How Do I Pick Hair And Makeup Vendors For My Diverse Wedding?

Binders full of white women

Q: I am getting married in California up in Tahoe, and am a white female. I am reaching out to hair and makeup people, and the vast majority of them have pictures of weddings they have done that only include white people. My wedding party consists of my friend who is Indian-American and my niece who is half-black.

How do I politely ask vendors if they are comfortable with different hair and skin tones? Secondly, would it be rude if I just got a hair stylist for my niece, or would that make her feel more left out?

Advice From The Editor:

This is an excellent question! Vetting hair and makeup artists is really important even when you’re on your own, and when it comes to a multi-ethnic wedding party, there’s a bit more legwork to be done. Before you do anything, you might want to ask people what they prefer. Your niece may actually prefer to do her own hair, or have someone dedicated to her. You never know!

Meanwhile, regarding finding vendors, it’s absolutely normal (helpful, even!) to let prospective vendors know what their subjects will need (textures of hair and skin tones) and to ask for any examples of work they’ve done in that range. Not every project is included in someone’s portfolio, and often (sadly) vendors put out white portfolios, making the faulty and problematic assumption that that’s what people want to see. If there are no examples, but the vendors promise they’re comfortable, you can ask a few questions: Do they have a full range of foundation colors? Do they have products for kinky hair? Etc. To be extra sure, you can always do a test if your friend or niece is local. In a pinch, you can ask another loved one with similar hair texture and complexion if they wouldn’t mind a free styling day.

On a different note, given the way the world currently works, POC hair and makeup folks probably had to learn on white folks, so they are more likely to be able to do a full range of styling. You may want to ask that person you were considering hiring just for the non-white folks, and see if they might actually be great for the whole party.

Who has had a bridal party with variety of skin tones and hair types, and what advice do you have? WOC, what wise words would you offer this bride?

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  • architart

    I would start by asking who wants their hair done and who prefers doing their own. I’m writing this because after I located a stylist who did black hair, it turned out that my bridesmaid was grateful for my effort but didn’t trust her hair with a stylist she didn’t personally know. Instead, she joined for a manicure at the salon. The biggest problem in my wedding party was my own hair, which is half Asian, half white, and full on in quantity and static conductivity. My hair took two hours to be beaten into an updo. Thankfully most of the party wanted blow outs, which leads me to my second advice: canvas the party for hairstyle preferences to make sure that you set aside enough time.

    • laddibugg

      If you ask, ask EVERYONE, don’t just single out the people who have hair different from yours (because this issue can go both ways–I haven’t the slightest idea how to do…non black hair) . Some folks just want to do their own hair.

      • quiet000001

        And remember you don’t have to have it all done from beginning to end, too. Like someone can just have a hair wash done (which IMO can be relaxing) and then take over styling themselves, or you can turn up hair washed ready to be blown out, etc.

        Basically, people can pick and choose for something they are comfortable with and yet still be part of the prep fun.

      • Abs

        Definitely ask everyone! I’m white with curly hair, and there’s no way in hell I would trust it to a stylist I didn’t know. Actually, I think this is probably good advice for everyone with a wedding party, regardless of race–ask people what their hair/makeup deal is.

      • Eenie

        Ditto for me with makeup – I hate having a professional do it because it never stays, and I always end up looking orange.

  • YummieYummie

    First off, I absolutely love this question. It shows how much you care about family and friends and that you want them to look and feel their best on your big day. I totally agree with architart that you should start by asking your wedding party what they feel comfortable with. Hair is a big deal. There are so many different styles and textures, it’s better to just ask than play the guessing game.

    Same goes for the stylist. It’s okay to ask them what kind of experience they have with different kinds of relaxed and natural hairstyles. I’m painfully shy on the phone sometimes, so I spent 10 minutes dancing around the issue with the receptionist at the salon I went to before I eloped. It also didn’t help that I don’t necessarily “sound” black (but that another issue for another time…) The stylist did an okay job and my hair looked nice, but you could tell she didn’t have much experience with my hair texture and was afraid to really get in there and wrangle it. I ended up touching it up myself an hour before the ceremony. I could have saved myself so much hassle if I had just been direct and asked for what I needed.

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  • QoB

    Ditto on asking everyone what they’d like, and then just being really clear with the potential MUA and stylist(s) about what everyone needs. My MUA asked me about people’s skin tones up front; I told her that a member of the party was recovering from a major health issue and would want extra help with eyebrows and eyelashes. Just treat it as a normal thing – which it is – and veto anyone who doesn’t have the skills you need or treat it as some weird extra thing.

  • E.

    Late to the party, but I second what everyone else said. I was in a similar situation, except I was getting married in a very isolated area where all 3 of the makeup artists are white and there was one within my price range. I was a little nervous about this same issue so I asked her directly if she had shades for darker skin tones and she said yes (but I was still nervous tbh. I would really have preferred a POC, though she did a good job). After getting that confirmation from her I asked the group what they wanted and some went with her and some chose to do their own makeup and it all worked out great.

  • L.

    Ask your niece’s mother how to go about accommodating her daughters hair needs. There may be hair tools and products she doesn’t use on her hair and any stylist will need to know that ahead of time. For example I wasn’t allowed to get a flat iron until I was of a certain age, etc. Ask your Indian American friend if there are things you should ask potential stylist to accommodate her. Have both conversations one on one.