Make Up

Last week, I had one of those rare experiences where you get to go back and help figure something out for your past-self (and hopefully, somehow, karmically pay it forward to the universe). Last week, we did a hair and makeup shoot on a pony farm (proper photos to be revealed in the future). Now, those of you who were reading Way Back When will remember that one of the things I had a philosophically hard time with during wedding planning was getting my hair and makeup done. You see, I wanted to get professional hair and makeup done (I didn’t get it done, but that’s another story), but I didn’t want to sell out into some wedding industry version of perfection. Because honestly, in the last few months before our wedding, the wedding industry’s version of perfect weddings was freaking me out so much I was breaking into cold sweats, not totally sure if we could have a wedding that was OURS, and not the wedding industry’s.

But it wasn’t just my internal screaming matches with the WIC. Specifically, I was having a hard time fitting together my feminist principles with the wedding industry standards of bridal beauty (because, to be fair, those things totally do not fit together). So I got to thinking that if I participated in any way in bridal beautification rituals, I would be selling myself down the river. That it was all or nothing. (Hint: It’s almost never all or nothing.)

Here is the thing I was failing to pay attention to: I’m Not That Kind of Feminist. The phrase is in all caps, because I use it so often. Basically, there are a bazillon ways to be a feminist (please don’t let anyone tell you differently). And after taking all the Women’s Studies classes in college, and doing tons of reading, I still chose to just as actively and self-fully embrace displays of more-traditional-femininity as I did when I was four and would only leave the house in a skirt. In short: I wear heels (a lot), I wear make up (most days), I wear glittery dresses (whenever I can), and I wear pencil skirts (because they make my ass look excellent). I do all these things in a conscious, constructed way, but I do them because I like them (not, frankly, because I give a shit if anyone else, male or female, likes them). I do them because I’ve always found that more-overtly-feminine expression is intrinsically part of my aesthetics, and deeply empowering when approached properly. Or as I read fifteen years ago in a review for Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and never forgot, “If I can’t wear cowboy boots to the revolution, then I’m not coming.” Or in other words, no one gets to control my looks, patriarchy OR matriarchy.

But all this got really damn confusing to me during wedding planning. I’ve always been a study in duialities. I was a kid with a hippy upbringing, who grew up in a deeply conservative and very poor environment, and went to college with a lot of really wealthy kids. To survive, I learned to pass. Depending on the situation, I can put different parts of myself on display as needed. But wedding planning is this moment where you have to pull all your disperate idenities together to be one person, in front of a room full of people that know you from all different parts of life… at a moment that seems like it has a huge amount of symbolic weight.

And for me, it all came crashing down with the makeup. How could I get my makeup done, but do it my way? How could I wear lipstick at my wedding, and still make it super clear that it was a feminist wedding? Cue. The Meltdown. And it turns out it was Aly Windsor’s wedding pictures (now of Embrace Release) that held the key for me. It was looking at her wedding pictures that I finally was able to ask the question, “Can I do this without buying into something that I don’t believe in?” and found the answer, “I can do whatever feels right for me to do and still stay EXACTLY who I am.”

Which, of course, is exactly what feminism means to me in the first damn place (oh right).

And what I realized, really, is that being whoever I am, exactly how I am, is the only way we can slowly make change in the world. If Aly hadn’t rocked her makeup with her Queer Femme self, I might never have had a model for why wedding and makeup and feminism were going to work for me in one big whole. And that allowed me to pay it forward by being exactly who I was, in all its multiple parts, on my wedding day. And the crazy thing to me is that it was clear, from conversations with our guests, that people got it. That when I walked out with my non-traditional dress, and my makeup, and my husband-crafted hair flower, to have our egalitarian Jewish service, there were people that realized that weddings didn’t have to be this commercially dominated, patriarchal monolith that they’d grown to expect (and the universe makes one tiny shift).

More than anything, all that struggle I had with makeup and my feminist principles, helped me practice finding a balance in my new, now-even-more-adult life. It helped me figure out how I could live my seemingly conflicting values with clarity (which is something I use at least once every few days).

So last week, at the pony farm, I looked around and watched a bunch of women, with styles that ranged from hip, to edgy, to fairly traditional, with body sizes and physical qualities that were all over the map, show each other how to make themselves feel even more awesome about how they look, and have fun while doing it. With ponies.

And I thought, this. This is it.

Photo: Me at the pony farm, by Shana Astrachan on Instagram

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  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    This post is the first thing I read when I got into the office this morning. And I’m very glad I took the time. I often wear jeans and a tshirt, but I care very much about how I look, and that has often been something I felt sort of guilty over. Can I be feminist and still care about this? Is it wrong that I care what my ass looks like in these jeans (or that pencil skirt, because those things are amazing)?

    Put that together with your comment about bringing all the facets of yourself together for your wedding, and I came up with this: Why the hell do I feel guilty if I buy clothing or accessories that are feminine and/or impractical (PRETTY SHOES!!!!) Just because I am a practical woman doesn’t mean I can’t love that stuff. So I shall go forth into the rest of my thesis-writing day proud of the fact that I can be a feminist, and a practical woman, and still care very much about looking feminine and pretty! Thanks Meg!

    P.S.: is there a post anywhere about the difficulty in ‘acting feminine’ in male dominated professions? All I can say is: agricultural research and extension work, and how myself and several other girls have used the phrase “I don’t want to sound like a girl…”

    • I can’t really relate to the male-dominated workplace, but I play Dungeons & Dragons (among other equally silly, fabulous games) with a group of friends within which I am the only girl. And you know what? I embrace that sh*t. I paint my nails at the table and shoot teasing glares if someone burps too loud. And they love it. They love that I can hang with the guys without being ONE of the guys. They love that I am very much a girl.

      Obviously a work situation would be very different, but even then, I used to be an engineering student, so was surrounded by guys. And I embraced it then, too.

      (I’m not saying this is what you SHOULD do, or what would be best for you, just that it’s what works for me. It’s what makes feel smiley and warm, so I know I’m doing it right for me).

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        I went to this big weed science conference, and me a lovely lady there who described the first time she ever went to one, and there was only two other women there. She said to me, essentially, you just be who you are-be a woman and a professional. If they’re a professional it shouldn’t make them uncomfortable. Which is very true. Makes for some interesting moments around some farmers though!

        My problem is dealing with my own personal “you’re acting like a girl! stop it!” moments. As in spiders, or cluster flies. A friend had to call a grower to help pull her truck out of the field, and her reaction “I’m such a girl, Will wouldn’t be calling for help!” Something is wrong with that attitude, and it’s shades of the same reason why many of us worry about wearing makeup.

        • I don’t view spiders as a girl moment. That’s just smart self-preservation, that is ;)

          And YES! What your friend said is It Exactly. I hate that there’s even an instinct for many of us to flinch when we think we’re having “girl moments.” The thing is, guys have “moments” all the time, too, it’s just they’re “socially acceptable,” or something. I feel like this is where the whole misconception/stereotype that “girls can’t be authoritative without being b*tches” stems from.

          • R

            I have saved my boyfriend from many a large spider (and one pretty adorable small lizard) in our house. Spiders don’t care what gender you are.

          • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

            I flinch about that rather more often than I would like, but I’m getting a lot better at just being myself. And that whole b*itch thing-I was a teaching assistant for a semester, and have heard that more than one student thought I was a b*tch. Guess I did my job right. I feel you may be right-when I have a moment when I act like a pushover or something I all ‘ahhh I’m such a girl’, and when I act authoritative some people call me a bitch. *eye roll*

    • Marisa-Andrea

      I attended a very liberal and progressive women’s college. I have taken more classes on feminism and read more books on feminism than I can count. One of the ugly parts of feminism are the Feminist Olympics.

      There’s a tumblr blog titled “Is This Feminist” which pokes fun at the Feminist Olympics that have emerged as a result of feminism on steroids. That is, “feminism” that pits feminism on its head and demonizes the very thing that feminism stands for: the freedom to make your own choices (not other men, not other women) and be just fine, thank you very much. It saddens me that in 2012, we are still questioning whether we can be our authentic and genuine selves and that still haven’t given ourselves permission to just BE. What saddens me more is that we are sometimes our own worst enemy as it tends to be feminists who claim that another person’s choice, typically those that are traditionally female and perhaps un-feminist (due to lack of choice and the hatred of anything female-oriented), only serve patriarchy and female oppression (by the act itself, not anything you said or didn’t say, interestingly enough). The fact that I wore bright red lipstick all week was not an essential anti-feminist move that requires discussion; I just liked the color.

