for a consultation? For the paid trial? Etc. Any advice?

    • Elisabeth

      I don’t know what the right time is, but I left it to 8 weeks ahead of time. THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH TIME. How I wish I’d found the right person and met up with them months earlier, just to check it off my list, and then maybe done the trial three months out when my dress was settled!

      • C_Gold

        Would I be an insane person to find a stylist this summer? I have more time in the summers (I’m a professor) but honestly it’s just that I’m SO EXCITED and want to do wedding stuff.

        • pumpkinpicker

          If you can nail down wedding stuff early DO IT.
          I did a bunch of wedding stuff early and thought I could take a bit of a break… now I’m realizing I still have a TONNE of stuff to do. I couldnt imagine where I’d be if I wasn’t as proactive as I was.

          • C_Gold

            Oooo, good point. I am rarely on top of things, and if I can give myself any advantage with preparation for the wedding, I should take it.

    • Meg Keene

      I don’t think doing it a few months (hell, six months) out is a problem. That way you can book a person you love before someone else does. I mean, not that you HAVE to book it months and months out, but you can if you want!

      • C_Gold

        Excellent! I can justify it, then!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      If you don’t usually wear makeup, try to have some sort of trial under weather conditions like you expect for your wedding. It doesn’t have to be an official trial, just some other day when you wear the same amount of makeup so you know how it feels in the heat, wind, whatever.

      • C_Gold

        Ooo, good point. Although given that it’s a wedding in March in Wisconsin, I’m guessing the weather conditions will be “indoors.” :)

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I’m only chiming in to say I have NEVER EVER heard of $800 for wedding hair and makeup for just the bride ANYWHERE. NEVER! And reading that pisses me off because I feel like she was price gauging bc some people told her she could probably charge more due to the fact that it’s a wedding.

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah. It was… nuts.

  • pumpkinpicker

    I’m so happy I have the kind of relationship with my stylist that she had blocked out the morning of my wedding before I even though to ask. This woman has taken me from thigh length hair to a pixie (to a mohawk, to platinum, to candyfloss pink etc etc) and I couldn’t imagine trusting my hair to anyone else.

    Makeup however… there’s another story. My brother unexpectedly broke up with his (semi pro makeup artist) girlfriend of ten years in December (who had agreed to do my makeup) and I’ve dreading the search. I have an odd skin tone and am pretty good with makeup so I have a feeling I’ll be dropping some serious cash on multiple trials. I’d do it myself but I think I’d cause myself undue stress being too much of a perfectionist.

    • Meg Keene

      You’re lucky your stylist does… styles. Mine is mostly a colorist, and while he can blow my hair out, obviously, special event hair is not his jam.

      • pumpkinpicker

        I am incredibly lucky to have found her and believe me I throw her as much business as I can… even though it makes it that much harder for me to get appointments *laughs*
        Anyone who needs a stylist in Western Suffolk, NY drop me a line, I got a lady!

  • LM

    I did trials with two hair people. I liked both but hired the person who surprised me with what she could do with my very-fine-not-super-long hair. I liked the other woman personally, but she kept noting that my hair was fine and how it limited what she could do, and I didn’t feel the need to apologize for how my hair grows.

    To find my hair and make up people, I looked a list our venue gave us of people they often worked with. I also looked at photos on our venue’s website, which had featured weddings with vendors listed. When I found brides with hair or makeup that I liked, I looked at the vendors and got in touch.

  • The stylist who did my hair/updo for my engagement party last November (see avatar/profile picture) is the one who will be doing my hair for my wedding. She works at the salon I go to to get my hair cut and was highly recommended among the other stylists. She did a great job on my hair for the engagement party and was more than happy to do my hair/makeup for the wedding. It is fairly inexpensive — only about $140 for hair and makeup. I am not having a trial, however. That costs extra. Last time, I showed her a picture of what I wanted and she did a fantastic job recreating it, so that’s what I’m doing this time and I have high hopes that it will work out all right. I’m going with more natural makeup for the wedding, and I’m just going to put all my faith in this woman’s ability to work magic.

