Doing Your Own Wedding-Day Makeup? You Need to Read This

Updated 08/22/19
how to do your wedding makeup: bride applying makeup
Getty/ Slaven Vlasic /Contributor

Not every bride wants a makeup artist to paint their face on her wedding day. No one knows more about your contours, your skin texture or how makeup tends to settle on your face like you do. That being said, it's not absurd that you want to take control of how you look on your big day.

As with anything wedding-related, doing your own makeup just takes careful planning and a little practice to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible on the big day. We called on Bobbi Brown's editorial makeup artist, Cassandra Garcia (she created the runway looks for Marchesa and Jenny Packham at the recent Bridal Fashion Week in New York) and asked for her top tips on doing your own wedding makeup. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about DIY bridal beauty, in the words of a pro.

how to do your wedding makeup: bride on her wedding day
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Practice your makeup before the big day

"On the day of the event, choose lightweight, hydrating and illuminating skincare products that will create the perfect canvas but won’t be too slippery that your makeup won’t stay put," Garcia says. Add a bit of Hourglass Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick ($42) just on the cheeks and temples for that coveted lit-from-within glow. "Avoid adding shine to the T-zone, centre of the forehead and cheeks, as this will look too shiny under a camera flash." Don't just do one run-through, do two or three.

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Try to look like yourself

Your wedding day pictures are going to be with you forever, and trends come and go. It can be almost impossible to fathom how much you're going to change in the years to come. So unless it's totally against your personality (in which case don't listen to us), stay away from trends and put your effort towards looking like the best version of yourself. Your focus should be on emphasizing the things you like about yourself.

Figure out SPF beforehand

"SPF can affect how the photographs come out, but if you’re getting married in the height of summer or on the beach, it will be a must. Use a sunscreen that is no higher than SPF 15; this will help to limit that ghostly look in flash photography that you can get from the white zinc and titanium oxide particles that physically reflect the sun."

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When shopping for foundation, get the shade color matched and applied in the store. Before you buy, take a photograph of yourself in different lighting (inside, outside, etc.) so that you can see how the foundation adapts and looks on camera in different settings.

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Actually, plan for the temperature as a whole

Presumably, you planned what your dress or suit will look like based on the weather. Similarly, you should consider the weather in your plan of how much makeup you're going to wear and what it will be. If the ceremony is long and outside in the dead of summer, you're just not going to be able to get away with as much as you would if you're doing it in winter indoors; it's going to melt off. Have a primer on hand either way.

Stay true to the classic complexion tactics

"Blend your bronzer really well, and make sure your face matches your neck and shoulders. If you’re going to wear a spray tan on the day, be sure to have tried the spray tan before, and use a foundation that matches the color of your tanned skin," she advises.

Have healthy skin

Don't presume any and all imperfections can be covered up by makeup. In fact, go into this process as though you have no intention to wear foundation as all. Get your skincare routine all set months before your wedding day and don't change it. A mask every so often is fine, but if you want your makeup to be consistent, the canvas has to be as well.

how to do your wedding makeup: Bride with eyeliner flick
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Be careful with your blush

First of all, if you don't typically wear blush because you don't feel you need it, don't change that for your wedding day. Otherwise, Garcia advises that you "Apply slightly more than you think you need—it tends to get washed out in photos." We'll re-emphasize that you should blend well, as you don't want to look like a clown. "An easy way to see how much you need is to get your photographer to take pictures as you’re having your makeup done in the morning to check if you need more added," Garcia suggests. "Bobbi is always checking makeup on the monitor at shoots. In fact, during your makeup trial, try to take photos in different lights (indoors and outdoors) and also with and without flash to give you an idea of how much makeup you need to apply." To find your perfect blush shade, look for one that matches your lips.

It’s all in the details

"You should neutralize any uneven color on the eyelids," says Garcia. "Use a color corrector or concealer that’s a little lighter to brighten. Your eye base should double as a primer and make your eye shadow waterproof and longer-lasting. Use a white shade for pale skins, a bone hue for medium complexions and a banana or taupe for dark skin tones. It’s trial and error, but the idea is to brighten and neutralize your eyelids." We're huge fans of MAC's Pro Longwear Paint Pots ($22) for this purpose.

how to do your wedding makeup: Bride with English rose makeup look
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Stain your lips, but beware of lipsticks

Garcia advises that you not go heavy on the lipstick. "Shiny or creamy lipsticks will transfer onto your other half and your champagne flute. Take a red lipstick and use your finger to tap and buff the colour into your lips for a longer-wearing stain. It also looks less done than a full-on lip." Use a powder to set the lipstick, and put on a primer like LimeCrime's Ghost Veil ($16) to ensure it sticks.