      I used to spend a lot of worrying about whether my choices were feminist. I cook almost every night, what does that mean? I’m the girliest girl on the planet, what does that? Nothing, except that I cook every night and am the girliest girl on the planet. Feminism says that I get to define me and no one else gets to do that. My goal is to be authentic. I already know that I’m a feminist and I don’t need anyone else to be comfortable with my choices; just me. I like heels, frilly skirts and pink nail polish and I’m just fine with that.

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        “It saddens me that in 2012, we are still questioning whether we can be our authentic and genuine selves and that still haven’t given ourselves permission to just BE”

        I think that is the crux of the entire conversation!

  • Oh Meg, I needed to hear this! And from you. Sometimes I load on the lipgloss, and then think, am I doing something wrong here? Does wearing high heels undermine my views?

    For me, it always comes down to this: What would Meg do? (seriously, it’s embarrasing – and flattering – how often I ask that question in my head).

    Wonderful to hear from you that we all just need to be ourselves and stop beating ourselves up for it. Which, yeah, now you’ve said it, is OBVIOUSLY what you would have said. Duh.

  • Morgan

    Thank you so much for this post. Seriously. How do you always know the exact conversations we need to have and the words we need to hear?

    For me I’m struggling with the fact that I very rarely wear any makeup aside from foundation, and yet I want something special for my wedding day. I felt like I would be betraying myself and not looking like me, but at the same time I’m not sure I want to look like everyday me anyway. I do put on makeup for special occasions, so how would this be any different? That’s before the whole struggle with feminism and beating the WIC.

    Thanks for reminding us that pretty much whatever choice we make, in any aspect of wedding planning, is okay to make as long as it’s right for us. I need that reminder every once in a while.

    • Why not go to the Bobbi Brown counter at a department store and have them do you up in a “natural beauty” style, wear it around the rest of the day and see what you think?

    • Start playing around with makeup long before your wedding day and see what feels good. I like the other commenters suggestion to go to a makeup counter and get done up “naturally”. That? Will feel like WAY too much (it feels like way too much for me and I wear makeup on the regular.)

      But, you will probably get some samples and the makeup artist can probably show you how to do it. Once you have that you can play around with how much and where you want to wear your makeup (assuming the overall look was something you like, or would like with some modification). If any part of the makeup process feels Terribly Wrong, stop doing it. Every time you go out for an evening, try out a makeup level, inching up or down as per your preference. You’ll get more practiced and also move your makeup tolerance from “special occasions” to “when I want just a little extra” which will do wonders for your confidence in wearing it and looking like you at the same time.

      I would recommend if you want to go with makeup on the wedding day, do it yourself. Makeup artists I have met never seem to properly understand “I want to look like me”, possibly because they don’t live inside my head and know what looking like me is. I did my own makeup and no regrets.

      • Morgan

        Thanks to both of you for the good ideas! I’m likely having my maid of honor do my makeup… she always did it whenever we went out anywhere in college. But I should probably do the department store makeup counter sometime, anyway!

        • The bottom line is that your wedding doesn’t have to be a political statement. It can be if you want it to, but it really, really doesn’t have to be.

          Your wedding is just one of the millions of moments throughout your life where you can’t help but express who you are. The people coming to your wedding already know you and your beliefs. They know what you look like. They will be happy to see you joyful and in love–barenakedfaced or not.

          It sounds like you have a good plan–and like you already wear some make up on special occasions. So wear it, or not, but I personally don’t think it’s any more of a political statement than, say, your choice of chairs (unless, of course, you want to do something completely over the top for effect–and that could be awesome too!).

          Oh, yeah, and have an awesome wedding!

        • Audrey

          I had one of my bridesmaids do my makeup and it totally rocked! She convinced me to do more than I would have naturally done without getting it to the point that I didn’t feel like me.

          I tried the “natural look at makeup counter” thing and I definitely recommend it – if nothing else so you feel confident in your decision one way or another. It definitely solidified mine to not have a professional do my makeup.

          Ironically, I do theater so I wear TONS of makeup onstage and get really used to that during show runs – but I didn’t want it for my wedding! =)

  • Vmed

    This is one of those things I thought I’d already wrapped my head around and felt comfortable with. As a female science teacher, I know I’m a role model, and this year I made sure that if it came up, my students knew that I was a feminist, that there are all kinds, and sure, I happen to be the kind of feminist that is Catholic and wears makeup and heels and a labcoat and didn’t change names upon marriage. Unapologetic.

    It’s harder for me to relax around the idea of modeling beauty rituals to my pending girl baby. Cognitively I understand that she will eventually make her own decisions about gender expression, as my sisters and I have (we do show a range of femininity, despite the one very feminine mom), but my chest tightens a little when I think of how guarded I must be with my words and actions regarding self-image from now on. I sometimes feel frumpy without makeup or well-managed hair, and I get the double whammy mentioned earlier this month of “feeling bad about feeling bad” about my stupid hair because I should know better. Add little eyes and ears and cute little brain witnessing all these experiences, and a person could feel paralyzed. My students never watched me give my reflection an impatient look, and then use heat and pigments to change hair and face; my daughter probably will.

    Which of course brings me back to: Do what makes your heart sing. Express yourself as you like. Maybe make a habit of smiling in the mirror *before* playing at glamour.

    Thanks for the affirmation, Meg.

    • Lturtle

      “Make a habit of smiling in the mirror…”

      This! Full stop. Regardless of your beauty habits and choice of self expression, this speaks to a need to treat ourselves and how we look with kindness. However much make up you choose to wear, or none at all, modeling that self appreciation will teach our daughters how to do the same when making their own choices.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      I’ve been thinking about children lately, and how a mother contributes to raising a confident young woman. I have to say, I always thought my mother is beautiful, but I loved it especially when she made that little extra effort (when she was working at the law firm, on sunday’s before church etc). But really, that little extra effort involved a little makeup, and not wearing an oversize flannel shirt. Partly as a consequence, I had to teach myself many things about makeup and hair. Although, I sure didn’t have to teach myself anything about being ladylike (a flexible term fyi, I can be ladylike in camo as well as in a dress :) ) Looking back, I know my mother was not all that confident about her appearance, but that’s not something that registered with me until I was about 14.

      I would say, just try and be as happy with yourself as you can, and your little one will see that. Then you can start teaching her about the *fun* of makeup and clothes (and SHOES!). There will come a time when you’ll have to have serious conversations about self-image, and airbrushed models, and natural beauty, but I think you have a little time to figure it out. You’re a smart woman :) Heck, you could even keep a journal of sorts, of things you want her to know when she get’s a little older, and pull a page out now and then for her to read. I’m thinking about doing something like that.

  • Paranoid Libra

    Ohhh the make-up bitch that keeps rearing her obnoxious head to me. I am very much a tom boy, who does like a few girly things like I care greatly what my hair turns out like….make-up is the last thing on my list of crap I want to deal with. I am being in essence yelled at that I need to wear make-up on my wedding day, you know so the pictures don’t make me look washed out. I always feel like a damned clown with make-up on no matter who does it. It never ever looks natural to me and I never feel natural in it. I have had “professionals” supposedly, put it on me and again I looked fake to me. I only ever feel comfortable with eye make-up. Allergy eyes and make-up though don’t sound like a good idea for this weekend.

    Please anyone have any advice to get my mom and sister off my back about wearing make-up just for pictures sake?

    • Catherine B

      You could show them these pictures:

      She looks stunning, and was wearing lip gloss & mascara…
      Maybe photographic proof that “the glow” doesn’t come from foundation will help.

    • Um… men don’t wear make up, and somehow they come out ok in the pictures. If it doesn’t feel right, then F*&K it.

      • KEA1

        A good photographer can find the light that will make you *not* look “washed out” even if you don’t have a drop of makeup on. That’s part of why you spend money to hire a good wedding photographer. And I totally hear you on the pressure to wear makeup–I can’t tell you how many times I had to listen to my mom hound me to wear more and more makeup even though it made my skin itch and my eyes tear up. The constant reminders that it would cover my acne didn’t help either. Hang in there.

