How To: Pastel Makeup For Your Wedding

Powder blue eyeshadow need not apply

We can all agree that we’re having a nineties moment right now, right? I’m not just sitting here in my neon top like a weirdo for no reason? (Y’all, neon green is my color.) Which means that when it came time for our newest hair and makeup series, we wanted to try something a little more now. Before you run away, we fully acknowledge that a lot of our readers probably lived through the horror show of the pastels of the early nineties. Done right, this trend (and tutorial) is not that. Rather, we’ve asked Nikol Elaine, our resident expert in trendy makeup that won’t embarrass you, to lay down some rules of the road, so you don’t end up in a floral bag dress with a scrunchy hat and baby blue eyeliner with your crunchy curled up bangs, wondering at what point you lost the plot.

Before we get into the tutorial, let’s break down Nikol’s basic guidelines for pastel makeup. First, if you’re looking at this tutorial and thinking EFF TO THE NO, that’s totally fine. This tutorial is best for folks who already spend ten minutes or more on their everyday face and think a fun Friday is heading to Rite Aid to buy a pile of the newest crazy products and then taking them home for a night of playing around (followed by a morning of returning what you hate). In short: proceed if your mantra is Your Wedding Is Not Timeless.

Now for Nikol’s rules:

  • NO PASTEL MASCARA. I know, it seemed cool that one time in 1991. Let’s just consider that mountain already climbed, and leave it at that.
  • Stay away from pastel brows, even though it shows up on Pinterest. Unless you’re an extra from a Capitol scene in Catching Fire, in which case go crazy.
  • Start with monochromatic. If you want to play around with the trend, but are looking for a more toned down romantic look, you can use pale pink to a smashingly hip effect. If you prefer super bright, go for it! But you don’t need to be mixing all the colors.
  • For a slightly more advanced or modern look, play with two pastel colors. But probably not more than two.
  • To keep this trend looking of the moment (and avoid backsliding into Blossom), make pastels the statement piece of your look, not your whole look. Tone down pastel eye shadow with a heavy black lash and a nude lip. Throw in a pastel eyeliner and a matte pastel lip, on an otherwise normal face.

As for Meg’s specific look above, the hard part is picking which colors you like and being willing to play around a little before you find what works. (Staff secret: Meg loved wearing lavender, but when we put this green on her, she asked why Kermit was on her face, while I kept jumping up and down screaming YOU ARE SO FIERCE. YOU LOOK LIKE 60s BARBIE. So. Your mileage will vary. You’re not going to love everything.) After that, the actual steps are cake:

1. Coat your whole lid with eyeshadow primer, up to the brow. Nikol recommends using your ring finger because it is the weakest of your fingers and will be gentlest on the eye.
2. Apply shadow loosely to your lid with a flat brush. You’ll want to put this on immediately after primer, so that the primer is still a little sticky.
3. Next comes what Nikol calls your “best friend color.” This is a shade that is two-to-three shades darker than your skintone, and if you don’t already have it in your arsenal, you should, because it’s what you use to contour your eye (a.k.a. make the shadows deeper and colors pop). Using a puffy brush and very light pressure, apply the best friend color into your crease using small “O”-shaped strokes, starting at the outside corner of your eye.
4. Now for liner. It should be high-contrast, like a black cream. Use an angled brush right at the lash line, starting at outside corner of your lid and moving to the inside.
5. Add a little bit of best friend color as your bottom liner, with a bigger flat brush. This will keep the look softer.
6. Curl and mascara your lashes.

We recommend this tutorial with a sleepover and reruns of Full House. Unfortunately, The Row‘s fall collection is not included.


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  • Caroline

    This made me realize that the reason I’m scared of eyeshadow is because my eyeshadow use never matured past 8th grade. I know that some sort of muddled blue-green swath is not what I’m going for, but I didn’t realize there were other eye makeup options besides unnatural pastels or a cat-eye (which I do like). So while I think this tutorial is not for me, thank you for it, because now I’m going to research what other options exist! (Who knew, there were eye makeup options beyond the 90’s!)

    • Meg Keene

      HAAAAA. Yeah, I normally wear barely there blush eyeshadow, and super smudged up eyeliner in a navy or really deep purple or something. (IE, off black, not a hard line.)

    • This is me, too–when I think of myself wearing eyeshadow, I immediately see fourteen year-old me with unnaturally violet lids. This seriously looks amazing (and easy!) so now I have another beauty product at which to throw my money when I go to CVS.

  • Lawyerette510

    Meg, you have achieved total eyebrow perfection!

    • Meg Keene

      Aw, thank you. I can’t really take that as a complement like I did anything. Those are just how they come, with a little shaping.

    • JDrives

      I was JUST going to comment on this! Gorgeous brows, Meg!

  • Margi

    Nikol, please tell me more about this “best friend color.” Thank you.

