Bridal Glam 101: Looking and Feeling Your Best On Your Big Day

Spring is here, and so is my favorite time of year:  wedding season. Like the cheesy rom-com lover I am, nothing makes me happier than a solid makeover story.  And, nothing tops a bride’s wedding day transformation. While I absolutely hated planning my wedding, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat for the glam.  The hair. The makeup. The jewels. The fashion. Geez. My heart rate is elevating just thinking about it.  For so many, though, wedding day glam can be daunting, so I wanted to share some bridal beauty tips from my own experience (and embarrassing ongoing obsession with this topic).

bridal beauty tips
Photo credit: Durling Photography; Makeup: Makiaj Beauty; Hair: Raimonda Pepaj

I’m digressing a bit, but just so you understand…I’m THAT weirdo who, nearly three years after her wedding, will still randomly peek at her wedding dress, longingly caress the hand-woven and beaded silk, and contemplate putting it on like a stalker from a Lifetime movie.  I also regularly reimagine what my bridal hair and makeup would look now,  if I were to be getting married as the crunchier, curly girl I am today.  I have even asked my hubs (unsuccessfully, but several times in a dead-serious tone) if we could hire a photo and glam squad again to re-create my…er, our wedding photos.  I have a problem, I know.

So…as your glam-obsessed-kind-of-creepy-forever-bride, here are my bridal beauty tips for looking and feeling your best on your big day.  Whether you’re a curly girl, a clean/organic beauty lover, or just the everyday bride looking for some guidance, this post is for you!   And, it’s for me…because writing this helps me fight the urge to get drunk and handsy with my wedding dress.

Clean Up Your Diet and Exercise Routine

Where to start with the bridal beauty tips? Eating right and moving!  Please, please do not starve yourself or do hours of cardio until you pass out. Skimping on appropriate nutrition and exercise will never lead to any targeted fat loss.  However, it will absolutely lead to long-term health issues and lifeless skin and hair on your big day. The connection between skin health and regular exercise and diet is well-studied; for example, increased exercise is connected with increased blood flow which leads to glowing skin as well as anti-aging benefits. For hair, given that hair health starts at your scalp which is…drumroll please…part of your skin, the increased blood flow from exercise also strengthens your follicles to prevent hair loss and boost hair growth.  

So, if not for the sake of your health, then for the sake of your glam, eat whole foods, get your protein, consume healthy fats, drink plenty of water, and make sure your exercise, all well in advance of your big day.  Even little things can make a big difference – like going to go to spin or barre class with a friend 2-3 times a week, getting your fiance to commit to cutting out processed snacks with you, and jazzing up your water with lemon, berries and mint so you get excited to drink more of it.

Manage Your Stress and Sleep Habits

Of course, hindsight is 20-20, but as someone who regularly lost her sh*t and cried over the stupidest things throughout my year of wedding planning, I wish I listened when people told me to stop sweating the small stuff. I was also working crazy hours at the time (where my law firm brides at?), so sleep was a luxury I could rarely afford.  What I learned the hard way is that managing your stress and sleep matters, not only for self-care and health but also for beauty. Stress can lead to flare-ups of a variety skin problems, ranging from eczema to acne. It can even mess with your scalp health, which as noted above,  is critical for hair growth and preventing hair fall.  Additionally, depending on how you react to stress, you may find yourself eating less or eating unhealthy foods more often, both of which have further negative effects on your hair and skin health.

Having support from the people in your life to help you back away from any stress or anxiety ledges is so key.  While your beauty regimen matters, your mental health and wellness are non-negotiable, so set your limits and recognize signs of when you could use some support and intervention.

Start Prepping Your Skin…Like, Yesterday

I don’t care how good your MUA is, how natural of a look you are going for, or if you are DIY-ing your makeup. Proper skin care is the true key to a flawless bridal look.  If you already know your skin’s needs and are getting facials regularly, then hats off to you, as you are doing all of the right things.  If regular facials are not feasible, then I highly recommend a consultation with an esthetician or an appointment with a dermatologist at least six to nine months prior to your big day so that you can understand your skin type and get into the right routine to ensure your skin is in its optimal condition by your wedding.  During this time period, I would also budget for some facials if possible.  Then, a full week prior to your big day, definitely get a facial. I don’t recommend getting one any closer to the wedding, as you want to ensure that your skin has enough time to heal (i.e., if there were any major extractions or if you have any resulting breakouts or redness).

