For years, I've sworn that I'll do my own wedding makeup. I've never particularly liked the way my makeup looks when I leave it in someone else's hands, and given the fact I've been doing it myself since middle school, I feel confident in my skills. Not to mention, I also know which products and shades do and don't work for me, the latter of which is usually the root of the issue when I get it done professionally.
Here's the thing, though: Despite having a few bad experiences, I know there are a ton of skilled artists in the industry who know a lot more about technique, lighting, and product placement than I do, so I figured in the spirit of wedding season (and my pending nuptials), I'd give three different artists the same instructions to see if their visions and my vision would align. (Spoiler: They were all very different.)
Keep scrolling to see three very different versions of the same bridal-makeup request.
Clinique Bridal Makeup
My first stop was Sephora, where I had a lovely makeup artist from Clinique tackle my vision of "natural makeup with a healthy dose of glam." I kept the instructions quite simple because that's the exact "look" I'd like at my wedding. I wouldn't want anything too overdone or intense—just naturally glam. Mostly, I just want to avoid caked-on makeup, ultra-heavy contouring, and a super-dark eye.
The makeup artist took out a hefty stash of products and shade-matched everything to perfection. It was then that she asked me what type of bridal bouquet I imagined myself having. I saw where she was going with this and told her I picture something off the beaten path, like peonies, ranunculus, and succulents. She nodded and started shuffling through the products as if that description were all she needed to execute my look, which I'd only assumed she took as natural and fresh.
She then started the entire routine off with skincare (Clinique Pep-Start Hydroblur Moisturizer, $31; Clarifying Lotion 3, $17; and Pep-Start Eye Cream, $28, to be exact), which I appreciated, especially since my skin was going a little bonkers that morning. Then came the foundation and powder. I noticed that she was being very quiet and brushing everything on gently and lightly, so I worried she was taking my "natural" cue a little too seriously. It was at this point I said to her, "It's okay if you get a little Kardashian with my look." Her response? A sigh of relief and a big thank-you. I couldn't help but laugh.
Although I planned to give each makeup artist the same initial instructions, I also wanted to throw in some cues here and there as each process wore on. I couldn't allow them to reach for a dark lip liner and go to town, you know? Getting your makeup done should be like riding in an Uber—you've got to let them know where you're headed and hope they take the best route. But if you see that they're headed into Times Square during rush hour, it's time to divert.
Cut to about an hour and 15 minutes later, and the look was done. I hadn't looked in the mirror the entire time, but when my makeup artist had finished, she squealed and said I looked "snatched," which was really all I needed to hear to get the serotonin levels climbing.
She passed me the mirror, and what stared back at me wasn't the look I imagine myself walking down the aisle wearing. It wasn't awful by any means, but I had some serious Instagram brows going on. My contour and eye makeup were also way too heavy for my liking. She certainly took the "Kardashian" instructions and ran with them. It was as if I had traded in my ranunculus and succulents for a giant wall of white roses.
Bobbi Brown Bridal Makeup
As a huge fan of her line, I was really excited to get a bridal makeover with Bobbi Brown's products. As another plus, her whole shtick is natural beauty—she's even famously denounced contouring, so you can bet none of that was going to happen during my visit with the makeup artist at Macy's Bobbi Brown counter in Herald Square.
But I was also excited that my makeup artist was male. I'd never had a man do my makeup before, but looking at the work of Mario Dedivanovic, Ariel Tejada, Patrick Ta, Dick Page, and Vincent Oquendo, I couldn't wait to see what his version of "naturally glam" would look like.
The makeup artist first applied the Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base Priming Moisturizer ($60), which he explained is a moisturizer and primer in one; it doesn't hurt that it also smells like a dream. He also applied the Hydrating Eye Cream ($56). Afterward, he brushed on a thick (and I mean thick) layer of under-eye corrector and concealer, followed by the Skin Foundation Stick ($47). He had me check myself out in the mirror after each product, which I greatly appreciated. He really cared about everything looking right and wanted to make sure I approved. Following the foundation, I noticed that my face was very dewy and a little pale, but I let him continue, thinking he'd correct it with powder and bronzer. However, he used the Nude Finish Illuminating Setting Powder ($54) to set the foundation, which he explained is usually for dry skin, so I was surprised he chose it even after explaining that I have combination skin that steers toward oily. The bronzer also wasn't quite dark enough for my liking.
My eye makeup was light and a bit shimmery, which was nice, but I actually would've preferred a bit more depth. He also only put a little bit of mascara on my lashes, so I told him to "go ahead and glop it on." (I love lots of mascara.) But even after acknowledging my instructions, he still only used a little bit more mascara. It took everything in me not to grab the mascara wand and do it myself.
When I took a look at the final result, I was a bit underwhelmed. I felt super, super pale (my skin is naturally quite fair, but I was hoping for a bit more warmth.)
Urban Decay Bridal Makeup
The third time's the charm. My final stop was at an Urban Decay counter, which turned out to be my absolute favorite rendition. This makeup artist was the only one who really focused on the fact that this makeup needed to last throughout an actual (albeit fictitious) wedding. She used both an eye shadow primer and a brightening primer, first explaining that "the key to wedding makeup is making it last." Amen—especially since my skin is a total oil slick.
She then did my eye makeup first—something you read about often (to clean up any fallout first instead of having eye shadow crumble onto your foundation) but not anything I've ever tried myself or had someone do to me. She was able to create a sharp line where the eye shadow met the start of my temple with concealer, which actually looked really clean and not too Instagram-y.
Again, I told her to really go heavy on the mascara, which she did a nice job of (with a lash primer, no less). She followed up with a perfect nude lipstick, bronzer, highlighter, and faint blush. The only thing I didn't like was that she was using the same brush to dip into the bronzer, blush, and highlighter. She had a whole belt of brushes, so I'm not sure why this was the case, but it resulted in a bit of a tan under-eye, which really showed up in pictures. I also wish she'd touched up my brows and filled them in a tad bit more (this was hard to see in the bright lighting of the department store makeup mirror).
Do not use the same brush when applying bronzer, blush, and highlighter. Using separate brushes is key so as not to mix makeup and have it show up where it isn't intended.
After a mist of All-Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($33)—another smart step no other artist employed—I was off. I was really feelin' myself as I walked around afterward, and despite a warm NYC summer day, I loved that my foundation (Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup, $20) held up for hours without so much as a drop of oil or sheen on my face.
This experiment taught me that I actually can trust other people to do my makeup. However, even though I absolutely loved what the Urban Decay makeup artist did (despite a few hiccups), in all honesty, I'd still rather avoid any possible mishaps on my big day by doing it myself. I know what I like—what can I say?