      • KatieBeth

        I laughed out loud when I read this because it is SO TRUE – men don’t (usually) wear makeup and, not only do they look great in wedding portraits, they look like THEMSELVES.

    • meg

      Do what makes you feel right, PERIOD, and talk to your photographer about it before hand. Also, can we have Maddie weigh in on this from a photographer point of view pleaz?

    • Maddie

      So this is going to sound weird coming from a photographer, BUT there is this crazy perception in wedding world that the only thing that matters about how you look on your wedding day is how it’s going to translate into photos. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

      Yes, makeup photographs well (it helps define your features, and usually makeup photographs at about 1/3 of the intensity that you see in the mirror). But, if makeup isn’t your bag, then who gives a shit whether it looks better or not? You DO NOT have any responsibility (do you hear me? NONE) to look a certain way or to produce a certain kind of photo on your wedding day. There is no prize being given out for the most culturally-acceptable perfect bride. So if your family members are trying to pressure you into wearing makeup, you can tell them, “I’m more concerned with what I’m going to see when I look in the mirror than what is going to come out on film.” Period.

      Also, Kea1 is right in that a good photographer will make you look beautiful no matter what. And you know what else? Not feeling uncomfortable in your own skin will ALWAYS photograph better than feeling awkward because you were pressured into something that feels inauthentic to you.

      NOW, if you do end up leaning towards wanting makeup, I recommend taking matters into your own hands! Pay for a lesson rather than a session, and find products that are going to make you feel like you. A good makeup artist will be able to teach you techniques that don’t even feel like makeup.

      But that’s only if you decide you want to go that route. There’s no rule that says you have to.

      • meg

        Also, coming from a person with a background in professional theatre who’s photographed a lot, if you want to do ONE THING that doesn’t look or feel like makeup but will make your photographs look a little cleaner, wear a light foundation and a light powder. I wear Origin’s Stay Tuned foundation, and All And Nothing powder. I wear it whenever I know I’m going to be photographed, even if I’m supposed to be un-made up ;) I can’t feel it, you basically can’t see it, but it makes a big difference when I’m photographed because it just smooths out my skin tone.

        NOW. That said, I agree with EVERY SINGLE THING Maddie said. That’s just my practical “if you want to do one thing this might be the one thing to do” tip.

        • HH

          You can also look into a tinted moisturizer- I wear one in lieu of foundation and anyone who discovers this is shocked. It looks natural and is great! I have oily skin, so I top it with a light translucent powder to combat that, but you can wear it all by itself.

          I use Clinique Surge Tinted Moisturizer (SPF 15) and apply it with a foundation brush, which means it doesn’t end up gloppy or feeling cakey AT ALL- I also use far less than I used when I applied it with my hands.. I top it with Makeup Forever HD finish powder, which is light and lovely.

          My cousin uses Dior Hydra Life Pro-Youth Skin, and doesn’t top it with anything. It’s basically a tinted moisturizer/sunscreen, and she loves it.

          • Sooooo googling (which I know is dangerous) told me that moisturizers and foundations with SPF will reflect more white on camera then the will in real life? Fact? or Fiction?

          • meg

            Beth – It might be best not to over think these things ;)

          • Overthinking is my biggest downfall in life.

        • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

          Yep, there is no need to get a full face of professionally done makeup, unless you want to! A little powder can give you that extra little bit of polish, even if it’s just to make you feel a little more dressed up for the occasion!

        • Audrey

          Oooh, that just reminded me – the best thing that came out of the professional makeup trial I had was a slightly tinted powder. I didn’t go with the makeup artist but I am in LOVE with this powder (and that’s as someone who wears makeup approximately never). The 4-5 times a year I do wear makeup it’s pretty much powder + mascara.

          So basically I’m seconding Meg’s suggestion that if you go for one thing try a powder. But don’t feel obligated! =)

      • *stands up and applauds* I love you, Maddie.

        • Maddie

          Aw… :) You’re the best.

      • KW

        “You DO NOT have any responsibility (do you hear me? NONE) to look a certain way or to produce a certain kind of photo on your wedding day. There is no prize being given out for the most culturally-acceptable perfect bride.”

        Oh my, thank you for this statement in particular. I also wear no makeup on a daily basis. I only half-jokingly say that makeup is for job interviews, first dates and maybe a wedding. So I have been wondering a bit about how to handle the makeup aspect since we’ll have to walk/hike 1/2 mile to the wedding site and it will be August. Sweat does not do good things to makeup.

        I had been debating whether or not to wear any at all, and probably if I do, it will be just a touch of lip gloss, but of course had the little niggling thought that it wouldn’t be “enough”. Since we are eloping and only one person on each side of our respective large families even knows or will be present, photos (and maybe a cell phone video) will be the only way the rest of the families will be able to experience our moment.

        I couldn’t figure out why I was even concerned one way or another about makeup since I can’t be bothered most days. I finally pinned it down that I was was worrying that since we are being married in front of just a handful of people (and am 90% sure I’m wearing a blue dress not white), our remaining friends and family will somehow think we aren’t “really” married because it won’t be a traditional wedding and I won’t look like a traditional bride and I may not change my name. Which is of course an unfounded fear, and even if it it does turn out that way, who cares? We will know, and being true to ourselves is the whole reason we are doing it this way in the 1st place.

    • Maddie

      I may have gone on a slight tear about cultural expectations.

      But the bottom line is that a good photographer will produce beautiful photographs no matter what, and that joyful faces are about a zillion times more beautiful than perfectly made up ones.

      And then the other bottom line is that the photographs are only a small part of the things that are important on the wedding day. Being comfortable and feeling like yourself is about 1000x more important.

    • Alicia

      The thing that will make you look your “best” in wedding pictures is a GIGANTIC fricking smile. No amount of makeup in the world can beat it.

      I had one of my friends apply some makeup the morning of my wedding and I did a quick anti-shine touchup before the reception and that was it. Pictures look awesome because I look like myself and because you can tell it’s the happiest I’ve ever been.

    • Paranoid Libra

      Thank you ladies. I think I’m ready for this confrontation. Whether it happens tonight, tomorrow or the morning of the wedding, I am refusing to let them shame blast me into putting on crap I don’t feel comfortable in.

      Honestly until this post I forgot I had to deal with this still, but I know its been lurking in the corner waiting to come out. I might have given in come Saturday and then felt rediculous at my wedding. Thank you Team Practical!!!

      • Joy begets beauty, and not the other way around. Keep repeating that to yourself and you’ll do just fine.

    • I worried about this. I never wear make-up, and while there was no pressure on me to wear it, I wondered if I should for the sake of photos. In the end I couldn’t be bothered trying any / learning how to do it, and it fell by the wayside in all the other things I had to worry about. Result? It looked fine, looks totally fine in the photos, and I felt like myself, so I call that a win. Also, no worrying about if I would smudge/smear/cry/ruin the make-up job.

  • I am a deep feminist who:
    1. loves it when my husband drives
    2. wears impractical shoes at almost all times
    3. wears make up every day–and lots of it on special occasions (including clip in hair extensions and fake lashes!) and
    4. feels no shame in handing a man a pickle jar to open

    I also:
    5. am AWESOME at loading the car
    6. have dedicated my life to women’s and reproductive health
    7. am/have been The Boss

    I see/feel no dissonance here. Feminism was never meant to be about narrowing our options, but rather expanding them.

    • KatieBeth

      I second this – I am a feminist who cooks every night for both of us (because I enjoy it), cleans the apartment (because the mindless scrubbing, etc. calms me), and makes my fiance drive everywhere (because, well, I’m lazy). And if any of those things DIDN’T make me happy, you know what? I wouldn’t do them! Women shouldn’t make every choice based on “how feminist” they are – just like women shouldn’t base their choices on how “ladylike” they are. It’s silly to deny what you like just to prove a political/social point.

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        So true. I also have to say, the concept of ‘ladylike’ needs general redefining. I’m a country music girl, so the song Ladylike by Lisa Brokop popped into my head when I read your comment. haha

      • Taylor

        Thank you to both of you for your comments (and Meg, for this post)
        because I’ve been struggling with this a lot. Wanting to change my name but feeling like (oh, and being explicitly told so by other women) that it is not the feminist thing to do…

        I do all the cooking, a good deal of the cleaning, feel much more comfortable in makeup and dresses and with long curly hair, I too much prefer to have my partner drive me around and open jars and kill spiders for me. I will take his name too. I do these things because that is what is comfortable to me.

