Bridal Beauty


Looking Perfect on Your Wedding

Makeup by Sherri Morris of Brushworx

Hair by Sheree Manzanares of Avanti Salonand Leia Roten of Lush Salon & Spa

Hair accessories and tiaras by Loan Concepcion of Bridal Tiara Salon

Local hair and makeup experts share their secrets for creating exquisite bridal looks.

Sarah Nelson is sitting in a salon chair at La Vita Bella Skin Spa in East Sacramento. Her hair is pulled back into a casual ponytail, her skin scrubbed clean and makeup-free.

The 24-year-old bookkeeper and part-time student is here for a “pre-bridal consultation” with makeup artist Sherri Morris. Engaged to be married in late October, Nelson wants to be sure she’ll look her best when she walks down the aisle. Today, she’s having a “test run” of the makeup she’ll wear on the big day.

“It’s going to be an outdoor wedding,” says Nelson, noting that she’ll be wearing a slim, ruffled-organza dress, and that she plans to sweep her hair off her face. “I want my makeup to be soft and light: light lip gloss, light eyeliner, bronzy cheeks.”

Morris begins by applying moisturizer, followed by foundation and concealer. As she brushes Trucco’s “Ficelle” light-brown powder onto Nelson’s eyelids, she keeps up a steady, soothing patter. “To have clean makeup, you need clean skin, clean hands, clean tools and clean technique,” she murmurs. Morris applies brown eyeliner with a pencil, goes over it with brown powder, then smudges the line with a Q-Tip. “The most important thing is to blend, blend, blend,” she says, adding, “I go through a lot of Q-Tips.” She brushes brown powder onto Nelson’s eyebrows, then shapes them with a clean mascara wand. “A pencil’s too harsh,” she notes. Next, she lightly outlines Nelson’s lips with a rosy taupe lip pencil (MAC’s “Spice”), adds lip conditioner, then applies light-brown lip gloss. “Smile for me, please,” she instructs Nelson. Finally, she brushes a peachy-brown powder onto Nelson’s cheeks, chin and forehead and uses a short, dense “buff brush” to blend the powder into her skin, giving Nelson’s face a natural-looking, sun-kissed bronze glow. “Like buffing your car or your shoes,” she explains.

Forty-five minutes after she began, Morris steps back and admires her handiwork. Nelson examines her reflection in the mirror. She looks like herself—only better: pretty, fresh, not obviously or overly “made-up.” “I love it!” she exclaims happily.

Every woman wants to be her most beautiful on her wedding day.

It’s hard not to be: After all, you’re wearing a fabulous dress and carrying an armful of gorgeous flowers. And you’re in love, the best beauty treatment of all.

But if you really want to look like a princess, you’ll have to pay more than the usual amount of attention to your hair and makeup. If you typically sport wash-and-go hair and minimal cosmetics, now’s the time to do something special: a classic updo or romantic curls, perhaps, and more than a quick swipe of the mascara wand and once-over with a tube of lipstick.

Chances are you’ll expend more time and effort on your appearance for this one day than you ever have before—and probably ever will again. For once, nobody will fault you if you’re a bit obsessed with looking your best. “It’s your day—you’ve got to look the part,” says wedding consultant Heidi Perris.

Here, we tell you how to get a wedding-worthy look that you—and your groom—will never forget.

What a Girl Wants—Today’s bridal looks are pretty and romantic. Leaf through bridal magazines and you’ll see scores of brides with tousled hair and loosely flowing tendrils. “Bridal hair is a little messy these days,” says Rowena Hiraga, owner of Rowena and Takashi salon in El Dorado Hills. “I call it ‘undressed hair.’” She likens it to the carefully unconstructed hairstyles that dominated the red carpet at this year’s Oscars. “Bridal hair isn’t as coiffed as it used to be,” she explains. “It’s elegant, but it’s also casual, fresh and practical.”

For at least the past decade, the updo has been the overwhelming favorite in terms of bridal hairstyles. Updos are still popular, but they tend to be looser and less structured than in the past. Some brides are even opting for partial updos: hair worn half up, half down. Ponytails and ’40s-style pin curls also are in demand.

One thing’s for sure: Brides want a special hairstyle for the big day. “When they have this beautiful dress, why would they wear their hair in the same style they wear every day?” asks hairstylist Kathy Frazier, who specializes in weddings.

When it comes to their makeup, brides want to look fresh, clean and pretty. The matte look is out: Dewy, glowing skin is in. The color palette leans toward soft pastels such as pinks and peaches for lips and cheeks, and neutrals such as browns for eyes.

Morris recommends a “classic, timeless” look—nothing trendy, such as glitter—that will look beautiful 50 years from now, when your grandchildren look at your wedding pictures. (To up the glamour quotient, she sometimes uses false eyelashes.)

Most brides say they want to look natural on their wedding day. But don’t mistake “natural” for au naturel. It takes a lot of cosmetics, artfully applied, to achieve the natural look.

The Pros of Hiring a Pro—If you want to look great on your wedding day, consider hiring a professional hairstylist and makeup artist who specialize in weddings.

