What to Expect During Your Bridal Hair + Makeup Trial // From A Real Bride

Written with love, by Felicia Zammit-McMann

The hair and make-up trial – one of the most important, but slightly overlooked “to-do’s” on any bride’s list. It’s easy to assume you’re going to go to the salon, show them a photo of a hairstyle you like, and end up looking exactly like the model in the photo. Likewise, you most likely wear makeup every day, and think you might just be able to tell someone what colors you want and be done with it.

Makeup Artist:  Emma Anyanwu  Photography:  Alakija Photography Studio  Headpiece:  To Hold & To Have  ( The Bride List  Preferred Vendor)

Makeup Artist: Emma Anyanwu
Photography: Alakija Photography Studio
Headpiece: To Hold & To Have (The Bride List Preferred Vendor)

Well, that would be nice; but the reality is, they are called trials for a reason. Not only are you trying different hair styles, or makeup colors, but also different salons. Many of you might be marrying in your hometown and plan on going to your favorite salon for your trial. Some of you might be getting married in a different city, state, or country, for that matter, and need to really do some research on salons that offer hair and makeup for your big day. Regardless of where you end up, there are some basic steps to follow to make sure you are happy and looking gorgeous on your wedding day.


Step 1 // Do Your Research!

I can’t stress this enough. Your salon is just like any other vendor you would hire for your wedding. Make sure you ask a ton of questions and feel comfortable with the people you are talking to. If you don’t like what they have to say over the phone, move on. Remember, pushiness or rudeness equals a stressed-out bride, and you don’t want that.

Think outside the box when it comes to salons as well. Just because you’ve been going to the same salon for years, doesn’t mean they necessarily can do your bridal hair and makeup. Ask friends and coworkers for recommendations, go to bridal shows to check out what’s available, check out reviews on sites such as Yelp, and check salon websites for testimonials or before and after photos of real brides.

Once you’ve done all of that, then go ahead and book your appointment(s).


Step 2 // Give Yourself Time

Jay Dixon Photography

Jay Dixon Photography

This is especially true for brides who are getting married outside of their hometown. Give yourself time in two ways: Trials can take up to two hours, so make sure you have the time to dedicate to that. Also give yourself a few months before your wedding to go on your trial. This way, if you go to one salon and don’t like what they did, you have time to find another.

Step two-and-a-half: If applicable, have your trial before your engagement photos are taken. This way, they can do your hair and makeup for your engagement photos.


Step 3 // Bring Photos + An Open Mind

While a chignon is so beautiful and elegant, it’s not for everyone. My hair was neither long enough nor thick enough to support one, so I opted for a half-up, half-down style. I brought photos with me but ended up doing something completely different than what I had originally wanted. You need to be flexible enough to work with what you have. Thin hair might be better down, thick hair might be better up. You never know until you try. Bring photos of a range of different styles and try as many as you can, because just like your dress, you might be pleasantly surprised by trying something new.


Step 4 // Bring Your Bling and A Fresh Face

Just like you would bring your shoes and the proper undergarments to a dress fitting, you need to bring all the proper goods to your hair and makeup trial. Bring your veil, headpiece, flowers, or barrettes to your appointment so you can see what they will look like with your hairstyle. Come with your hair prepped as you would have it the day of your wedding: washed – or unwashed – with little to no product as possible. Same for your face. Show up with a fresh face. Moisturizer is okay (check with your makeup artist first), but nothing else. Once you decide on a look, take a photo! Your stylist should be taking notes, but even at that, if your trial is months before your wedding, it’s easy to forget details. A photo captures everything.


Step 5 // You Should Look Like An Amazing Version of Yourself

Photography:  Katie Riviera Photography  Hair + Makeup:  Stephanie Nelson Makeup & Hair  ( The Bride List  Preferred Vendor)

Photography: Katie Riviera Photography
Hair + Makeup: Stephanie Nelson Makeup & Hair (The Bride List Preferred Vendor)

What you wear to the office is totally different than what you wear on your wedding day. Remember, you are wearing a formal gown, which requires formal makeup (regardless of whether you have an indoor or outdoor wedding). It also needs to hold up through tears, sweat, smooches, and photos … lots and lots of photos. Because of that, wedding makeup by nature, will be heavier, but it doesn’t mean you will end up looking like a clown. Tell your stylist what kind of makeup you normally wear and what look you are going for. