The Real Girl's Guide to Picking a Makeup Artist for Your Wedding

Life is full of big, confusing questions, one of those being: How on earth do you pick a makeup artist for what is arguably the biggest day of your life? After all, you’ll have the photos and memories forever, and you want to be able to look back and not see smudged eye makeup, a shiny forehead, or any of the many other beauty blunders that could happen on your wedding day.

With so many people saying “I do” now through the end of fall (hello, wedding season!), we thought it would be helpful (and plain old interesting), to talk to four real brides about exactly how they picked their wedding day makeup artist—step by step. Keep scrolling to read their real-life stories!

Kiesha Clayton, 29

makeup artists wedding tips
You Look Nice Today Photography

Bride: Kiesha Clayton, 29, public relations manager

Wedding Location: Seattle

Worked with: A professional makeup artist 

How she made her decision: The first move Clayton made to find a makeup artist was to visit wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty and Green Wedding Shoes, and search for Seattle weddings (where she would be having her own wedding). “Those blogs are great because not only can you get a good look at the bride’s makeup, but each post includes a list of almost all of the vendors that a bride used while planning her wedding,” she says.

You Look Nice Today Photography

The process: After doing research on wedding blogs, she identified a few local wedding makeup artists who had created bridal looks similar to how Clayton envisioned looking on her wedding day. “I don't wear a ton of makeup in my everyday life so I wanted an artist who could really give me an elevated and beautiful look without making me look like someone else,” she tells us. To further narrow down her list of artists, she did a little more reconnaissance . “I went to Yelp and Google to read reviews, find websites, and learn more about their services,” she says.

Clayton ended up with three potential makeup artists, taking into consideration their ability to travel to the bridal party on the day-of (with seven bridesmaids, she wanted a makeup artist who could come to them). Her other consideration? The price. “Weddings are expensive and costs can quickly add up especially when you're a bridesmaid. I gave my ladies the option of getting their hair, makeup or both done on the day and wanted to keep costs as reasonable as possible for them,” she says.

The artist she ended up going with was actually the first one she met with in-person for a trial. “I knew she was the right choice for me because she was super organized and had a team of makeup artists to pull from if she needed extra help on my wedding day,” she says. “She also totally understood the look I was going for and hit it spot-on during my trial.” ​

You Look Nice Today Photography

Post-wedding thoughts: Clayton says she was surprised by the importance of really liking and trusting your makeup artist: “I originally thought, ‘Hey, if I like their work, let's go for it—it's only a few hours of my actual wedding day!’ But I actually really enjoyed chatting with my makeup artist and felt like I could be honest with her if there was something that I didn't like.”

She also says she has a newfound appreciation for the many hats that a makeup artist wears on the day of the wedding. “In addition to doing your makeup, your makeup artist keeps things on schedule, caters to different and potentially strong personalities, and keeps everyone happy. You want to find someone who is a pro and makes getting ready a seamless and fun process. Luckily mine did!” she raves.

Her take-away to all brides searching for someone on the Internet? Read reviews. “That might be obvious, but if reviews are telling you that a particular stylist is always late, they will most likely be late on your wedding day!” she says. She also advises having a makeup trial: “It may cost you a little extra money up front, but a trial will give you the opportunity to spend time with a prospective makeup artist, get to know them, and make sure your beauty styles mesh.”

Laura Callanan, 28

Bride: Laura Callanan, 28, medical student

Wedding location: Roatan, Honduras

Makeup artist: A friend with makeup experience

How she made her decision: Because she was having a destination wedding and knew she couldn’t do a trial run if she went with a makeup artist on the island, Callanan shifted her focus to friends and family. “The only choice was to pick someone from home that would be at the wedding, and that was a no brainer: my lifelong BFF who also happens to be a personal stylist and knower of ALL things beauty,” she says.

The process: Recruiting a pal to do her makeup made things low-stress for Callanan. “Catie and I went to Ulta, I sat in a chair, and she and a staff person pulled things off the shelves to try on me,” she tells us of the pre-ceremony experience. “I think my only instructions to Catie were that I had some blemishes I wanted to cover up, I wanted to glow, and I wanted it to look natural. I can't say I contributed much to the selection of products, but I was definitely forthright about which ones I liked and which ones I didn't while we were testing each of them.”

Catie tells us, “I did a lot of research on beach wedding/natural makeup before we went shopping. We tried a few different colors of foundation and concealer (it’s really important that you go into natural light to see if they blend flawlessly into your skin).” She also was thoughtful about the location. “The biggest thing for beach makeup is that you are going to be outside, so you don't want to overdo it with a heavy foundation, or products that that are sparkly or shimmery because they will catch the light weird,” Catie says.