What’s the difference between a specialist and the person who regularly cuts your hair or the makeup artist at your local salon? Plenty, say the experts.

“Some hairstylists are great at cutting hair, but they can’t do updos,” points out wedding consultant Laurie Schmalzel, who works for Event Architects in Sacramento. If your heart is set on an updo, she recommends asking your regular hairdresser for a referral to somebody who does them—a lot.

It’s also important to hire a makeup artist who knows how to make you look as great in photos as you do in person. That can be tricky: The wrong makeup can make you look pale or “reflective.”

“Photo makeup involves more shading, blending and contouring to bring out the cheekbones and jaw line,” explains wedding makeup artist Julia Richardson. “Camera lighting tends to wash you out, so you have to wear more blush, and the foundation has to be heavier. It’s definitely not daywear.”

In addition to bridal makeup, Morris does a lot of print work—she’s worked on local models and celebrities for photo shoots, and she applied Maria Shriver’s makeup when she was photographed for the May cover of Sacramento magazine. “I really understand what will translate on film,” says Morris, owner of Brushworx Makeup Artistry. “Every time I see my work in print, I study it and learn something new for next time.”

She tells brides that professional hair and makeup is a great investment. “When the DJ goes home and the balloons come down, all you have left is your pictures,” she says. Bridal consultant Perris agrees. “These are the most important pictures you’ll ever take,” she says. “You want to make sure you look great in the photos.”

Trial and Error—All the wedding experts say you should do a “trial run” of your bridal hair and makeup before your wedding day.

“It’s extremely important,” says Schmalzel. “You need to feel confident about how it’s going to look. On your wedding day, you don’t want to have to wash off your makeup and start all over again.”

She advises brides to schedule their makeup consultation on a Friday evening. Bring a camera and take a picture to see how the makeup looks on film. (Or arrange to have your engagement photo taken by a professional photographer—that way, you get a great picture and see how the makeup will look in photos.) When you’re done, Schmalzel says, don’t waste your beautiful look: Go out to a nice dinner with your fiancé.

If You Can’t Go to the Mountain . . . You have two choices on your wedding day: You can go to your hair and makeup people, or they can come to you.

The wedding consultants we talked to recommended choosing a stylist and artist who work “on location.” That means they come to your home, hotel or wedding site. The benefit: You don’t have to travel (you’re already so busy!) or wait in a hectic salon.

“We always prefer that the stylist and makeup artist come to the bride for ease and convenience,” says wedding planner Katie Koutsoulis, co-owner with Perris of Agape Wedding & Event Professionals. Morris agrees. “It’s a lot more fun for the bride,” she points out. “She can have champagne and strawberries while we’re doing her hair and makeup. The bride feels a little more special, like a celebrity.”

Typically, you’ll wash and dry your own hair before the stylist arrives. (If you’re getting an updo, your stylist may tell you not to wash your hair—“dirty” hair is easier to work with.) All he or she needs is a power source for rollers and straightening irons.

Some wedding specialists, such as Richardson and Frazier, work only on location. (In fact, their company is called Beauty on Location.) Others, especially many salon stylists and makeup artists, require brides to come to them. If you choose a stylist or artist who works in a salon, ask if he or she is willing to travel. Be prepared to pay a travel fee, which can range from $25 to $150 or even more.

It’s Gonna Cost You—As in all things related to weddings, bridal hair and makeup cost more than their nonbridal counterparts. In Sacramento, expect to spend about $300 for hair and makeup. That will cover prebridal consultations, trial hairstyle and makeup, and service on the day of your wedding. Your bridesmaids will pay about $150 to have their hair and makeup professionally done on the day of the wedding. (That doesn’t include trial runs.) You’ll have to pay a deposit (typically 50 percent) to reserve the services of a stylist and makeup artist.

Don’t want to spend the money for a professional makeup artist? Morris suggests hiring an artist to give you a lesson in makeup application. She charges $225 for a 3 1/2-hour lesson—which can be economical if you’re getting married out of state and don’t want to pay for her travel and hotel.

Schmalzel tells her budget-conscious brides to consider hiring a makeup artist from their favorite department-store makeup counter. “It tends to be more affordable,” she explains. “Because they already have a job at Macy’s or Nordstrom, they don’t need to make their whole livelihood from Saturday weddings.”

Briana and Linsey Degen did just that. When the two sisters recently got married in a double ceremony, they hired a consultant from Nordstrom’s MAC counter to apply their makeup. “We loved her,” says Briana Degen.

Getting Ready for the Big Day—To look your bridal best, here are some things you can do in the months leading up to the wedding day.

First, establish a good skin-care routine. “I make sure my brides are exfoliating and hydrating,” Morris explains. “You want that bridal glow that comes with great skin.” If your eyebrows are shaggy or imperfectly shaped, go to a professional groomer.

The experts caution against getting a facial or trying out new skin-care products or services less than a week before the wedding: You want plenty of time for your skin to recover if you have a bad reaction.

Get your hair cut and colored about two weeks before the wedding. Hair typically looks better when it’s had a little time to grow out. And don’t try anything radically different—say, a new hair color—right before your wedding. “You should look like yourself when you get married,” says Schmalzel.