Important: Bridesmaid Makeup That Won't Upstage the Bride

woman with long eyelashes


Chances are if you’re a bridesmaid, it’s someone pretty close to you whose special day you’re going to be photo-bombing (in a good way). Chances are also quite high that the dress you’ll be wearing might not have been your first choice. Thank goodness you can claw it back with your makeup so you feel less like a carbon copy of the three girls standing next to you and more like yourself. All you need to do is get your signature smoky eye past the bride because there’s nothing worse than being told to tone down your wedding makeup minutes before you hit the aisle.

It’s all totally doable, though; it’s just about finding that balance, according to makeup artist Carly Hobbs. “When bridesmaiding, you have to style it out between creating a makeup look that stays true to the bride’s ‘vision’ while making sure you still feel pretty,” she says. “Let her lead the way; if she’s having a trial, you could request one as well but offer to pay, or you could show her what you were thinking on the hen ’do. That will give her time to decide if she’s happy with it or wants to tweak it.”

Read on to discover what else you need to bear in mind when it comes to bridesmaid makeup.

1. Prep it right

Smashbox Primerizer $30

Weddings are long days, and the bride will need you on full alert from the get-go, so you need to make sure your products won’t have dissipated into thin air by the time you get to the reception drinks. Look for long-wear products, and always use a primer to smooth things out first (like pores and fine lines) and help your foundation adhere to your skin better. Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primerizer ($42) is a lightweight formula packed full of moisturizing ingredients, which will help your skin stay fresh from a.m. to p.m.

If you don’t want to switch up what you usually use, that’s fine, but just apply a bit more than usual, and do it in stages. “Because of all the photographs, it’s a good idea to use more than you would on a daily basis, but don’t go too heavy with the highlighter, as it always looks more dramatic once photographed,” advises Francesca Neill, ambassador for Collection Cosmetics.

Glowy, radiant products might sound lovely, but they can cause those flashlights to flare, which will leave your skin looking pale and uneven. The same goes for products with SPF. It’s not something we’d often advise, but if you can ditch it for the day, do so. “Whilst it creates a shield against damaging UVA/UVB rays when photographed, SPF will add a white film over the skin, which isn’t ideal,” says Ariane Jaksch, acting education manager for UK and U.S. brand, Smashbox Cosmetics.

2. Smoky eyes can be wedding-appropriate

Barry M Dazzle Dust $6

From the off, it’s advisable to avoid harsh liners and heavy brows, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to peaches and camel-colored shadows (unless that’s your thing, in which case, as you were).

“Brides tend to prefer softer looks over sultry, which is where I tend to turn to a rose gold and bronze smokiness instead,” explains Hobbs. “These shades are always really flattering, so go with them; my favorite is Barry M Dazzle Dust in Tan. And if you still don’t feel right without a slick of black liner, trace some kohl into your waterline as a compromise; she won’t even notice.”

Another alternative? Try a feline flick of liner at the outer edges, and ditch the eye shadow altogether.

3. It's all about the lashes

Make Up Forever Aqua Smoky Lash $23

If you’ve had to tone down the dark colors on your eyes, compromise with some spectacular lashes instead. The bride will no doubt be doing the same. “False lashes don’t have to be super dramatic,” says Jaksch. “More natural-looking strip lashes or single lashes at the outer edges can give definition and intensity without overpowering the rest of your look.”

Again, be sure to broach the falsies subject before the big day, and bring your own if need be. Often wedding makeup artists will charge extra to add lashes, so if you don’t want any awkward silences, get it signed off on beforehand.

Tinting or getting a lash-lift is another trick you can keep up your flouncy bridesmaid sleeve. Effective enough to make a difference but subtle enough to go unnoticed when you’re in a rush, the salon treatment Lash Perfect Lift gives a bespoke push-up effect that’s chosen by the length, natural thickness, and shape of your natural lashes. And it lasts up to six weeks, so your flutter will still look spot-on when the bride comes home from the honeymoon.

As for mascara, you could go for a waterproof option, continues Hobbs, although she rates all of the Makeup Forever mascaras for their ability to cope with tears.

4. Lip service

Unless your bride is going for the 1940s theme, bold red lips are probably not going to be on her radar. Nudes tend to be the way to go, as they're universally flattering, which is crucial if there’s more than one bridesmaid to consider. However natural hues aren’t always a one-size-fits-all option.

“Make sure the bride knows to provide a range of tones if she wants you all to have the same makeup looks. What may look lovely on one person might make another look washed out or conceal their lips completely,” says Neill.

If it’s still looking a bit vapid, choose a nude that’s one shade darker, or revisit those brighter colors, but with a sheer finish or gloss instead. “A different finish may be all it needs to stop the look being too overpowering for the bride,” says Jaksch.

Bridesmaid make-up nude lip

5. Set it right

Collection Primed and Ready Fixing Spray $8

Once you’ve finished your final look, use a fixing spray or finely milled powder to set everything in place and create a veil of protection over the skin. Sweat, tears, rain, sloshes of champers—nothing will disrupt your game face.

Next up, bridesmaid hair ideas to feel inspired by.

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