If seeing an esthetician or dermatologist and even sporadic facials are completely out of the question financially for you, fear not!  At a bare minimum, there are several resources online to get you started on affordable at-home routines; just be sure to look for information published by dermatologists and/or estheticians. My favorite is The Baller On A Budget’s skincare quiz by blogger,  Eileen Luib. Eileen is a licensed esthetician and budget lifestyle blogger, so her skincare quiz and customized routine recommendations are spot-on (in my unprofessional opinion) for anyone interested in learning more about effective skincare without breaking the bank.  I will note, however, that if you are specifically looking for clean/organic skincare suggestions, then most of her products recommendations may not be for you.

Photo credit: Durling Photography

Deep Condition Your Hair

If you have hair (regardless of the type!) this is a must. Looking, back I wish I was more dedicated to deep conditioning, but even the monthly treatments I did back then helped so much! Sure, you can coat your hair with products to make it appear shiny and sleek on your wedding day, but just like your skin, starting with a healthy base is the way to go.  Considering what I know now about deep conditioning, I recommend that starting two or three months out (earlier if possible), brides incorporate weekly deep conditioning into their regimens. Instead of using a regular conditioner after washing, once a week, simply replace that with a deep conditioner that you leave on your wet hair for 20 or more minutes.  I promise that after one or two sessions, you’ll notice a huge improvement in how your hair looks and feels.

To effectively deep condition your hair, regardless of your hair type, the conditioner has to penetrate your cuticle.  In order to ensure that this occurs, you should get to know your porosity, which a topic you can explore here at Naturally Curly.  For the purposes of deep conditioner, I’ll note that if your hair is low porosity, you will likely need to apply the product to your wet hair and then apply heat (e.g., steam of your shower,  wearing a heated hair cap, or a shower cap and then applying heat from your blow dryer, etc.)  to ensure that your cuticles open up and absorb the conditioner.  If your hair is high porosity, you typically won’t need much additional effort (i.e., heat) for the conditioner to penetrate your hair, as your cuticle is already raised to allow it the product to enter.  If your hair is medium or regular porosity, the heat will certainly improve the absorption, though it may not be necessary.  If you are still confused about your porosity, I suggest playing around during your first few deep conditioning sessions and seeing how your hair feels after you’ve used heat versus without.

For some product recommendations, if you are curious, I discuss some of my favorites by Shea Moisture here and here.  They are not entirely “clean” or nontoxic, but per my reading of the ingredients, they contain fewer harmful ingredients than a lot of other curly girl favorites out there…and they work for me!  If you’re a non-curly bride reading this, these options are absolutely appropriate for your hair, too. Just mind your porosity, as I note above.

Photo credit: Jonathan Durling; Makeup: Amanie Mokkad; Hair: Raimonda Pepaj

Give Heat and Styling Products a Break

Admittedly, I was not living my best curly life around the time of my wedding.  Back then, I simply reduced my heat use to two/three times a week. However, if you have the willpower and desire, I highly recommend cutting it out altogether for two or three months prior to the big day.  If you are a South Asian bride, in particular, with multiple events and days of heat styling lined up, this is a must!  The longer you go without heat, the less repeated damage to your hair cuticle and more you can preserve its health and luster for your wedding day.

Beyond cutting out the heat, I also recommended giving styling products a break for about two weeks leading up to your wedding. Just wash, condition, and/or deep condition, and let it air dry.  Not only does this limit any product buildup, but I find that it lets my hair breath before big events where I will inevitably be using a lot of styling products and heat.

If you are worried about looking like a troll by going heat and product free, my current go-to is to wash and condition/deep condition at night and sleep in a braid.  To my clean, wet hair, I add a bit of leave-in conditioner,  gently comb to create a deep side part, and then braid my hair from the nape of my neck down (you can braid however you like (French, fishtail, etc.). I then I secure the ends with a hair tie and pin the tail of the braid up, around my crown against my scalp and close to my hairline. When I wake up, I undo the pins and braid.  My hair is dry and my roots to my ears are relatively smooth and almost straight, while the rest is a soft wave with some frizz (which you can tame with a teeny bit of oil).  When I’m ready to leave the house, I  keep the side-parting as is, but rebraid my hair into a side French braid.  For more heatless style inspo to keep you looking lovely well before your wedding, I love all the tips from Luxy Hair!

Photo credit: Durling Photography; Makeup: Makiaj Beauty; Hair: Raimonda Pepaj;

Schedule Any Pre-Wedding Color or Cuts Strategically

Ideally, if you, like me, have naturally dark hair and typically just color to touch-up your grays, I would schedule your color about a week prior to the big day. This allows for the fading of any color stains that inevitably may touch your hairline or ears.  If you lighten your hair or have any colors that may fade or turn brassy, then I would speak with your stylist or go from personal experience in terms of getting the service done close enough to the wedding day so that you can avoid any unwanted color changes.