The takeaway here is that you can think outside the box from traditional, professional makeup artists whether due to location, price concern, or comfort. If you have a friend that has always been super great at makeup, even if she doesn’t do it as her job, it can be something to consider. From the friend/artist’s perspective, Catie says, “Photos are really really, really helpful when you are unsure of what you like. Sometimes women have a hard time describing correctly what they want and, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Post-wedding thoughts: Callanan says she wouldn’t do anything differently if she had the chance. “Of course I was pretty lucky to have a friend who is so knowledgeable and talented, but getting to try so many different brands and types of product in a store like Sephora or Ulta is super fun AND you get to keep all the makeup you buy! I definitely think it is a great choice, especially for someone having a destination wedding,” she says.

Elizabeth Silverman, 29

Bride: Elizabeth Silverman, 29, physician assistant

Wedding location: Chevy Chase, Md.

Worked with: A professional makeup artist

How she made her decision: Because she had hired full-service wedding planners, Silverman asked them for a recommendation. She says she trusted their knowledge of makeup artists with whom they had established relationships, matched with what they knew about her aesthetic. “I didn't do much research beyond asking them, because I felt like my planners had a really good handle on what I was going for in terms of feel of the wedding. They knew me, so I trusted their opinion completely,” she says, adding, “I did look in some magazines and blogs, (such as Martha Stewart Weddings and Style Me Pretty), for vendor lists, but didn't weigh that nearly as heavily as the advice of my planners.”

The process: Silverman’s top priority was feeling like herself on her wedding day. As she tells us, “I don't wear a lot of makeup at all, so my main concern was that my makeup be natural-looking and subtle,” she says. “I know most people say that (who WANTS to look unnatural?), but I tend to get self-conscious and freaked out when I look in the mirror and have a lot of makeup on, so that was my main (and really only) priority. I also don't know much about makeup, or what looks good on me, so I really just wanted to put it in someone else's hands.”

She set up a trial with the woman that her planners recommended about two to three months before the wedding, to see if her execution meshed with her preferences. “I really clicked with her personally, and I thought the job she did was perfect: very soft and subtle, but it still felt very fancy compared to what I normally wear,” so it was a done deal. “She also really sold me on the makeup she used: hypoallergenic for my super sensitive skin, and sweat-proof for my late August wedding,” says Silverman. “And she had these amazing fake eyelashes that she placed individually and they changed my whole face.”

Post-wedding thoughts: Silverman was surprised by how easy and low-stress the process was. “I was lucky in that I clicked with the first one I tried, and I had planners I trusted that could vouch for her,” she says. “But maybe in retrospect I would have tried one or two others just for comparison.”

Her best advice to brides in search of a makeup artist is to focus on whether you connect with them on a personal level. “It might sound weird, but I applied this to all of my vendors for my wedding,” she says. “You need to be able to be totally honest with them and feel confident that they are listening to you. They are going to be part of such an important day—one that should feel special and easy. They'll spend time with your friends and family, all of your loved ones, so make sure you feel comfortable with them!”

Cara Ramer, 28

Onelove Photography

Bride: Cara Ramer, 28, pharmaceutical sales rep

Wedding location: Paso Robles, Calif.

Worked with: A professional makeup artist who is a friend

How she made her decision: She had done some initial research on Style Me Pretty and Pinterest, and then brought photos of what she had in mind to one of her closest friends from high school, who does makeup professionally. “She usually tends to do more work for editorial type shoots as well as TV/film, so I had no doubt in my mind she would do an amazing job, but I still wanted to be sure she really understood the vibe I was going for,” she says, adding that, “I asked her to do a trial run for our engagement shoot as a fun practice round.”

The experience was so positive and Ramer loved the resulting look so much, she knew she’d found “the one.” “She was so detail-oriented, had me check in the mirror often to make sure I was happy with everything, and I looked exactly like how I had asked—myself, but a little more glam,” she says. “What also made me feel so at ease was that there was no pressure. She wanted me to be happy and like my look—she didn't push what she wanted onto me. Once we got our engagement photos back from the photographer, I had zero questions about whom I was using for the wedding. It sounds cheesy but she made me feel pretty, so it was a done deal!"

Onelove Photography

The process: For Ramer, the decision really came down to whom she could connect and feel comfortable with to give and get feedback. “I wanted to be able to say no or ‘a little more of that’ and vice versa,” she says. “I loved that my friend [Afton of Afton WIlliams Makeup] looked at photos I showed her and would say things like, ‘This is really pretty, but with your skin tone may be too harsh,’ or I could say, ‘Eek, I'm really nervous to have you fill in my eyebrows!’ Being able to have a voice I feel is so crucial, you can't feel intimidated or feel guilty telling your makeup artist if you don't like something.”

Onelove Photography

Post-wedding thoughts: Ramer says she was surprised with the cost of wedding day makeup, which she had done some initial research into. “I know wedding day beauty isn't cheap, and I was willing to pay the big bucks, but really? Over a thousand dollars for just my hair and makeup, sorry—thanks but no thanks!” she says.

Her advice to brides is to plan as far in advance as possible when booking your makeup artist, and to keep your skin regimen in mind. “If you have problem-prone skin like myself, get as much sleep as possible as you get close to the big day. I was super-restless and Afton had to work her magic to cover up my circles,” she says. “Luckily she did a great job and I was happy, but try to sleep!”

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