Oftentimes I’ll tell someone that I work in the wedding industry and the response I get is one of pity. As if I deal with “bridezillas” all day long and must have to drink my way through the day, they’ll ask me about the crazy experiences I’ve had and settle in for some horror stories. And honestly, after six seasons under my belt, I still love every second of it. I can honestly say I don’t have a horror story.
Sure, I’ve seen plenty of jealous bridesmaids, anxious mothers and emotional brides, but that’s all just a part of the fun. And part of my job (especially during last season, when I ran the wedding program for a salon here in Denver) is to spend the six months I have before a bride’s big day coordinating with her bridesmaids, getting deposits, scheduling out the trial run and the wedding day festivities, organizing touch ups for in between the ceremony and reception and helping her choose a veil and hair accessories. We share Pinterest boards for inspiration and swap emails to share ideas. By the big day, my brides have usually become like friends and it’s my honor to celebrate with them and have a part in their most important day.
And today, I want to take a few minutes to teach you some of the essential things I’ve learned while going through the wedding planning process with my brides. While most of it relates to hair because that’s my bread and butter, a lot of these tips can be used generically for the entirety of the planning process. Send them to your girlfriends getting married, share them with your sisters or just keep them for your own special day, but enjoy the best of what I’ve learned over six great seasons and countless beautiful brides.
Get a recommendation for a wedding day stylist.
Don’t just assume the stylist who does your highlights or haircut can also do your wedding day updo. Hairdressers specialize in various fields and chances are if yours is behind the chair doing color every day of the week, she’s probably not a bridal stylist, too. The easiest way to find out is to ask her and if she says yes, ask to see photos of her work. If she doesn’t have a portfolio or I would say even a website or Facebook page to showcase those photos, you should probably keep looking. This often indicates that she may do weddings, but she might only do one a year so she’s out of practice or unaware of current bridal trends or maybe she just simply does her friends and family weddings. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, but if you want to guarantee a great experience, I would try to find someone who is seasoned and well practiced with great recommendations.
If that’s not your personal hairdresser, then ask around. In every city there are various photographers, wedding planners, makeup artists and florists who often recommend each other and work together. I have about two to three great vendors in each category that I can recommend to a bride if needed. So if you’ve booked your photographer or makeup artist and you’re loving their work ethic, ask them for a recommendation for hair. It’s usually as simple as that and if someone produces great work, others are eager to tell you about it if you just simply ask!
Ask the right questions before booking.
When you do find the right hairdresser, chances are you’ll have to sign a contract and get all of your appointments booked. In this step of the process, it’s crucial to ask the right questions! You want to make sure that you’re totally informed before committing to this particular hairdresser. Ask her questions like whether gratuity is included in the service prices or any goodies like champagne or breakfast items? If you are having your stylist meet you on location, you’ll need to ask what the travel fee is and if there is a daily minimum if you’re keeping her away for an entire day. Also, make sure to find out if your trial run is included in the total price or if you will pay for that additionally. In terms of finances, you’ll also want to see if there is a cancellation policy, a deposit required for booking and when each payment is due. And if you have a large group, you can also ask if there is a large party discount.
These are the most of the questions you will need to ask, but don’t be afraid to throw anything out there. Especially when you are planning a wedding which your hairdresser will have to go on location for, be very specific about the details. You can even ask questions like how quickly you can expect her to answer emails or whether you can schedule a few in person consultations. Be sure to ask anything you’re curious about and when you are ready to book, make sure everything you’ve agreed to is on the contract in writing. And of course, before you sign, make sure to read all policies and disclosures!
Schedule a trial run.
Some brides see this as an unnecessary expense, but I absolutely require it unless there’s a limiting circumstance. It might look to you like an extra $60 expense when you are crunching numbers to stay within your wedding budget, but I guarantee it’s essential! The trial run gives you an uninterrupted one or two hours with your hairdresser to try as many hairstyles as you can fit in and to really make sure you are loving the direction the hairstyle is heading. And by the end, you should be able to see pretty closely what your hair will look like on your big day, which is just one less thing to worry about and decide upon!
At your trial run, there are a few ways to get the most out of your time. First, bring your veil and any hair accessories. This gets overlooked, but it is very important to make sure your hairdresser can envision and try out everything that you’ll want to do on the day of. And for you to make sure you love how it all looks together! Also, bring a photo of your dress. If you are unsure of how to wear your hair, seeing your dress and getting an idea of the theme can really help your hairdresser come up with something that suits you and your wedding. The last thing I would recommend is to be careful who you bring with you… I’ve seen some horrible trial runs and some amazing ones and a lot of it depends on who is chirping in your ear about what they do and don’t like. I suggest to my brides to simply bring their mother (if they are close to their mother) and one other close friend at most. This is not the time for jealous bridesmaids, competitive friends or overbearing future in-laws. So that your hairdresser can do her best work without five people telling her what to do and so that you can decide on your wedding day look with support and in comfort, only bring those one or two people who will be honest and loving.
Prep the week and day before.
Always consult your hairstylist about specific requirements because she will know exactly how your hair should be right before the wedding based on your expected style. But there are a few general rules you should definitely follow! If you are using hair extensions to add length or volume to your tresses, be sure to schedule a re-tabbing appointment one week before the wedding. You’ll want enough time that they’re not tight on your scalp, but not enough time that they’ve grown out too much. If you wear highlights, have them touched up about one week in advance as well. If you have gray that grows out quickly, wear heavier highlights or just want that “freshly toned” look, one week before will give you that! And for haircuts and deep conditioning treatments, those can be taken care of right before the wedding, either a week or up to three days prior.
For pre-wedding prep, it’s just a general rule of thumb that if you’re wearing your hair down for the wedding, you can wash it the morning of. But if you are wearing your hair up, wash it the night before and don’t do anything to it the morning of until your stylist gets there. Like I said, always consult your hairdresser on this, but these are the general rules. Also, be really careful not to switch shampoos, try a new deep conditioning treatment or just get crazy with your beauty regimen the month before your wedding. At this point, your hairdresser knows everything about your hair and is formulating a lot of what she needs to do around the condition of your hair. So either stick to what you’ve been doing or ask her for recommendations on what she’d prefer you use if you feel like switching it up!
Repeat After Me: “I love this, this is me and this is how I want to look on my special day.”
As I said, I have not had any horror stories. I’ve loved all of the brides I’ve had the chance to work with and each has brought their own unique spin to the wedding day beauty routine. However, I’ve argued with overbearing mothers and single, jealous bridesmaids. I’ve politely escorted younger, immature sisters out of the bride’s room for messing with my bride’s zen. Usually by the wedding day, I’ve been warned of all the weird family dynamics and friendship controversies enough to understand what I see. And while it’s certainly not my job to play family counselor (nor would I want to!), it is my job to get my bride ready for the most important day of her life. And all she should be doing is laughing, sipping champagne and reminiscing about the day she met her soon-to-be husband. It saddens me how often I see this not be the case and I think that my brides are grateful that I can step in politely and make this happen.
Brides, this day is about you and your love for the person you want to spend your life with. It’s not about your childhood friend who questions whether your updo is really that flattering on you. Or your overbearing future mother-in-law who wonders out loud if wearing your hair down is a bit too casual. This day is about you and how you feel. By this point, you’ve already chosen your style, matched it to your veil and accessories, worn it out after your trial run and loved how you looked and felt in it. If there ever was a day to just ask people to stand back, relax and leave you be while you just enjoy yourself, your most special day is definitely it. Your only worry should be getting to that aisle and making it down to the end before you start shedding happy tears!
Image courtesy of Lionsgate