        I’m also comfortable with getting a college education, being unapologetically smart as a whip, and telling my guy to “deal with it” if he doesnt like my hair a certain way. And I’m a feminist, dammit.

      • Kira

        Of course! Doing “women’s work” isn’t anti-feminist. Quite the opposite. Part of being a feminist means working to revalue feminine tasks and counteract the cultural narrative that says cooking, cleaning, and looking beautiful are frivolous and insignificant. There’s power and fulfillment to be had in household work and in aesthetics.

  • LilBride

    I love APW, and have been reading for a while–but this is my first comment. Could really use some practical advice on this particular topic. I almost never wear makeup. Not out of any sort of principle, just never quite got around to it, don’t really own any. I would love to wear some for the wedding, but am not sure how to practically go about doing so.

    Wedding is on Sunday morning in the DC area. Would it be possible to even hire someone to apply makeup at 7am on a Sunday for a reasonable price? Going to a make-up counter and trying to learn from them seems like I would end up buying a bunch of products that I would use exactly once, (and not very well, due to lack of practice). Any help is much appreciated!

    • Do you have a friend with similar colouring to you who could do it? If you can get to a drugstore and choose a foundation that matches your skin (try True Match) then the rest will probably look good on you.
      When you say it is on Sunday morning… does that mean THIS COMING SUNDAY, or a Sunday in the near future. It would probably be hard to book somebody professional so fast.

      If you are having a photographer, you could ask them for a reference–the wedding/photography community tends to be pretty small.

      Just a few ideas…

      • LilBride

        Manya (I love your posts by the way),

        I like the idea of a friend with my coloring –need to figure out who that would be.

        The wedding is on August 19th–so I do have a bit more time. My photographer is a friend/soon to be family member from out of state. She doesn’t know anyone around here, but perhaps she can make me look wonderful without makeup. I’m just a bit concerned–I tend to not be very photogenic, but it would be nice to look good in wedding pictures. Thanks for responding!

        • Jashshea

          If you want to wear makeup (which you don’t HAVE to do), go to a reputable makeup counter (I love LOVE LOVE MAC products, but I find gut busting techno music and heavily made up artists to be crazy intimidating), tell them you’re getting married and you’d like to look like yourself, but highlighted. Have them explain what they’re doing to do and write it all down for you. If you’re happy with the way you look, buy some of the products they sell (foundation, shadows), but buy the other stuff at the pharmacy (mascara, gloss, brushes) – don’t drop a ton of money if you won’t use it again. Just foundation and mascara can do a TON, in my opinion.

          Re: Photogenic or not – Not sure if this’ll work, but when I’m being photographed, I think to myself “look cute” right when the pictures are being snapped. It makes me tilt my head a little, which they say is a good trick for looking good in photos. It works 75% of the time.

          ETA: I did a friend’s makeup for her wedding – I’ve always loved doing eye makeup and she already had a routine for foundation that worked. We didn’t have the same coloring (i have pale skin, green eyes and DARK brown hair; she’s light skinned, but has light hair and eyes), but she’s got these GORGEOUS blue eyes, so we went to the make up counter and had them pick out hues that worked for her. She looked great and it cost her maybe $50 for the shadows. I had brushes, etc.

          • LilBride

            I love the “look cute” idea. Mostly I just end up looking like I’m on serious illicit substances. (Note: I’m not.)

          • J

            Just a small thing, but why mention it’s for your wedding?? I tried that two years ago before our wedding and every time I said it was for MY wedding, the counter girls refused to do anything other than book an expensive “wedding make up lesson” for me – finally I started saying it was for a wedding I was going to as a guest and the whole thing changed, people were much more helpful!!

          • Not Sarah

            I second the MAC comment! I have cried at work way too many times lately (working on that, a separate story) and my makeup hasn’t run. My make-up does run when I cry at home, but not when I cry at work. Apparently I cry differently in public? Go figure.

            But anyway, I have been super happy with MAC!

        • Sarah

          Until our wedding I had hardly ever seen a photo of me that I like, but now I have loads from that day. It wasn’t the make up (I wore only slightly more than I would any other day), it was a combination of joy and a fabulous photographer.

    • Ambi

      I second having a friend or family member do it. Anyone who regularly wears makeup will have the basic knowledge and skill to help you. Pick someone whose makeup looks natural and pretty (no overdone and obvious) and ask them to help. And I definitely agree that you could get away with just buying foundation (maybe powder and concealer, depending on how much coverage you want) that matches your skin tone and mascara (you really don’t want to share a tube of mascara due to the risk of eye infection), and the rest can be borrowed from a friend (seriously, when it comes to blush/bronzer/eye shadow/lips you can probably use whatever your friend happens to carry in her purse on a daily basis). My only tips are:
      1) Do your makeup (or at least check it) in natural sunlight,
      2) Use a light hand – you can always add more if needed,
      3) blend, blend, blend, blend – soften all the edges, lines, etc.
      4) Wear white when you practice/do your makeup, so you’ll know what it will look like with your dress (a friend got her makeup done while wearing deep plum – it looked beautiful, but then when she changed into her dress it looked way too dark).

      Just make sure that if you get a friend to help that they understand that just because this is a wedding doesn’t mean you need a full face of makeup. Be clear about what you want, and speak up if you aren’t happy with it.

      Good luck!

      • Jashshea

        All great advice. For natural coverage, I like to use bare minerals. It’s light, but I’ve heard it can reflect light well in prof photographs, making you look super shiny. And your friends will have all the right brushes and whatnot. Those f’ers are expensive.

        • Ambi

          I agree about bare minerals – in my opinion, it’s pretty goof-proof and looks natural (but polished). I think it photographs well, too. My only caution – don’t ever apply it over liquid foundation (as if it was regular loose powder) – it ends up looking really thick and unnatural and unflattering. I learned this the hard way! :)

          I think that a fairly affordable way to do your wedding makeup would be to buy one of the Bare Minerals introductory kits (Sephora sells them for $20 and they contain small sizes of 2 foundations, a concealer,and a finishing powder, as well as two brushes). If you buy that and a mascara (ask the salesperson for one that won’t smudge or run if you cry during the wedding), you could then get a friend to help with the rest of the makeup and just borrow stuff like lipstick or gloss, blush or bronzer, or eyeshadow. Oh, and those Bare Minerals kits come with instructions on how to apply it. :)

          And if you do go to Sephora to get any makeup, remember that they also offer free sample-sized vials of any fragrance in the store. It could be fun to pick up a little vial of wedding day perfume, too.

          • KW

            I had a very positive experience at Sephora the one time I was there and sought assistance. The young woman who helped me wore her makeup in a style that was not at all mine, since I prefer natural/neutral looks and hers was bold colors and lines (great on her but would look clownish on me). She really knew her stuff, and was the 1st person to show me how I could do my eye makeup in a way that worked with my deep-set and nearsighted eyes (my glasses make my eyes look smaller, but the way she did my makeup brought them out). I basically have to do the opposite of what the women’s magazines told me for years, go figure. Anyway, I never felt the sales pressure that I see at regular makeup counters. That being said, I bought the makeup that she used on me and I still love it on those rare occasions when I wear it.

    • If there’s a beauty school in the area, you might find a cosmetics student who’ll do it for a pretty low price and have the expertise to reassure you.

    • Another Meg

      Do you have a good friend who is awesome at makeup? Or a sister?
      My younger sister never wore makeup in high school, so I did her makeup for dances when she wanted some. We have about the same skin tone so I just used my makeup- just a little under-eye corrector and eye makeup and she was good to go. I also didn’t mind sharing eye makeup (a lot of people do and it’s understandable) because she is, you know, my sister. We share food all the time, so what’s a little eye germ sharing between sisters? So she didn’t have to buy makeup.
      If you have a good friend who always has pretty makeup, you might see if she can advise you on cheap makeup that will look good for the day and then apply it for you that morning.

      • LilBride

        I am literally going through my guest list and figuring out who always looks good in their makeup and would be willing to help out.

        Thank you all for the suggestions!

