A quick Google search on how to be a beautiful bride and look wonderful on your wedding day throws up a myriad of ways to modify or amplify your looks via makeup, hair, facial and body treatments to turn you into the vision of the gorgeous Goddess you (may) have in your mind’s eye.
All of which is fine, if that’s your bag. But I have worked on hundreds of weddings and I think there is something else that needs to come into sharp consideration.
As well as being a writer, I am also a makeup artist with over 20 years of experience behind me. In those years, I have seen a multitude of brides go through their beauty transformation for the big day. And that is what it is for a lot of them – a transformation. From one thing to another…
Some might say (who, me?) that some tend to shape-shift from a clear-thinking, rational adult woman into a slightly detail obsessed, one-track-minded ‘perfectionista’.
But obviously, many do not do this, which is marvellous. Especially for the hair and makeup people recruited for the day (well, actually it’s preferable for all the suppliers!).
So what goes awry and causes this personality shift?
Well, it’s understandable; the stress of the arrangements, the build up to the day, the pressure of the people attending and the overwhelming need to get it all right. Most normal people are not event organisers, and in the absence of hiring one to take care of business, that huge role falls to the soon-to-be-betrothed. Neither of whom may have strengths in these areas. But hey, ho, we all know the budget only stretches so far, and therefore, roles must be assumed by people who don’t usually list corsage making or bunting sewing as their particular skills. So the best thing here is to just get along with things and do the best you can. If the bunting looks a tad wonky, and the flower arrangements on the tables slightly skewed, know they were done with love, probably by a well-meaning cousin, be grateful, move on…
So, yes, we understand the stress.
But what I want to point out is the pointlessness of the total re-imagining of oneself when it comes to appearances. I have seen so many brides diet to the point of madness, where dresses taken in twice or three times are loose, and ill-fitting on the day. Where brides have decided to take up a Botox and/or fillers regime to fix imagined aging. And where brides have changed hair colour, added extensions and tried a makeup look solely focussed on looking good in Instagram pics, that they look nothing like themselves in the flesh.
And that’s the thing; I’ve never understood why some brides want to change themselves so much for this day. Yes, they want to look amazing and there is pressure knowing all eyes are on you, but what always looked best, in my view, is a bride who looks happy. A bride who looks like herself, but a slightly more polished version, perhaps. Not a bride who turns up on her morning too skinny, tense and stressed. How does that make for a lovely day?!
When I meet a bride to be for the first time, I ask to look through her phone pics to see how she looks when she’s laughing and hanging out naturally with her friends. In those pictures, I see the real her. Then I ask her to show me beauty references she likes, so that is where I see pictures of anything from Kim Kardashian to Kate Middleton, and what do I do?
I meet her in the middle.
A total transformation, whilst possible, I did study special effects makeup, would be awful. And not like herself. If necessary, I persuade her towards a more subtle, natural look saying that, no doubt, her partner would like to recognise the person walking down the aisle.
We get there in the end, when the trial has been done, and she sees herself as she is; a happy, glowing bride to be. Because, I do believe that that is ultimately what she wants – to see the happiest, shiniest version of herself, so that the outside appearance matches her internal emotions.
In terms of makeup technique, this is achieved by listening closely to her desires, watching closely how she expresses herself in her face and applying products that create a glow. A bright, defined eye, clear dewy skin and a lip tone that matches her complexion completely is the key. And a cream blusher – always!
But that’s the beauty part. There is more to take note of for a truly beautiful bride…
I have been present on wedding mornings where tensions were so high between bride and bridal party (specifically the mother), where tempers took over resulting in shouting and tears. The hairdresser and I had to take over, mindful of the time, and tell people that ‘perhaps they might like to get ready in separate rooms and take some deep breaths’. I had to ice the brides face to calm down her skin from its’ red, angry look as I tried to use my diplomacy to focus her on what she was about to do. I reminded her that her relationship with her mother might be best left to sort another day, given that she was due in church in thirty minutes to marry the man she loved (and she still had to calm down and get hair and makeup done). I felt sad for her that she wasn’t feeling what she should have been feeling in those moments – joy. I felt sad for her that stress had gotten the better of the moment.
I hope she was fine in the end, but I’ll never know. Hair and makeup people are often the last to see the bride before she leaves, and those final minutes of getting ready are sacred in my eyes. It’s a truly lovely thing to witness when the mood is as it should be; one of excitement, nerves, happiness and expectation.
And it’s a lovely thing when you can see a bride really being herself – content in the fact the arrangements and details are done, that they are not the be all and end all of the day, and that she is embarking on a day that is solely about happiness.
I worked on a wedding yesterday, in fact, where I was moved to tears at the end of the morning because there was such happiness in the room. The bride and groom were in their late forties, and she spoke of finally finding her person, how she thought it would never happen. She spoke of her sheer joy of having him and that she would have married him in a field with no-one around her, all that mattered was that she felt lucky and honoured to have met him, and for them to have fallen in love. They knew they may not have children, but that was ok, for they had each found their partner, someone to bear witness to their lives from that point on. I felt, whilst, she looked incredible in her dress, hair and makeup, that she wouldn’t mind marrying him in her jeans with no makeup.
She was beautiful, and it was from the inside out. The moment wasn’t about her, it was about them.
It wasn’t about table favours, impending speeches, Pinterest boards or lipstick touch-ups.
It was about marriage. And isn’t that the point.