How to Choose Your Wedding Hairstyle

Find the right style for your big day.

Woman getting her hair done before a wedding
 Senserini Lucrezia/Getty Images

There are tons of questions you're going to have about your wedding day. We definitely are not qualified to answer all, or even most of them. However, we can absolutely answer your questions about hair. These questions might be things like:

  • Should you wear your hair up or down?
  • Do you choose the dress first or your hairstyle?
  • Can you do it yourself?
  • What is all this talk on wedding boards about a "hair trial" and how much do they cost?
  • How far in advance are you supposed to book the stylist?

Deep breaths. You're good. By the time you walk down the aisle, your hair is going to look fantastic.

On your wedding day, you should look like the very best version of yourself. You want the person you're marrying and your guests to recognize you as you walk down the aisle. Even more importantly, you want to feel comfortable and supremely confident. True beauty, after all, comes from within. If you're a casual person in your daily life who never wears makeup, your wedding day is not the time to break out your inner glam girl (unless you dream of that.) Likewise, if you walk around looking like a Kardashian in your daily life, this wedding hair experience is just going to make you want to go bigger and bolder. Start collecting pictures now.

Throughout this process, check in with your gut. Does this feel right? Does this feel like you? Some advice every bride should hear is this: you can tune out that advice that will surely come from friends or family, even if it's well meaning. If you want extensions, get them. If you don't want to grow out your short haircut, don't. If you don't want to wear that family heirloom, don't. This day is about you and your partner. This is not about what others want for you. 

How to Choose Your Wedding Hairstyle

Once you make the decision to have a wedding, all of a sudden life can get very, very complicated. The options are endless—which means the wedding hair options are, too. You can pull your hair up in the most amazing loops, or you can wear your hair half up/half down, for a princess feel. There are jewels you can wear in your hair, or maybe even flowers flown in from Oahu! 

Pause. Deep breaths.

Before you do anything hair-wise, you should pick your dress. A bride's hair should complement her dress, not compete with it. Your veil is different. If you choose to wear one, which not everyone does, you can actually choose a veil based on the hairstyle, or vice versa.

Another good rule of thumb for selecting a hairstyle is to consider the wedding theme, because if you've picked your dress out, you probably have that part down. Are you a casual person getting married barefoot on a beach? Consider keeping your hair down. Are you spending $1,000-per-wedding guest to marry on the top-floor of a Manhattan high rise? A formal updo might be best. Is this a farm wedding? Cascading curls! Consider if you're going to keep the veil on for the reception, or take it off after the wedding ceremony. Most brides take it off, but pictures can be really romantic if you wear your veil at the reception. It's all up to you.

Meghan Markle wedding
WPA Pool/Getty Images

You'll want to consider your hair texture and length as well, because if you want that shellacked updo style, you're going to need long-ish hair to achieve it. There are many amazing hairstyles for short hair brides, so don't let that freak you out. As for hair texture, don't fight Mother Nature. Curly hair looks amazing either down or up, styled or just natural. Straight hair can be curled into waves and wound into ornate updos (with the help of pins and hairspray). Wavy hair can be either straightened or curled, and is the perfect texture for half-up/half-down styles and updos.

A few months before the wedding, start perusing magazines and online hairstyle galleries to pick out some favorites. If you are super organized, you can even pin your favorite styles to Pinterest to keep them in one place, and show off your options to your friends. In any case, you'll want a few options to bring along to your hair consultation.

Finally, when selecting styles, think ahead 20 years. When your kids look at your wedding album, will they see a classic bride or a dated bride? Be careful with those cascading tendrils—you want your wedding day style to be something you won't regret.

When to Book Everything

There are more details below on the full wedding hair timeline, but most brides choose their hair stylist and book them for their weddings about three months before the wedding. There's no hard and fast rule to any of this, you just want to ensure you don't miss out on scoring your ideal stylist. The popular stylists can book up pretty fast for Saturdays, particularly in prime wedding season.

same sex couple wedding
 kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

Here's a basic schedule for your wedding hair:

  • A few months before the wedding, start collecting photos of your favorite wedding hairstyles.
  • Three to four months before the big day, research hair pros in your area and book a couple consultations.
  • Three months before the wedding, finalize your hairstylist and book a trial run. Also book the wedding day for both you and your wedding party.
  • Four to six weeks before your wedding, get a hair trim. If you straighten or curl your hair professionally, do this at least one month before the wedding so your hair has time to relax.
  • Two weeks before the wedding, get your hair color touched up. Highlights around the face are flattering for brides. Make sure all grays are covered.
  • Confirm your hair, manicure and makeup appointments at least a week before the big day.