"If you really want to go for a more glossy lipstick, split a two-ply tissue and use one thin layer to blot. Just remember that anything glossy won’t be kiss-proof."

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Go for quality makeup

If there's one time you shouldn't go for the dupe versions of your makeup, it's your wedding day. All eyes will be on you, and there will be a ton of pictures. If you really trust your drugstore buys, like Maybelline Great Lash Mascara ($7), we get it, and go for it. But this isn't the time to pursue quantity over quality if you're unsure about the products. This is particularly important for foundation, lipstick, and eyeshadow. Eyeshadow and foundation are both items you want to blend seamlessly, and often cheaper dupes end up chalky. The last thing you want is uneven eyeshadow or foundation creases.

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With brows, less is more

"At Bobbi Brown, we recommend using either gel or pencil to fill in your brows—it really comes down to preference. A tinted gel will help to shape and groom, while a pencil can add depth and shading for a more groomed brow look." How filled-in eyebrows should be is a strong personal preference thing, so go with what you think looks best and will age well.

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Use the shape of your brow arch as a guide when applying eye shadow

This especially applies when you've chosen to wear a smoky eye, or a bolder shade. However, most brides will probably find themselves using a neutral. Garcia suggests taupe for brides. "Taupe eye shadow suits everyone and is a great everyday shade. For brides who find liner to be too much on your wedding day, use the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick ($30) in Taupe under your lower lash line instead. It will add a hint of depth without the full-on look of liner. A mahogany or brown liner pressed into your lash line will also define your eyes but won’t be as heavy as black."

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Always use an eyelash curler before applying your mascara

Never after. It's a really easy and quick way to pull out your eyelashes. "If you need more bend once your lashes are coated, then use your thumb to gently push your lashes back and coax more of a bend," instructs Garcia as an alternative.

Layer your mascara

"For standout lashes, you should layer a cream (non-waterproof) mascara, which will give fullness and thicken the lashes. Before that first layer has set, apply a gel-based (waterproof) mascara over the top to help them last."

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Test out fake lashes first

"Wear them on a night out—maybe even your [bachelorette] party—if you haven't worn them before but are tempted to wear them on your big day. Once you know the mascara or false lashes you want to wear, I recommend you watch a sad movie and assess the damage," Garcia says. That said, some people don't want to wear false lashes, and those people should absolutely still road test their mascara at the bachelorette party.

When you do cry, wipe or dab your tears away and upwards

"Otherwise you’ll get a tear line, which will travel down through your blusher and foundation, which is harder to blend away.

When applying eye makeup, hold the mirror in front of your chin so you are looking down into it. Keep your eyes open so you can apply your eye shadow and mascara onto an open eye and see exactly how it will look as you go."

Apply smoky eyes before any other makeup

Then, Garcia says you should take a big brush and "buff away any shadow that could have dropped before applying your corrector and concealer under your eyes."

"I’m not a fan of using a nude or white eyeliner in the waterline to brighten the eyes," Garcia shocks us by saying. "Instead, I recommend using eye-brightening drops. If you want your eyes to look bigger, line outside the waterline, and use shimmer on the outer corners to brighten the eye area."

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Put your makeup on before the outfit

This feels intuitive, like putting on your makeup before you get dressed every day, but it's easy to get caught up in the whole wedding day fuss and space on it. But please, unless you have no other choice, put your makeup on before you get into your clothes. Eyeshadow has fallout sometimes! Powder falls sometimes too! Lipstick might get on your hands! And, of course, don't let your face touch the clothes lest your makeup smudge or any color get on them.

Know your plan of action

Garcia has a set, freakout-free plan for brides:

"Practice your wedding day look a few times, wear it on a night out (your bachelorette party is a good place), and take lots of pictures inside and outside with flash and no flash. On the day, the bride should be the last person to finish her makeup. If you need to be in your dress by, say, noon, then aim to have your makeup done by 11:30 a.m.

Cleanse, tone and moisturize as you normally would, and then let your skin sit to allow the cream to fully sink in. Start with your eye makeup, and then move onto your complexion, followed by your lips at the end.

Some people enjoy doing their own makeup; others find it stressful. Think about clearing the room so it’s relatively calm, and just having one person on hand, like your maid of honor."

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Have a wedding-day makeup bag:

"Take a foundation stick in your clutch bag; it is perfect for touch-ups around the nose or if there are tears on the day. Pack blotting papers into your clutch bag as well to take down any excess shine. Then pop your lipstick and blusher in there, too." We'd also suggest you take a retractable kabuki brush, in case your makeup needs a bit of evening out.

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Now all that's left is to say "I do."

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