    It helps that I’ve used her before, otherwise a trial would definitely be in order!

  • Amy March

    Any thoughts on the value of experience, education, salon affiliation v independent, one person for hair and make up or separate, importance of online reviews, portfolios etc? I feel like I need so much more info on how to actually find someone skilled instead of someone I like.

    • Meg Keene

      I think experience is great, if you can afford an experienced stylist. In my opinion that’s way more important than asking about their education (IE, I don’t care how they learned it, or if they learned it on the job, just that they can do it.) If you’re getting someone experienced, they should have a solid portfolio and good yelp reviews (maybe not pertaining to weddings, but just as a professional). At the end of the day, finding someone skilled is a matter of both looking at their reviews, and seeing if you like what they do with your hair. It’s one of those areas of wedding planning that’s easy to overthink, and what really matters is if you like how they do you hair, full stop.

      I think hair and makeup separate or together just depends who you find. We work with two teams regularly here. One (Yesenia and Nikol Elaine, not affiliated, but we work with them together a lot) who each do hair and makeup respectively. Another (Shana of Fox and Doll) who does both. I honestly have no preference. They’re both kick ass teams to work with.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Other comments are making me realize that if there are any scheduling issues (like needing a very early appointment), it probably helps to choose someone who has the authority to open the salon just for you. That could mean any number of business relationships between the stylist and the salon, though.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I think a post on communicating with your stylist would be helpful. Maybe a glossary of key terms.

    I’d never had professional hair or makeup before my wedding. The beauty magazines said to bring pictures, so I did, both “I like this” and “I don’t like this,” but they were dismissed. [I probably had not-great vendors, which is what this post is about.] Then, after my hair trial, I felt silly when I couldn’t describe what I didn’t like. (something about “fullness”) Also, more than the color or style of the makeup, staying power over my oily skin was important to me. I didn’t feel like I ever got an opportunity to say that. Again, I’m sure consultations would have helped here, but I spent the weekend reading about “how to talk to your doctor about your under-diagnosed and mis-diagnosed condition,” and I feel more lost talking to a stylist than I ever felt in the doctor’s office.

    • Kirstin

      Yes! Totally agree. I took a bunch of pictures to my makeup trial and said I want to look like this. I got some “Eh, I wouldn’t do that for a wedding” comments. My initial makeup looked totally different and not just because it was my face and not the picture. I may not know a lot of makeup terms, but when I told you I want simple natural eye shadow and a small cat eye eyeliner look, when you come back at me with dark heavy smoky eye makeup, I know that those aren’t the same thing. All I could say was “Too much.” We got closer to what I wanted, but it was still a really frustrating experience. I also probably shouldn’t have had to tell her to use primer, to use more concealer under my eyes, and a number of other things that she’s supposed to be the expert on. Thankfully I have a friend who knows makeup who gave me good notes to take back for the actual day of.

    • alexa

      I would really appreciate a glossary or guide to hair and make up!

  • Jane

    I have a guess as to why that stylist changed her rate to $800: she heard that doing wedding hair/makeup is one of the most stressful and thankless jobs in the business and decided she didn’t want any part of it, after all. It was an ungracious way of saying thanks, but no thanks, once she found out what wedding hair/makeup often entails. I have a theory that stylists who specialize in weddings charge an arm and a leg because weddings are such a headache–brides and bridesmaids have out of control expectations because of the nature of the event. When I called around to salons to ask for normal, everyday hairstylists who might be interested in doing my hair for my wedding, almost everyone balked.

    For my wedding, I couldn’t stomach the high prices ($250 for the bride plus $100 travel fee) of the professional wedding hair/makeup people in Hawaii, which is where I live and where I got married. Five months before the wedding, I asked my normal hairstylist if she would do it, but she moved unexpectedly two months before the wedding and referred me to her friend. As I said before, I called a lot of stylists at that point, to comparison shop. Nobody was interested (and I called a LOT of salons).

    The referral was pretty standoffish about doing my hair when I called, but I booked an appointment for a haircut/color with her to get a feel for her and she loosened up considerably. She said she’d done many weddings but found them so stressful she mostly avoided them at that point. She said she’d come to my site to do mine and my bridesmaids ($50 travel fee, $50 for my hair, $50 for my makeup, $35 for bridesmaids hair/makeup) because I seemed laid back.

    I kept my expectations very low and chose a style that was uncomplicated and hard to mess up. I also provided several pictures of things I DIDN’T want. I was too cheap for a trial appointment. My philosophy was that I was hiring the hair/makeup person not because I wanted these things to be fabulous/amazing, but because I didn’t want to deal with the stress of doing it myself.

    She did a good job and listened to me, which is all I wanted. I had noticed she was a good listener when she cut/colored my hair. And then I made up my mind to not get obsessive over it looking exactly the way I wanted it to in my mind. The getting ready part turned out to be one of my favorite parts of my wedding, because I was so zen the whole time. My hairstylist (I’m still going to her for cuts/color) said it was her favorite wedding ever.

    Honestly, when I look at the pictures now (on the day of I actually never even got a chance to inspect my hair/makeup–it was all such a blur), I can’t believe how nice everything looked. I love my wedding hair so much…I really lucked out. She did exactly what I wanted and avoided all the common wedding hair things that I hate. My makeup was a little stage-y for my taste, but it looks really nice in the pictures.

    The best part was that right after she finished my own hair/makeup, I somehow managed to rope my mom, who never styles her hair or wears any makeup, in for some hair/makeup help. Wow…my mom looked amazing that day and really felt good about herself.

    • JSwen

      I’m paying for my mom and future MIL to get their hair and makeup done. My fiance is totally confused as to why I would do this but your last line hits it on the head – I want the moms to look and feel amazing!

    • Toronto Makeup Artist

      Thankless indeed. I agree. No offense to the writer, but the stylist probably changed her mind and didn’t know how to get out of doing it. I only say this because I have done wedding makeup for many years and there have been times when I truly regretted accepting certain jobs and dreaded every day leading up to it. However I just had to grin and bear it, I never increased my rate after agreeing to do the job. If your reputation as a stylist is important to you this is not a good idea.

  • Where is Yesina’s shirt from? I NEED IT (you know, in a few months when I’m done growing a human).

    What I learned? I initially was thinking I would do my own hair, and not necessarily to save money (hair isn’t too pricey in our area) but because I’d been rocking this big high bun with some tease to work for a few years and I loved the way my bone structure and everything looked with it (see Hilary Duff wedding photos for what I was thinking). Well, I wore my hair like that to a fitting and hated the way it looked with my dress. So I ended up booking my hair and loving the way it turned out – instead of going out to dinner the day of my trial, I scheduled another dress fitting. So, again, I saw what my hair looked like with my dress, not my everyday clothes. If you can schedule it this way I highly recommend it!

    • Shirt

      H&M maybe two seasons ago (but don’t despair, they seem to recycle concepts often) I’m not Yesina but I have the same shirt. Like you, I stalked a stranger who was wearing it and demanded that she tell me its origins.

  • macrain

    First off- anyone know of a good hair stylist in the Charlotte, NC area?
    This has been, hands down, one of the hardest things to pull the trigger on for me. (We are planning remotely, which adds a wrench in things.) When you look at portfolios of people’s work online, it’s hard to tell what you are even looking at, since people’s tastes vary so much. I lucked out finding a makeup artist I love, both for her skills and her personality, but I’m still waffling on a hair stylist. The pictures I’ve seen are just NOT what I want at all (there is a lot of bad wedding hair out there). I’m considering going through a bigger company that has a pool of hair stylists that they send to you. That’s my back up, but I’m still holding out hope a hair stylist will come sweep me off my feet. :)

  • kippster9

    This is the best timing! I got a hair trial done last week by a lovely lady at the local salon who was willing to open up at 6:30 AM for me — and then showed it to my fiance and my mom, both of whom said that they thought I looked prettier with my normal hair. It was the first time I’d ever gotten my hair done before and I just felt… unlike me. So now I’m just planning on waking up early to do my hair myself, and will have more time to take beautiful pictures with my fiance in the arboretum where we’re getting married before the wedding.