Can You Do Your Own Hair?

You can absolutely do your own hair for your wedding if you want to. This is your day! Kate Middleton learned how to do her own makeup for her multi-million dollar wedding, after all. If you aren't one to spend extra money on a hairstylist and makeup pro, then don't. Save your money for the honeymoon. Or something else. It's your money. Do, however, enlist a friend to help you out with your hair on your wedding day. The two of you can do a trial run a week or so ahead of time, just as you would a trial run with a pro.

Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton
Getty Images / Samir Hussein 

How to Find the Right Hairstylist

Finding the right stylist to do your hair can seem like a Herculean task. You definitely don't have to use your regular stylist for your wedding day hair. Having your hair styled for a wedding or formal event is a specialty that's different from hair cutting or coloring. You may find someone in your salon who specializes in wedding hair and makeup, or you could ask for recommendations from friends. Interview a couple stylists. Once you've chosen who you want to stick with, schedule a hair trial with them, and book them for your wedding day. And keep in mind that many stylists also offer makeup services for a wedding at an added cost.

Bride with an updo
Jacky Lam / EyeEm / Getyt Images

The Importance of the Hair Trial

Schedule a hair trial a couple months to a few weeks before the wedding. Trial runs are basically a run-through of your wedding day hair and sometimes even your makeup. Most stylists charge a fee for a trial run, but it's nominal, and the price is worth it for the peace of mind and knowledge you have locked down that perfect hairstyle. This is also your opportunity to bring in the veil and the pictures of hairstyles you love. You absolutely do not want to try a new style on the day of your wedding, so this is a pretty important meeting.

Take digital pictures of your hair once it's done from every angle to see how you will look in your wedding pictures and to your guests.

Here are some more tips for your hair trial:

  • Bring in a photo of your dress so your stylist can ensure your hair fits with the dress style.
  • Definitely bring your veil or hair accessories for the stylist to try out during your hair trial.
  • Be honest with your stylist about your expectations and speak up if you don't love the style you end up with. Many brides have more than one hair trial before they settle on a style they love.
  • Spend the rest of the day with that hairstyle to ensure it will hold up the day of your wedding.

Also, don't get a major haircut in between your hair trial and your wedding day. You don't want to show up and surprise your stylist the day of your wedding.

mixed raced couple on wedding day
 Laura M / EyeEm / Getty Images

Hairstyles That Work Best With Dress Styles

Your hairstyle should complement your dress, instead of competing with it. For example, if you have a detailed bodice with long sleeves, you should avoid cascading curls topped with a tiara. A classic, simple updo is a much better option for long sleeves and ornate detailing.

Bride with a braided updo
Senserini Lucrezia / Getty Images

Here are some basic tips for dress and hair combos:

  • Strapless dresses look beautiful with an updo or half-up/half-down hairstyles. Tight, pulled-back updos are not always the best, because all you can see is forehead and neck. Opt for a side part with bangs angled gently over the forehead. You might also choose a looser updo.
  • Big ball gowns look best with dramatic, formal updos.
  • A simple country wedding dress or beachside dress will look great paired with loose, flowing waves or curls. You can also opt for hair pulled up on the sides, but loose in the back. Pin a few flowers if your hair is really curly and can hold them.
  • A spaghetti strap wedding dress looks lovely with soft waves or a loose, casual updo. For a modern, romantic look, keep hair down and wavy, but pull bangs back off the face.
  • Pantsuits and simple modern dresses look great with a sleek blow-out, or a sexy slicked-back formal ponytail.
  • If there's a lot going on in your chest area (for example, if you are wearing a spectacular necklace or a halter top dress, for example), keep hair pulled up into an updo. You don't want hair competing with the heavy neckline.

If you're wearing your hair down and loose, make sure it hits below the top of your dress. Otherwise, it can make you look look boxy. If your hair isn't long enough, you can get extensions just for the wedding or grow out your hair—or just do an updo.

What to Expect the Day of Your Wedding

Your stylist will know how much time is needed to do your hair, so be sure to schedule that into the day. You'll want to give yourself plenty of time, especially if you have long hair. Keep in mind the timing of your wedding party hair appointments as well, if they're getting their hair done. Your stylist should know how much time to schedule.

Couple at a beach wedding
Olga Efimova / EyeEm / Getty Images

Some brides with fine hair opt not to wash their hair the day of because the dirtier hair is, the better it will stay in an updo. Some brides also can't imagine that. Bring extra pins and hairspray along to the reception, just in case your updo starts to fall. You can run a hair dryer sheet on your head if there's static in the air and your hair gets frizzy.

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