    • Nikol Elaine

      Hi Margi, I take into consideration a few things with a “BF color”
      1- notice my pic (above) and check out “soft brown” by MAC cosmetics
      this is a color that is about 2 shades darker than my skin tone
      2- always matte (no shimmer or glitter)
      3- warm in tone so that it can be used to almost ‘erase’ the jagged edges of eyeshadow placed on the eye lid.. this “BF color” is a great buffer or blending agent to create softness on the crease of the eye

      I hope this helps!

  • JSwen

    Yay for makeup tutorials!

  • Grace

    Welp. Now I have to have lavender eyes at my wedding.

    • JDrives

      Me too, I’m really digging that purple shade. It looks natural but still gives a bit of color. Swoon!

  • At the beginning of this post, I admit, I was pretty “eff to the no!” but then I got on board somewhere around the eyeliner part and by the end I was looking for those Sephora gift cards I got at Christmas time.

  • Alison O

    1. this was very well written, hilarious, multiple lols
    2. nikol could totally have a side gig as an ivanka trump impersonator. (if she doesn’t already have one, and if anyone ever desires to have someone impersonate ivanka trump.)

    • Meg Keene

      She’s prettier than Ivanka, I think, in person. As far as I know, she’s not as rich though, so that’s the over under on not being Ivanka, I suppose.

  • Winny the Elephant

    I would love some more guidance on picking makeup looks for the wedding. I am not really an experimenty makeup person (I usually rock the same look everyday) and I would love some advice on how to achieve some wedding-y makeup looks that will look good in pictures but won’t look like drag makeup in real life. I’ve hired a makeup artist but I’d like to educate myself so I can convey to her exactly what I want, I know makeup artists tend to apply a lot of makeup and I don’t want to look like Rue Paul in real life.

    • Meg Keene

      We’ll work on that. In the meantime, may I steer you clear of green? I have a sense that’s not going to be your look. Though I looked nothing like Rue Paul. Not as pretty, for starters.

      • Winny the Elephant

        Hahaha the man just saw your photos over my shoulder and said, and I quote “her eyes look mouldy” Sorry Meg! I thought the green actually looked good on you.

        • Meg Keene

          Weirdly (to me) in wide shot they looked very pretty. Not my thing (Maddie’s thing) but very pretty. Man Repeller style though, which is obviously bad ass.

          • swarmofbees

            Can we see these wide shots? It might be helpful to see the look from the perspective of say, wedding guests, as opposed to the newly minted spouse going in for a first kiss, or perhaps, an overly curious toddler.

    • JDrives

      Will you get to do a trial in the months/weeks before your wedding? Most makeup artists will include or suggest this, and I highly recommend it so that you can make sure that you and your artist are on the same page. Mine asked me to bring some inspiration photos she could look at to see the look I want to achieve. Pinterest comes in handy here! I searched for “natural wedding makeup” and found some great photos. Finding photos to show is great since I am more of a visual person than an explainer.

      • Winny the Elephant

        Yes that’s the plan but because I live in a different city than the one I’m getting married in, there might not be a whole lot of lead time between the trial and the wedding. I’ve been trying to collect pictures from Pinterest but I also want to be able to experiment with looks myself first so I can give her more direction. I want to make sure I actually know if the looks I find, look good on me.

        • anon

          As someone who’s in a similar boat (getting married in different city, poor makeup skills) and just had her makeup trial, keep one thing in mind: Make up comes off. Like really easily! So if you don’t like it, don’t be afraid to speak up and say, “Let’s try again.” It took us about an hour or more to try different looks. Another piece of advice: Make sure you like your makeup artist and they have fun with it. The woman doing my make up told me that I needed to love it and how much she loves doing makeup, so I didn’t feel bad having her try different shades or starting all over again.

  • Wait a minute….I am supposed to be moving my eyeliner brush from the OUTSIDE to the INSIDE??? Huh. I have been doing it wrong. So…if I go in that direction, am I supposed to lead with the longer side or the shorter side?

    • Nikol Elaine

      Hi Jenny, Great questions!
      And to be so honest, please always do what works best for YOU! I personally start at the outer most part of the eye. I do this because this is where you will place the heaviest amount of product on the eye and I would prefer this on the outer corner myself. I do this with the ‘thickest’ part of the angled brush and use ‘pressing’ or ‘tapping’ motions towards the inner part of the eye. (Applying more product as needed!)
      I hope this helps!

  • Emilie

    Recommendations for a cream eyeliner and brush?

    • Nikol Elaine

      Hey Emilie! I think there are so many great reccs out there but I say…
      1- find one that’s waterproof (that way I put them on in the am and they stay put!)
      2- make sure to keep them closed tight at all times so they don’t dry out (they are cream after all!)

      I use MAC or TARTE and an angled brush that is slim, skinny, and small. Typically this means you might want to pay a little bit more for something like this as the drug store or target kind can be too thick and really hard to use on the eye. Plus, the eyes are the most delicate space on your face and I like the thought of getting a soft brush to use! (make sure to wash these once a month at least!)

      Hope this helps! xox

  • emilyg25

    If you guys do a beauty tutorial again, can you please include a wide shot of the whole face? It’s a bit hard to see how awesome the pastel eye looks when you can’t see how it all looks together.

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