    Moral of the story: DON’T SKIP THE TRIAL!

  • Guest

    I had this idea in my head that my wedding make-up had to be this soft, ultra-femme, type of look. I did a trial with my niece who is a pro artist and is super-amazing talented. She did a beautifu job according to what I instructed her to do. However, when my wedding day came I sat down in the chair before her I told her “I changed my mind, I want something different.” When I told her I wanted a red lip instead and big dramatic lashes she was so relieved. It really was more true to my flashy, bold style….she joked that I looked like the Hispanic Adelle. I think I agree with her!! THis was one of my favorite photos of the day when she touched me up right before the ceremony began.

    Whatever you decide to do, be true to yourself. You will feel more comfortable in your skin, and it will shine through in your photos.

    • Moe

      I made Moe-wallpaper, and can’t fix it. Sorry.

      • ART

        I enjoyed it.

  • Chelsea Baker

    I just had my trial hair and makeup session last week. It was awesome but it took a lot of work to get there. Turns out June 21 is, um, a pretty popular wedding weekend and waiting until February to book was not enough time. Most places were booked or only willing to travel outside of DC (we’re getting married about 2 hours outside the city) for a minimum of 8 people which did not fit my miniscule wedding party. I finally found someone using Wedding Wire of all places. I went to her studio and the first thing she said was “Oh, hey, you have vitiligo – me too!” At that point the angels sang and I knew this was my girl. My vitiligo doesn’t really bother me but you don’t see that represented in the WIC so having someone who is familiar and cool about it is definitely a plus for me and I super excited to work with her because of it (and also she made me look fantastic).

    • Bsquillo

      Cheers to having your wedding on June 21! That’s our date too…and the date of several other couples we’ve talked to.

    • Emily

      We’re June 21 too!! And yes, oy, the general booked-ness of all things wedding-related. We’ve ended up doing a lot of stuff DIY – and the makeup/hair plan is basically to get a tutorial on hair from my new stylist when she does my color a couple of weeks before (taking a lot of pictures), and going to one of the makeup counters at Macy’s to get a makeup tutorial and buy some fancy products. No idea how that’s going to work out yet, but I know I don’t have the budget to do professional styling the day of.

  • JSwen

    Just to share a funny make-up related story from my family:

    The morning of my parents’ wedding, my dad woke up and immediately called his best man. The night before was the bachelor party (a word of caution…) and my dad woke up with a huge blue shiner on his chin. It goes without saying that he didn’t remember how he got it. The best man’s wife rushed over to my parents’ house (my mom was staying at her parents’ house that night) and covered him up with her makeup. Luckily, they were a similar milky white shade that Wisconsin Novembers tend to produce.

    So yes, my dad wore makeup for his wedding. :)

  • shirt

    For hair, I would add don’t forget to ask your regular stylist. Mine is not a wedding stylist, but she does wedding hair for her existing clients. It kept the price super affordable and turned out well — we did my trial at the end of my previously scheduled regular haircut and she didn’t charge extra for it (though I tipped for it). To be fair, I only needed my hair done, not bridesmaids or others, so I acknowledge this won’t work for everyone.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Above, someone’s mentioning a Sunday wedding and having trouble finding a place that’s open. We hired my sister’s stylist, who opened the salon special for us early on a holiday Monday. In my neighborhood, it seems at least some salons open specially for people, judging by what I see through the windows at odd hours. I’m sure it helps if you already have a relationship with the stylist.

    • rel_redhead

      Seconded. My former hairstylist (and still my mom’s hairstylist) is actually the first person we approached, and it’s great because she’s someone who (a) already knows my hair type and what it can/cannot be made to do and (b) she’s someone that I already feel really comfortable with and whom I’ve known for a long time, so it’s not going to be potentially weird/awkward to be spending a couple of hours with her on my wedding day, and she knows enough about who I am and what my personal style is that i know she won’t try to force me into something that’s just not me.