        (On a completely different note: is it bad that I don’t know what a third of my guest list looks like? Yay for fiance with a large extended family)

    • I LOVE Ryan at Blend Events. Google her, email her, see if she can do it. I know she’s reasonable and she’s done my make up at 8 am on a Sunday for a modeling photo shoot. I’m not a make up girl (ok, a little), and never thought of having my make up done for anything until I started doing some modeling. I now KNOW that Ryan will do my wedding make up. She listens, she works with you, she’s reasonable price wise, and I keep meaning to connect her to APW since she’s just that kind of business woman.

      • LilBride

        Thank you! I did Google Blend Events and their prices are very reasonable. Definitely something to consider.

        • Someone above also mentioned lessons. Right before my brothers wedding I did a make up lesson and it was awesome. (I was feeling TONS of stress from my SIL, I got roped into being a bridesmaid and didn’t want to be, and she wanted us to have professional make up done and pay for it ourselves. I put my foot down on some random make up person and hired Ryan for my own sanity) She took me from my daily look of mascara and lip gloss all the way to glamed out in lots of layers and additions that were easy for me to understand. She went through my makeup and told me what to keep and what to toss and what I might need to fill in the holes and where to get them at a really good price.
          A lesson might give you the confidence you need to do your own, the control you might want, and a fair exchange of knowledge for pay rather than just services.

      • meg

        Dude. Someone send her our way. APW directory time!

  • I never considered that getting my hair and makeup would be a feminist conundrum. To me, feeling like a bride means feeling pretty, and having a professional glam up my hair and makeup makes me feel pretty. I’m like you in that I’ve always presented a traditionally feminine image, so for me, NOT doing my hair and makeup on my wedding day would be a betrayal of myself. And I think Feminism would frown on that.

    • meg

      “To me, feeling like a bride means feeling pretty.” See to me, THAT statement raises feminist red flags to me. So of course I had a problem with the whole thing. In the end, when all is said and done, I’d say that “to me, feeling like a bride means feeling POWERFUL.”

      • There are a whole host of feelings I’d like to feel on my wedding day, and pretty is definitely one of those things. That doesn’t mean I ONLY want to feel pretty; it just means that it’s one in a cornucopia of emotions I hope to experience on my wedding day. And since I have control over feeling pretty, I’ve decided to embrace it and bring in professional help.

        I don’t think that wanting to be pretty has to be raise feminist red flags. As you stated above, the most important thing is understanding WHY we make the choices we make. I want to feel like the best version of myself on my wedding day, and for me, that means feeling peaceful, content, loved, and beautiful.

      • Taylor

        but why can’t feeling pretty be part of feeling powerful?
        Cause I know that if I do my hair and make up and have a killer outfit on I walk out the door feeling like “yeah! no one can even f*ck with me today!”

        • meg

          I think it can. I just think that our primary concept of brides is that they are pretty, and that’s what has always raised red flags to me. Hence, this post.

          • Poeticplatypus

            Yes my first thought about a bride is that she’s beautiful, not in a physical sense but that you see so much of who this person is and who they are striving to be with their partner. Maybe we as women should let ourselves feel like it’s ok to be pretty and powerful, because beauty is a quiet factor of power.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Long story, but directly relevant: When I was an infant, my parents used to drive me around in the car to get me to sleep. On one of these trips, Dad was listening to public radio that had this “great ideas” program. The question that late night was “What is beauty?” There was a rabbi on who said the Talmud says that a bride is beautiful on her wedding day. Every bride is beautiful on her wedding day, by definition.

            It was a great thing to hear re-told for as long as I can remember.

          • meg

            You know why right? Because a bride on her wedding day has the direct ear of God. It’s one of the few times it happens in your life (sort of like a personal Day of Awe). On my wedding day people brought me prayers, for sick parents and loved ones, so I could relay them to God because on that day I was so close.

            Talk about beutiful, huh?

  • Contessa

    I just took a Women’s Studies course this semester and, while I think I got some great motivation to Change the World, it really confused me. Whereas, I used to believe whatever I believed peacefully, now I find that I question why I believe it and wonder what I would believe if no one had given me 27 barbies as a little girl. I’m glad I question but sometimes it’s so tiring.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      it’s totally tiring. I don’t think I’d question the potential effects of the Barbie’s-mine rode horses, were large animal vets, and rescued ‘ken’ just as often as they had fashion shows and were damsels in distress. Its the women’s magazines I’d question! All the ‘well meaning’ fashion tips (how to make your waist look smaller etc!) with very little discussion about self-image. There was a time women’s magazines were all written by men, and they still send the same messages, but are written by women. (I will not rant, I will not rant, I will not….)

    • Ambi

      Oh, lady – I feel you on this. I am FINALLY moving past questioning why I like the things I like (is it because I have been brainwashed to like flowers and lace, or do I genuinely just find them aesthetically pleasing?). You know what helped? Looking at fine art. Seriously, when I study art (or make art), I am not questioning *why* I like something – I just accept my natural tastes and preferences. There is so much more to it than that (different beauty ideals throughout history, different artistic styles, etc.), but ultimately, it helps to let yourself explore your own preferences and aesthetics in an arena where you can just accept whatever choice you make rather than questioning it. There is a certain sense of seriousness and intellectual worthiness to art that, for me, removes the doubts of “do I like this because I have been conditioned to think the soft blush tones are ‘pretty'”? Especially when creating your own art – I think that is extremely empowering because you step out of the realm of “my choices are frivolous because they are girly” and into the realm of “this is my artistic vision and perspective.”

      Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all things. It doesn’t really help you decide if you want to change your name because you really want to, or because society has brain-washed you to want to (HUGE internal conflict for me, because I think I do want to change my name, but question why), but overall it is about giving yourself freedom to be who you enjoy being (and wear what you happen to like, etc.). It helps to think about the fact that, if we all adhered to one particular definition of feminism which required women to reject anything that was traditionally considered “feminine,” then really we’d just be replacing one set of oppressive gender norms with another.

  • Jashshea

    Are those your eyelashes? Please say no. :)

    I wear foundation daily and rarely do my hair (I have mountains of hair and prefer to sleep the extra 45 mins it would take to wrangle it in the morning) for a normal day. But I ALWAYS gussy up for a special occasion – hair done, eyes smoked, lips glossed, bra pushed up.

    For wedding day – someone is doing that shiz for me. I have coffee and champagne to drink that morning. I like makeup, I like feeling like it’s a special occasion. If other people don’t feel that way and don’t wear make-up to their weddings, I certainly don’t care. The glow doesn’t/shouldn’t come from the makeup. Makeup can’t make your eyes sparkle and make your smile genuine. Everyone is beautiful when those are happening.

    • Ambi

      I know, right?! Those eyelashes are gorgeous. I have never worn false lashes, but that photo alone is enough to make me want to try it. Whether those are Meg’s real lashes or not – they are inspiring me to go all out with some falsies and eyeliner! You know, just for fun on a Thursday. :)

      When I eventually get married, I already know that my budget is going to be very tight, but that I will somehow find a way to afford to pay a professional to do my hair and makeup. I am decently skilled at doing my own makeup (not hair), but I honestly just want to feel pampered and pretty (and after Meg’s call to arms in the intro, I no longer feel ashamed to say so).

      • Liz

        As someone who *rarely* wears make-up, falsies are SO.FUN. Totally do it!

    • meg

      No, no. The edges are fake (the middle is mine). There will be a tutorial!

      • Jashshea

        Yah for the tutorial! Something about glue and eyeballs being in close proximity has always scared me off from falsies.

      • Anne

        I know this is totally superficial, but, um, when? I’m getting married in three weeks (!) and really, really want to do my own makeup.

        • meg

          Sadly, after you get hitched. As you can see, it’s Guerilla Weddings month. I AM SORRY!

    • That is correct, fakes, but just on the outer corners. A bit of a stylized look without looking overdone. I loved doing Meg’s eyes for this!


  • Faith

    Um. Hot Picture.

    I fully embrace the fact that I am feminine and a feminist. On my wedding day, my feminine self had hair and makeup professinals come to my venue to make me look like the best version of myself. Airbrush, hairspray, flowers and all.

  • Frances

    This post is brilliant in general but this really jumped out at me:

    To survive, I learned to pass. Depending on the situation, I can put different parts of myself on display as needed. But wedding planning is this moment where you have to pull all your disperate idenities together to be one person, in front of a room full of people that know you from all different parts of life… at a moment that seems like it has a huge amount of symbolic weight.