For trims, I would schedule this one to two weeks before, especially if you have medium-to-long hair and are truly just getting a dusting off your ends. If you have hair that is above the shoulders in length and/or grows fast, then a trim closer to the big day may be better. This is particularly true if you have a pixie or other very short style.

Another reason to be intentional about cuts and color is so that you can cater to your wedding hairstyle(s). For example, I wanted long, jet black hair with volume for my multiple-day South Asian wedding celebration so that I could look traditional while also being able to wear my hair in various styles.  Therefore, in addition to being stingy with trims and avoiding the urge for balayage, I also wore extensions for fullness.   To keep it as natural as possible, I absolutely consulted with my stylist in advance to ensure the color match was optimal and the length matched the longest layer of real hair.  

Photo credit: Durling Photography; Makeup: Amanie Mokkad; Hair: Raimonda Pepaj

If you don’t know how you want to style your hair yet, don’t stress! As a rule of thumb, I would recommend keeping your hair as long as possible so that you have options unless you are absolutely sure you want a specific, short look.  This is especially so if you plan to wear your hair naturally curly/wavy.  Not only do curls and waves shrink when they dry, but you can also easily hide your length with pins.  Moreover, finding the perfect curl or wave match with extensions can be hard and often ends up looking unnatural unless you plan to heat style.  For color, unless you are intentionally going for a dramatic, statement color, just remember that any color changes are damaging, so think long and hard before you do anything drastic and go from raven-haired Kim K. to white-blonde Kim K.

If You Are Hiring MUAH Professionals, Have Trials and Trust Their Artistry

Not everyone hires a makeup and hair (MUAH) squad for their big day, and that’s totally understandable.  But, if you do and if you are not accustomed to getting glammed up professionally, I highly recommend having a trial.  Why? Because this limits any surprises on the day of.  It also lets you get to know your artist, their aesthetic and process.   It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions about their products and see how those look on you. 

Even if you have a trial, don’t panic if you feel that they’ve used too much blush, went overboard with the lashes or hair teasing. Obviously, if you really feel like a clown, then say something because it’s your day and your money.  But, chances are, they know what they are doing and you look amazing!   Any reputable artist in the wedding industry knows that their work has to stand the test of time, sweat, tears, too much booze, cheesy dance moves, and camera flashes. So, take a deep breath, relax, and trust a good artist at work.

Photo credit: Durling Photography; Hair/Makeup: Makiaj Beauty

If You Are DIY-ing Your Makeup, Give Yourself Realistic Practice

While I did not do my own wedding makeup, and while I am certainly not a professional, I have done my own makeup for other special events, and find that some of the same principles apply.  The goal is to enhance your natural beauty in a way that lasts several hours and translates equally as well in person and on camera.  Even if you’ve identified your look, assembled your products and are comfortable using makeup, I highly recommend practicing your look starting a few months prior to the big day. After each trial, take notes on what worked versus what did not in terms of the outcome and be sure to ask your most trusted, honest friends (who understand makeup!) for their opinions and feedback.  On top of that, once you get comfortable using the makeup and achieve your desired look,  time yourself, starting from your skin prep, so that you can build this into your wedding day timeline.

Once you have the basics down, its time to conduct several wedding-like simulations to see how long the makeup lasts. Wear your makeup out dancing one night to see how it holds up while you move and sweat. Wear it in natural lighting or indoors with flash and dimmed lighting – whatever mimics your wedding lighting setup best – and have a friend with a DSLR or solid iPhone photography skills take some photos of you.  And, don’t forget to test it while eating and drinking.  Finally, if you’re as extra as I am, to make sure your makeup is cry-proof and laugh-proof, wear it through several episodes of This Is Us and Modern Family.

If your makeup does not hold up under the above conditions, then adjust your products or application.  Is your concealer creasing?  Is your mascara running? Lipstick not lasting? Would a better setting spray or primer help? Once you identify the issue(s), try new products or adjust your application technique and repeat the simulations.  

Photo credit: Durling Photography

Assuming you have made it to the end of my mangum opus…..I hope these bridal beauty tips leave you looking and feeling your best on your wedding day!  Now off you go to hopefully not murder people in the name of wedding planning.   As for me, I’ll be out here, gettin’ weird with my wedding outfits and finding excuses to have a bridal glam sesh 2.0.

Photo credit: Durling Photography; Ugly Cry On The Best Day Ever Credit: Me


3 thoughts on “Bridal Glam 101: Looking and Feeling Your Best On Your Big Day

  1. Gorgeous photos! All your prep clearly paid off, Heeral — you look stunning! And I love your hairstyle. I’ll definitely be coming back to this article when the time comes for me. Also, you’re hilarious 😉

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