  • Rachelle

    Can I shamelessly self-promote and hopefully give some helpful advice in the process? If you can’t/aren’t willing to drop $300+ on hair and makeup for your wedding, but still want to look extra special, check out Craigslist. People that don’t have much experience but are still pretty damn great at styling charge SIGNIFICANTLY less (ahem, $40 over here) while building up a portfolio. Definitely meet for a consult and book a trial to make sure the person can achieve the look you want, but this can be a fantastic way to go! Any Denver APW brides interested?

    • Meg Keene

      YUP. This is what Yesenia meant when she told me NO ONE should pay something they’re uncomfortable with, because there are always people out there portfolio building. Good, just less experienced.

    • Allie

      omg Denver wedding in August. interested. can you link to your craigslist ad here?

    • macrain

      That’s a great idea and something I did not think of!

    • Claire

      I’m getting married in Boulder in October, definitely interested (if you travel there?)!

      • Rachelle

        Yeah! Send me an email through the craigslist link below and we can talk about dates, travel, etc!

    • Woa, Rachelle, what about Boulder? I am in need of hair, can’t find anyone yet!!

      • Rachelle

        The craigslist link is below in a reply to Allie. I will charge a small travel fee, but would be happy to go up to Boulder!

  • Kirstin

    My biggest challenge is that we are getting married the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. So while we are in a city, no one is open that day and affordable. We are going to Ulta, which I think will be fine. Not my first choice. Not something I’m super excited about, but fine. I’m doing my own hair, and I’m keeping my makeup simple. We got to a look I liked at the trial, and I’ll have someone who can do touch ups later in the day.

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  • Aj

    I went to a make up application place – in my neighborhood there’s a place called “Blushington.” Like a blow out bar but for make up. I before our engagement pictures as a trial and then just requested the same person for my wedding day. I could have paid 2x the price for her to travel to our site and do make up there but we had enough time before our 6 PM wedding where that seemed unnecessary. For a full face of make up “photo ready” it was $50 plus tip. Not bad. Independent stylists were quoting me 3x that. I did my own hair because it’s short.

    This may be a larger city option – not sure if smaller towns have enough business to sustain a make up salon. But I live in LA so this sort of thing is probably a needed industry.

    • Meg Keene

      That’s rad. Totally a big city thing, but rad. And it makes sense. As a business owner the reason to do “bars” like that is you can move fast, lower your per-capita overhead, and slash the price vs. and independent stylist. WHATEVER you guys, business models are my passion.

      • Aj

        absolutely! plus in LA it seems like folks get their make up done just because they’re going to work that day or something…If only I could do that!

    • I live in LA too- I need to look that place up!

      • Aj

        If you go to the Blushington at Sunset Plaza, I really liked Jessica – she listened to what I wanted and checked in regularly throughout.

    • Memera

      Dallas has a Dry Bar and a Blushington in the same strip mall that happens to be a 10 min walk from my house. Our wedding is in the evening, so I’m thinking of making appointments at both for me and my bridesmaids and saving a bunch on travel costs.

      • Aj

        There is a Dry Bar next to the Blushington I went to (maybe they are owned by the same folks?) – just felt no need to pay for someone to style my 2 inch hair. However, if I had that would have been so convenient! (also I didn’t have a bridal party so I had no one else to accommodate).

    • I LOVE Blushington!

  • sheismle

    I picked a salon based on its convenient location and reasonable pricing. We’ll see how it goes. This was after a frustrating search for a team of stylists to do on-location hair and makeup for our large-ish bridal party (me plus 7…. We have a lot of sisters!). It is in hindsight, but I think on-location services make more sense for smaller groups. We were going to need either a lot of stylists (difficult to find) or a lot of time (like 5 hours) with just a couple of stylists.