    That is fantastic articulation of how I felt about my wedding though I’m not sure I even realised that was it at the time!

    • Jashshea

      Exactly’d and had to comment. I’ve been, at times in my life, any one of these: preppy, club-kid, tomboy, girly-girl (handbags and shoes: love you, call me), borderline hipster (only because I like t-shirts and sneakers) and so on. I’m sort of all those things at once now, but tomboy is the most consistent. For awhile, I thought that meant I needed to somehow combine all that in my wedding day look. When I tried on dresses, I gravitated to the all-over lace, low maintenance look, so I could look like all those pretty ladies getting married in a field with flowers in their hair. But…one thing I’ve never done, or been, is a hippy-chick with flowers in my hair (if you are, I love and you’re gorgeous and rock it. It just ain’t me).

      So…I’m wearing a SUPER fussy wedding dress (satin, train, ruching, fluffy flower accents, weighs a ton). I look like hot shit in it and I feel awesome in it. I’m going to wear tons of crazy eye make up and have my hair done. I’m playing dress up any damn way, may as well own it, right?

  • Diane

    As many of you know, Meg has started writing some columns for Etsy and in the process of perusing one of them, and then perusing Etsy (for the first time — I’m late to the party I know, I blame residency) I found a wedding make-up tutorial: It has led to some adventures like my first real trip to Sephora (where I was assisted by the loveliest young woman who made me feel like less of a fish out of water though I allowed myself some internal snark because, well, I’m still me) and a substantial investment in things like primer, brushes that don’t come with the makeup, and finishing powder. I tested them out a few times on our recent vacation and the author of that Etsy post was dead on — it all stayed in place and looked a heck of a lot better after 8 hours with the addition of those primers and all that. My daily pre-work beauty routine remains a face wash and some tinted moisturizer but it’s fun to have what feels like a very sophisticated option for special occasions and now I have about 10 months to get really good at it! As far as the feminist portion goes, I’m third generation in that department but my grandmother (who left the family farm to join the navy during WWII and was one of the toughest women I’ve ever known) never left the house without “putting on her face.”

    • meg

      Oh, you do realize this is a prequel to APW launching into some hair and makeup tutorials in a month of so right?

      • Diane

        And this is why I probably shouldn’t be allowed to comment on ANYTHING in the morning when I’m working nights. Subtleties like “master plan” totally escape my sleep-deprived brain. I’m excited, though! I want to have someone do my hair on my wedding day but I am in serious need of fun ideas for hair for the rehearsal dinner and other upcoming events. Yippeee!

  • Mollie

    Meg, you look HOT in that pic :)

  • Oh my, the Make Up Issue rears it ugly head yet again. First, let me apologize for us “First Wave” feminists from the 70’s if our message to you young ‘uns sounded like, “make up is false, a mask and a denial of your true womanhood”. That’s not what we meant but that’s what The Media chose to focus on (’cause the didn’t Get It). The message then, and now, is look inside for the real You, make Your Choices, be true to who You are and f**k conventional wisdom and the media messages about “Womanhood” if it doesn’t fit with the real You. To rephrase Gloria S, “This is what Woman looks like.”

    Next, let me congratulate Meg and you all for speaking your hearts to each other in support for each individual’s choices; nothing could be more important than affirming each other.

    And last? I dropped out of the daily make up routine after ten years in rat-race retailing but for my daughter’s wedding? totally had a pro do my make up. Why not?!

  • Kathryn

    Hair and make up, yes please, lots of. However to the beautician who told me ‘ I can see that you need you arms waxed. You must in order to be perfect for your wedding’. I responded ‘Back off!’ – Ladies she was not talking about my pits. My forearms have hair. It’s ok. IS IT COMING TO THE POINT WHERE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE A BOILED EGG IN A WIG? There is a line. I drew it there.

    • Laura

      …arms waxed?? This is a thing???

      Whoa. The things you learn…

      Also, the image of a boiled egg in a wig just made me choke on my coffee in laughter.

      • J

        yeah, I occasionally wax my (really pretty hairy) arms.

        And I’m still a feminist!

  • My makeup and hair are causing me some stress for the wedding. I think I’m going to throw some money at the problem. Seeing that I NEVER wear makeup I’ve never really developed the skills to put it on. I’ve had it professionally applied for boudoir photography and semi-professionally (thanks Janine!) for events growing up and like how it looks. So eff it. I’m paying.

    • Ambi

      THIS is exactly the kind of practical no-guilt philosophy that I love so much about APW. Do what works for you, and don’t think twice about it.

  • Teffer

    I am reminded of Ani DiFranco’s “Little Plastic Castles”:

    “And people talk about my image like I come in two dimensions
    Like lipstick is the sign of my declining mind
    Like what I happen to be wearing the day that someone takes a picture
    Is my new statement for all of womankind…”

    I’ve had the same struggles myself: but won’t people get confused if I’m dolled up in makeup and dresses and heels, but have hairy armpits? Won’t people get confused if I wear dresses and frilly aprons and also have fierce intelligent feminist discussions?

    And then I realized: yes, they might be confused. And then they might ask questions. And then they might understand.

    • meg

      Ha. I just pulled out that album for the first time in 10 years (I, obviously *am* the kind of feminist, and am old enough, that bought it the day it came out, and then saw her on the tour). I’ve found it really interesting, particularly that bit, in my new role as somewhat public figure. But yes, exactly exactly.

  • “I looked around and watched a bunch of women, with styles that ranged from hip, to edgy, to fairly traditional, with body sizes and physical qualities that were all over the map, show each other how to make themselves feel even more awesome about how they look, and have fun while doing it.”

    I love this line. That, right there, is exactly how the day felt, and exactly what feminism should be helping us do.

  • one soul

    Ooh, make up tutorials FTW!

  • Brittany Lee

    Thank you so much for this post! this is something i have been dealing with and my upcoming wedding in 23 days! I have this image in my head that on my wedding day, I look like myself. Not someone with long fake eyelashes and shiny glossy lips, but myself. Because I’m not the fake long lashes and shiny glossy lip kind of girl. I’m more of the natural face with chapstick hippy chick. Then I start to feel guilty because I also want to look like the best version of myself, i want to feel pretty but still feel like myself. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way, amongst all the wedding craziness, sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference on your wedding day.

    • meg

      If natural face is you, natural face IS THE BEST VERSION of yourself. Period.

    • You can wear only Chapstick to your wedding and still look beautiful and happy and have great photos to look back on when you’re eighty! I know because I did it, and I have zero regrets. :)

    • Brittany- You can have professional makeup and it doesn’t have to be all lashes and gloss. So many brides want a natural look and a great artist can give you anything you want. Just be specific in telling them what you are looking for. One of my favorite recent brides decided the day of that she didn’t want any foundation. She looked amazing! And so many of my brides look in the mirror at the end of a trial and let out a huge sigh of relief, always saying “phew I look like me!”. It turns out over and over again there are makeup artists out there that aren’t listening and that just don’t understand. I hope you have found the perfect solution for what you WANT on your wedding day. And my biggest tip to looking great is to ultra hydrate and eat a well balanced healthy diet, this will show through in your skin.
      Happy wedding day to you!

  • The week before my wedding, when I went to get it professionally colored (I didn’t want a patchy look I might’ve gotten doing it myself) even if I walked in JUST to get my hair dyed, not cut, not styled or anything, they assumed I wanted to FIX my naturally curly hair and get it straightened and blown out. In general, I’ve never been to a beauty salon that made me feel beautiful and well, they all make me feel inadequate and like a problem they don’t know how to fix except by turning it into something else. And salon visits usually end up with me crying on my way home and feeling miserable.

    So for my wedding, my twin sister did my hair and makeup: she was the perfect person to deal with my hair since she has a head of it herself, and she made me look gorgeous using the makeup we already had. I looked like myself, but more so. It was awesome. And tearless.

    • Oh man, having curly hair garners the CRAZIEST reactions in salons. I remember going for walk-in haircuts in high school and having all the stylists visibly pray that I wouldn’t be led over to their chairs. Way to make a girl feel good. Naturally curly hair is not a disaster that needs to be fixed.

      I’m not lucky enough to have a relative with curly hair–I’m the ONLY one in the family with it–so my hair pretty much sucked until I discovered Devachan.

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        One fateful day I decided I wanted to pay more attention to my hair, so I switched over to my mother’s stylist, who is a sometimes overly blunt wonder. Curls are in, he told me lately, although he also told me they were never *really* out. Also, I was away at university, and went to someone else, and had to tell him that I ended up with a woman who was clearly afraid of curly hair. His reaction: “If she was F*ing afraid to cut curly hair, she should find another f*ing job!”

  • I’m getting my hair done because I believe that I could keep my cool while doing anything up to and including cooking all the food before I could manage to do my own hair without a meltdown. I have no skill for it, which is why I pay a professional a lot of money to choose and execute a haircut for me that only requires a blow drying on a day to day basis. I do plan to do my own make up, but have already made a date with a much more make up savvy friend to go to Sephora and help me pick out what I’ll need so I can start practicing. It’s something I’d like to get better at in general for special occasions, so why not use the wedding as a motivator to learn already? This is also how I feel about weight loss. No, I do not want to lose ten pounds For the Wedding; I want to lose ten pounds to fit back into my pants. But if the wedding can help me get there, so much the better.

    I love the reminder that feminism really is about having choices. I’m choosing to look like the best version of myself (hopefully) on my wedding day and choosing to pay a fair wage to a skilled professional to make that happen. And choosing not to turn into a frustrated and likely curling-iron-burned stressball for my mom and friends to have to deal with that morning. Everybody wins.

  • katieprue

    I didn’t want to pay someone to do Wedding Makeup for me. I wear makeup every day (foundation, mascara, maybe eyeliner). So I watched some makeup videos online a few weeks before our engagement photos and ended up so pleased with my how my skin looked. I was proud of my makeup-splattering abilities! So I’ve added an eyelash curler and a cream blush to the daily makeup routine. But some days I do not put on any at all. And you know what? I’m always the same feminist chick. Just a feminist chick with a way more fun makeup bag than I had a few months ago.

    Side note: I did glop it on a little heavier for the photos, and I liked it and it definitely didn’t look over the top in person. The wedding is NOT about the photos, but for someone with self-esteem issues about her looks… Um, better to have all your bases covered, right?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      It’s June. The last time I wore make-up was for our engagement photos in January. I finished those thinking for the first time in my life thinking it’d be OK if I did my own make-up for my wedding.

      My fiance asked me just last night what I did that made me look different for the engagement photos. I told him:
      1. I arranged for very flattering light.
      2. I paid a professional photographer to work with the light and good angles.
      3. I had planned good luck with the state of my skin. I didn’t elaborate but I meant I was really good in the 2 weeks prior about drinking water, taking my vitamins, and wearing sunscreen.
      4. I wore make-up, more than I had in years, but still not lots. Also, I applied that make-up 6 hours before we took the photos. I had planned for touch-ups but didn’t have time, and I don’t regret how I spent my time that day at all.

  • I was worried about the wedding day hair and makeup. I wear makeup, but it’s minimal–tinted moisturizer, some concealer and mascara and I’m good to go. I’ve had makeup done at dept store counters and didn’t feel at all like myself. But I also wanted to look polished for the wedding day and didn’t feel comfortable doing it on my own. Having a “run through” with the makeup artist was a huge relief; she made me look like myself, but more polished, and I didn’t feel weighed down by layers of of makeup.

    I also went with blue nail polish. While I may not do much in the way of makeup, I’m a huge fan of funky nail polish colors. (Currently rocking mint green.) It may not have been traditional, but I was really happy with it and it made me feel like myself. I think it goes back to being who you are. If that includes sparkly eyeshadow or combat boots or pearls or all of these or none of these, more power to you.

  • Sandy

    I hate make-up. I have *no idea* how to put it on or what any of it does.
    I also have *no idea* how to style my hair beyond brushing it every morning.
    Starting from age 6 I refused to wear a skirt *ever* for the remainder of my childhood.
    I wore my brother’s hand-me-downs frequently.
    I now wear a skirt once or twice a year.
    I have pierced ears, but I wear earrings about one day per month, if I have time .
    I *LOATHE* heels, go-go boots, slippers, flip flops, and just about every other female shoe trend.
    I am really put out by all of the ultra-feminine clothing that I am surrounded by.

    That being said,
    I am getting married in a polo shirt and shorts/capris. I will be wearing lotion on my face, that’s it, no make-up. And I wish I didn’t have to feel defensive about it.

    • Laurel

      Hey! This really resonates for me.

      I decided this year to identify as genderqueer after a long time of feeling like I wasn’t genderqueer enough to be genderqueer (i.e. I’m totally cool with female pronouns, but my gender identity and presentation are pretty queer-masculine, but not sooo masculine that I ever pass, plus I don’t have a theoretical problem shopping in the women’s section). Blah blah queer politics digression blah. No one is the genderqueer police. ANYWAY. I spent most of my adolescence feeling like I was just shitty at being feminine and occasionally trying and finding out that I still sucked at it and that even if I didn’t suck at it I felt like I was in drag. (My parents are not particularly negative about this stuff but I think their idea of aesthetics is that there are right/appropriate ways to do certain things, so I felt like I needed to do that right/appropriate thing, but I was godawful at it.)

      I still wear dresses occasionally, because a) I like drag and b) masculine clothes appropriate to other people’s hot-weather weddings are hard to come by. HOWEVER. I no longer feel like I’m failing at being feminine. Instead, I have a different gender identity. There are a lot of ways to think about gender. One of the great gifts in my life is that because I’m queer and fell in love with a woman it’s easy for me to find other queer and genderqueer people who normalize my aesthetic and gender presentation. If I’d happened to end up with a guy, it would have been a lot harder to get access to the communities and aesthetics that helped me figure out how to look like myself.

      This is a long way of saying that I FEEL YOU. I don’t know if your aesthetic is related to gender stuff but I wanted to throw my experience out there. APW is a pretty femme space (which is its own kind of awesome) so even though everyone will be super supportive I would encourage you to seek out queer spaces and aesthetics so you can see people with a greater variety of gender presentations. It’s awesome that you’re getting married in a polo shirt and shorts. My partner’s back-up plan if she doesn’t find something she likes better is shorts & a tank top.

      • meg

        APW *is* a pretty femme place ;) Mostly, honestly, because I’m running it, and that is me. I’d LOVE to feature content from other perspectives however, if anyone ever wants to submit it. That said, seeking out queer spaces and aesthetics is a really good idea, obviously. While I’d love to show a wider variety here, my wheelhouse is still always gonna be my wheelhouse.

        • Laurel

          Of course! It makes perfect sense for APW to run more ‘reclaiming femme’ posts than ‘how I feel about my queer masculinity’ posts given that a) you, the femme publisher, are writing a lot and b) most of your readership and most wedding blog readership is going to skew female and femme. I really hope it didn’t come off as critical.

          (I guess I could try writing about what my partner and I end up wearing once we figure it out. Because, ugh, there is nothing more gendered than fancy clothes.)

          • meg

            PLEASE DO YES is what I’m saying. Orrrrrrr, you could write a post about figuring it out this weekend, and then we could run it for Pride Week. You could even send us inspiration pictures. Or, you could write is as an advice post: how to figure it out also for Pride Week. Did I mention this would be awesome for APW Pride Week that is coming up? Cough, cough, cough.

            Brides in pants is actually a huge obsession of mine, I just haven’t had time to dive into it on the blog yet. But you are motivating me. (Though I admit, there would be some pretty femme pants in that mix too ;)

          • Laurel

            Ha. The problem is I don’t feel like I’ve actually gotten there yet. I don’t have a how-to or a resolution, just a this is hard.

            (p.s. thanks for *knowing* that femme pants exist. Because obv. But also sometimes people will be like, what if you wore X? when X is practically as femme as a dress.)

          • Ambi

            Laurel, have you tried East Side Bride? She tends to post tons of great fancy-clothes ideas that are not based on traditional gender norms. If you write in and explain you and partner’s preferences, she will likely pick out a few suggestions for you (and her readers will pick out others). I can’t think of a better place to look for non-gender-specific wedding clothes.

    • Jashshea

      As long as you wear sunscreen, you don’t have to defend your decision to anyone. Sunscreen is important and I’ll grab my pitchfork if you’re not wearing it.