    The part of finding a salon that absolutely drove me up the wall was the extra-high cost for bridal hair versus bridesmaids. I have a pixie cut, but the majority of salons and stylists that I contacted told me that I would still be charged for a bridal updo. Now, I understand that I might be getting some extra attention/care as the bride, but unless there is unicorn dust pomade involved, there is no way that $150+ worth of styling can go into my hair. So I was planning to do it myself. Turns out the salon that we are using will do mine for $35, so I’ll probably spring for it so I don’t have to think about it and can relax in the salon with my ladies. But yeah, that was annoying.

  • Am I just really naïve or is $300 for one person completely ridiculous? How on earth could it cost that much. For my prom it was like $30 max in a salon for the hair, and the going rate last time I checked for makeup was $40 a pop. Granted they have to travel, but they only travel ONCE for all of the wedding party. I am so glad that I’m good at doing my own hair and don’t need to hire someone because they is completely dumb.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      $300=$150/hour, ’cause it can easily take 2 hours. We’d generally consider a wedding photographer charging that hourly rate ($1500 for ten hours of coverage) an absolute steal. The photographer will edit the photos, usually, but both have special equipment. (Professional-grade scissors and blow-dryers can cost more than medical equipment.)

      For comparison, an up-do at DryBar costs $80, but I doubt they schedule 2 hours, or even a full hour, for those appointments.

      • You can’t possibly compare ”Medical grade” scissors and a bloody hairdryer with $15K worth of photography equipment, and the 40+ hours that they spend editing afterwards. PLEASE.

        If it’s $80 in the salon than it should be $80 on-site plus milage (which is shared between 4-8 girls). If I can do an updo in 30 minutes, and it takes you 2 hours, than something is clearly wrong. These are just more (poor) excuse that people in the wedding industry try to use to overcharge brides

        • VenusAD

          While I agree that hair styling supplies are not as expensive (a super professional pair of scissors can cost 1,000 to 2,000, though, so it’s nothing to sneeze at), you do have to factor in the fact that when a stylist is traveling to you and spending a couple hours where you are, they’re actually losing appointments they could have had at their usual location. They probably could have fit in 5-6 appointments or more in the time it takes for them to get to your wedding and do your hair.

          In my area (DMV, which is insanely expensive), I’ve seen prices ranging from 150 for bridal hair all the way up to 1,000 (I guess that lady was insanely experienced and amazing?). Mostly I see from 150 to 250, though. 800 is really ridiculous if you aren’t crazy experienced and in demand. The lady mentioned in the OP clearly had no business sense.

    • Katelyn

      There really needs to be a better way to communicate relative cost, which is why I think you’re so infuriated. A couple hundred bucks for a high-quality stylist in a major metro area is definitely the going rate for a regular cut and color, let alone special event hair and makeup. My mom, on the other hand, gets similar high-quality service for about $40 where she lives, less than a 2 hour drive away.

      I’m more than happy to pay the money. If you’re not, that’s great too. Calling their pricing “ridiculous” and the idea of hiring a professional “dumb”, though – that’s really not cool.

    • Look Outside of your box

      I completely disagree. An updo takes times to perfect and there is the artistry involved with hairdressing. Money is based on time and service. Travel can be far. Also,
      the professional is giving up their work day for your wedding.

  • Sarah McClelland

    My dad is also the man who has been doing my hair since I had enough hair to do. I’ve lucked out on this one- especially since he is insisting on trials so we have time to get weepy.

  • Gen

    Anyone have any recommendations for Sonoma County? The Powder Room comes highly recommended, but charges $450 plus a travel fee, which means it will total more than my dress.

    • Liz

      I’m on the hunt for someone in Sonoma too. So far, everything I’ve found is $400 – $800+. I’m thinking of calling local hotels and seeing if they recommend anyone.

      • Gen

        That’s a good idea!

  • otterbox520
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  • Karen

    I don’t think I’m comfortable having someone else do my hair and makeup. I really dislike the experience of sitting still in an uncomfortable position for a long time. Was just in my sister’s wedding and while the hair was awesome (yet really lengthy and uncomfortable), and the eye makeup was okay, and, I brought my own lipstick, the foundation made me look like a vampire. I think for my wedding, I’m doing my own makeup and blowing my hair dry and my mom can straighten it.

  • Sharon M.

    That $800 quote was definitely a ripoff, Meg. In Central NJ just this past March 2014, I paid $315 for myself – hair, airbrushed makeup, and false lashes – the consultation/trial was $120. My mom and MIL’s hair and makeup was $145 each. My aunt’s hair was $80, and my MOH’s makeup was $85.
    That’s not including the 10% discount I got.

  • Mango

    I had a really hard time finding a stylist and makeup artist. I was too anxious to look for someone through a salon, with their swanky interiors and fancy websites. I had good luck using Thumbtack to find someone who did a good job for my Austin wedding.

  • AG

    Maybe this is obvious, but talk to your recently married friends about who they hired! I chose my hair and makeup girls because they’d done a friend’s wedding in which I was a bridesmaid. I planned the wedding from out of town, and it was a huge relief to know that I already had experience with these women. They were actually some of the first vendors I hired. They were a bit pricier than I would have liked (though certainly not the $800 Meg was quoted), but I decided the peace of mind was worth it. I will say that, as great as these women were, they were not mind readers, and I did have to figure out how to speak up for myself. A good stylist will listen to you and make changes as necessary, but it was up to give them a bit more direction than simply “a prettier version of myself” (which was my original plan).

  • Emilie

    Does anybody have any wisdom on how to decide what would give you most wedding zen? Outsourcing or DIY/T? I actually really enjoy playing with makeup. And am decent enough at hair to make something good happen. (All I want is an old school bun, and am having trouble justifying paying $50 for the same DO I did for my high school homecoming). It’s just really hard for me to KNOW how I’ll be feeling that morning. Will my hair and makeup be a nice task oriented activity that keeps me sane? Or cause total melt down?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I personally believe that weddings are like a lot of big, emotionally-charged, formal events, only bigger (usually). That was also my experience. Some advice on deciding:
      1. Use your engagement photos as a trial run (not necessarily as the formal trials this article is about, but to gauge your feelings). I did my own hair and makeup for my engagement photos, and learned: I need a lot of extra time to do my makeup if I want it to be perfect; my concealer was all wrong; but I could be content with a look I did myself(except for the yellow raccoon eyes from the bad concealer, of course).
      2. Have a formal trial or 2, and gauge your feelings. Best is to schedule your trials before some event like a girls’ night out. Are you stressed about time? Stressed making chit-chat with the stylist? [Totally ok to not be the type to make friends easily with people you’re paying, no matter how friendly those professionals are.] Glad to not worry about dropping lipstick all over your dress?

      3. Also seize opportunities pre-wedding to have trial runs of DIY, especially if you hired professionals for the engagement photos. Because I was leaning towards doing my own makeup, I used every shower, every lunch with my in-laws, etc. to practice. By my wedding day, I had the right products, knew how much time I’d need, and had a lot of feedback on my “look.”

  • Bsquillo

    I didn’t have a whole lot of success searching “bridal hair stylist” on the web- everyone I found charged outrageous prices, or was already booked, or wasn’t conveniently located. I finally had the bright idea to just do a Yelp search of salons near our venue, and happened to find a stylist at one of them who does bridal updos. I had a trial with her and she was patient, a good listener, and came up with an amazing style. The trial and day-of cost just $55 each…I feel like I won the wedding hair lottery. And since she works in a salon, it was easy to book four appointments with other stylists for the day-of for the mothers and bridesmaids.

    • Elizabeth

      The fact that this is possible makes me feel so much better. I was literally crying 30 minutes ago because I opened an email from a prospective hair stylist who basically said “Hello. That will be $600 please.” That is more than my dress budget.

  • Toronto Makeup Artist

    I am a Toronto based makeup artist and team up regularly with a hairdresser for wedding makeup. We both have over a decade of experience and have done parties of up to 13 people, often starting in the middle of the night to accommodate early ceremonies with large bridal parties.

    To give you an idea of what an average price is here in Toronto, each of us charge about $75/person for parties of 5 or more. Lashes and mileage are extra. The trial is $75 each for hair and makeup. We don’t charge extra for the bride or early starts.

    This is not unusual, we are competitive with many other stylists working in the GTA. Some charge a bit more, but anyone charging $500+ for the bride probably isn’t working very often. In fact, a lot of people complain that we are too expensive. With that, kindly please keep the following in mind:

    1. Cosmetics are expensive and must be replaced and updated regularly
    2. We travel to you on your wedding day, often in the middle of the night
    3. An insured reliable and well maintained, fueled vehicle is required
    4. As independent contractors, there is very little room for negotiating price
    5. We often pay referral fees of up to 20% of the base price just to be put in touch with you
    6. We care about the end result; we WANT you to be happy and love how you look

  • Jenni

    I’m a day late, but does anyone have suggestions for if you can’t arrange for a trial? Did anyone hire a hair stylist without a trial? The wedding is in another state, and I don’t think I can justify the plane ticket just to test hair stylists. Maybe I should Skype with a few and just go with the friendliest one …

    • Rachelle

      I did the same thing and decided to forego the trial… Bad idea. She was about 15 minutes late, and did basically the complete opposite of what I wanted. It looked good enough, but definitely not what I was going for. I would say do a trial as soon as you get into town before the wedding, even if it’s the day before. That way you have ttime to re-do it if it’s not what you were expecting and don’t have to stress about it on your wedding day!

    • Jenni, Are you heading to your wedding location at all before the wedding? Hopefully, you can schedule it at the same time as your tasting or some other essential wedding task. I wouldn’t skip the trial. It’s so important to have great communication with your stylist. You could even do it the week-of your wedding!

  • MG

    Great post! I just want to chime in on cost. As a pro freelance makeup artist in NYC, I have to mention rates are going to be relative to where you live. I charge more here than I did when I was based in Southern California. Because everything costs more here! I’d do makeup for free if I could. But as business owners, any artist has to factor in they are are their own employer, employee, secretary, payroll, HR, insurance carrier, 401k, sick days, inventory replenishment, education and training, etc etc. I have a hard time reminding myself of this until every year at tax time when I owe thousands of dollars to the government. I do have to disagree that a free consultation before a paid trial is standard. I am happy to email, chat on the phone, or even skype before someone wants to book a trial. But I work in other industries too, and frankly don’t have time to meet for a consultation over coffee. I can see how this might be different for someone working out of a salon, because clients can swing by I guess. But no artist I know here or when I was in San Diego, does a free in-person consultation. Maybe it’s different elsewhere! :)

    Also, any good hair stylist/makeup artist you hire for your big day is available to you any time via email or phone. I have some brides who book immediately and I don’t hear from them until we confirm trial date/time, or after the trial don’t talk to again until I get in touch the week before with tips and tricks for the last few days and timelines, confirmation of info, etc. But I have others who I speak to almost weekly. They need more from me. I am a constant source of reassurance, calm, inspiration, and guidance to my clients. And I love every minute of it. But every time I answer an email or am putting together timelines, adjusting schedules because Aunt SoAndSo decided she does want to have hers done afterall, etc I am working. So it might feel like you are paying a ton of money for just “makeup on your wedding day” but trust that your pro you hired is constantly working behind the scenes to be worth every cent you are paying. :)

    I aim to provide an exceptional experience to my clients, but especially in this city, it IS a luxury service. I am hauling lbs of stuff on the subway, up and down stairs, often in snow in winter or in 100 humidity in summer. But I do it because I love helping someone feel the most amazing they ever have on one of the most special days of their life.

    And a tip for those who want the experience of a hair or makeup artist, but can’t fit it in their budget (I’m newly engaged so I have a brand new understanding and sympathy for my clients and their budgets), look into hiring someone whose work you like for a lesson. I have had plenty of clients who have booked makeup lessons for me to show them step by step how to create their look, for them to do on themselves for their wedding day. :)


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