      Joking aside, I wish you didn’t have to feel defensive about it as well. It’s bull-hooey that everyone has to wear a dress or wear make up or wear clothes at all to their wedding. If you’re comfortable and your guests are comfortable, who gives a care?

    • K

      Totally off the point, but…flip flops are a female shoe trend? I see dudes wearing flip flops all the time.

    • Not Sarah

      This really resonated with me.

      After about age 8, I refused to wear dresses ever again. Though I did wear one to my grade 7 grad and to my grade 12 grad activities as well. When I lived in Europe in 2006, I finally picked up on the awesomeness of skirts and in the last few years, I’ve acquired a small collection of dresses. I’ve found that skirts are easier to find knee-length than shorts, so I’ve been wearing more skirts than I otherwise would.

      I still wear the earrings that I had my ears pierced in when I was 10. I’m now in my early twenties. At this point, people have thankfully stopped buying me earrings and I don’t really change them for special occasions anymore.

      I hate heels (I am well aware that I am petite tyvm and it suits me just fine), but I started wearing flats and interesting boots since graduating from college. Those strange strappy sandals that are coloured in weird ways? No thanks. I’ll just stick to my flats.

      I do dress pretty feminine now and I wear make-up (almost two years!), but this was a slow transformation post-college. And for me, it had less to do with looking feminine and more to do with looking the age people assume I am based on my work experience, or at the very least not a teenager anymore.

      I wanted to wear a suit to my high school grad dinner/dance (what we call prom), but there was no way my boyfriend at the time was having any of that. I now find it easier to find dresses that fit than business suits, so I far prefer wearing those.

      (You may not see how I felt your post resonated with me based on my description of myself. But your description of yourself was so totally me a few years ago. Thank you for continuing to buck the trends.)

  • This article is so necessary (like most of APW, but especially this article.) I think the bridal beauty issue was one of the hardest I dealt with. The dress, the hair and the makeup were hugely problematic throughout the wedding planning process. So many tears, so many doubts about what I was buying into. And then so much doubt and guilt about caring so much.

    But in the end, I found my embrace of fairly traditional hair and makeup ultimately empowering… because I chose them for the right reasons and because they felt like an honest expression of my femme feminism. I chose them because they were the only things that were completely, selfishly, mine in a process that was 99% about my partnership and family’s needs. I wrote about it in my wedding grad recap because it was such a draining experience to think, overthink, and ultimately make peace with my particular embrace of the bridal beauty process. It took me until well after the wedding to understand why I was ultimately okay with my gut-choice to pay for fancy hair and makeup, so hopefully this post helps other women well before they hit analysis-exhaustion.

  • This post was so relevant to me. So finely worded. I am a staunch feminist, and a bridal makeup artist. For years, I thought the two things were opposites – but now I really see how they are closely related. I never ever would impose my idea of beauty on someone else. Feminism is about loving yourself and being true to yourself. If you want to wear makeup – awesome. It’ll make you look better, no doubt. But I always tell my clients that they don’t “need” makeup, they’re already beautiful, just the way they are! Makeup is a nice added bonus. :)

    • meg

      Man. We really need to get you in on a tutorial one of these days!!!

  • sacha

    “All caps” refers to a sentence or word in all caps. As in, THIS SENTENCE IS IN ALL CAPS. The sentence you refer to is not in all caps, but every word is capitalized for emphasis. I am a stickler! I expect nothing but perfection!!

    PS. Love the post.

    • Heather G

      Ohhh, see I actually like APW because it’s perfectly imperfect. :)

      Perfect grammar = we learn, we grow, we become informed.
      Imperfect grammer = we learn, we grow, we become informed.

      • meg

        It’s imperfection week!!! That’s our actual theme! HA!

        Also, I’m dyslexic so, you get what you get ;)

        • Your comment made me smile, then it made me immediately realize that maybe I need to welcome the theme of imperfection more into my everyday life and mindset….

  • It’s funny but I think everybody has that one thing that becomes this insurmountable THING!!!! during the wedding process. Some mental resistance we encounter and come out kicking and screaming “This is ME in here”. I know I’ve already encountered one major (and several minor) THINGS. It does feel pretty good to be on the other side once you finally reconcile the THING you were battling with the way you see yourself. Thanks for sharing, as always :)

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  • Robin

    “But wedding planning is this moment where you have to pull all your disparate identities together to be one person, in front of a room full of people that know you from all different parts of life… at a moment that seems like it has a huge amount of symbolic weight.”

    EXACTLY EXACTLY EXACTLY oh man what a beautiful crystallization of how hard some planning parts are, and why!

    • Suzanna

      Robin, YES! It so perfectly states probably my biggest anxiety about the wedding, that I didn’t exactly know how to articulate before. Well done, Meg!

      And, magically, once you look at it like that, it seems kind of like a silly worry. All (or most of ) your guests love you, it’s not like they’re going to be shocked at what you’re wearing or how you’re acting.

      Still, it does provide some pressure to behave a certain way. Dang pressure.

  • Melissa

    Meg, you look a-f**king-mazing.

  • “But all this got really damn confusing to me during wedding planning. I’ve always been a study in dualities. I was a kid with a hippy upbringing, who grew up in a deeply conservative and very poor environment, and went to college with a lot of really wealthy kids. To survive, I learned to pass.”

    uhh…i think we might be the same person. hippie parents (mom lived in woodstock, dad was in key west, had me in san francisco), grew up in rural appalachia, and went to an expensive liberal arts college. yesss, this wedding will be funnn.

  • aly

    Just catching up on this now. Thanks for the shout out, Meg! I’m so glad my over the top wedding glamfoolery helped you. Gah, how I miss having the time and occasion for that kind of makeup. Funny tidbit: my bridesmaids and I and my mom and aunt all had our makeup done professionally. My straight, very down to earth, easy-going maid of honor best friend who doesn’t usually wear makeup had a melt down in the car on the way to the wedding because she felt like she didn’t look like herself. My two other maids and our officiant, all queer femme friends, calmed her down, removed much of the offending material, and her day was saved. I, on the other hand, wanted my hair higher and bigger and fluffier, and couldn’t stop adding makeup. My best friend and I are both independent, free-thinking, staunch feminists. It’s like RuPaul said, “You’re born naked. Everything else is drag.” It just so happens that the drag that I enjoy the most involves fakes lashes and high heels, while my best friend’s drag of choice is more clean-scrubbed and utilitarian.

    • meg

      “You’re born naked. Everything else is drag.” PERFECT.

  • Wow. I am so happy I just saw this post! Shana here of Fox & Doll Makeup, the one that did Meg’s makeup in this image here. I would like to say that when I started working as a makeup artist I contemplated similar thoughts that Meg expressed above. And I picked up my longtime copy of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and reread some sections. I am a true DIY girl, if I need something I usually figure out how to make it. As a longtime trained metalsmith I have a collection of tools that far surpasses that of most men I know. I wasn’t sure how I felt about entering such a different profession that on the surface seems to be about altering your image. But I have been able to bring all my beauty philosophies into my work, including not masking your face and showing off beautiful glowing skin instead, along with accentuating your best features. I love feeling good about how I look and don’t allow myself to feel guilty about having an ultra feminine side. I have come embrace the joy and luxury of makeup and pampering. I think the combination of my DIY side, my creative side, and my girlie side all together brought be to discover the magic of makeup and how it can enhance not only how you look but how you feel.

    Working with a makeup and hair pro can really help bring your look together if maybe you aren’t sure what you want for your wedding day. Your artist is a creative visionary that is a consultant and stylist in the sense of overall personal look, which can equal confidence. They of course know what products will last and photograph best. And aside from these obvious visual elements of making you look great, part of having a pro by your side is how they make you feel. A trusted makeup and hair professional should bring calm to these pampering moments before the ceremony. Yes it can be a intense time and having someone with you that you trust and know is going to make you look great can be well worth the investment.

    Also what seemed like easy liner when you practiced on your own can become a crazy mess when your nervous on your wedding day. And those extra lashes (yes, that’s the trick here one Meg’s glamorous eyes) may end up crooked with a shaky hand.

    Each bride will decide what suits them, weather it is a paid professional, a trusted best friend or sister, or the calm of doing it herself. And whatever you choose for your wedding hair and makeup will be the right the choice for you.


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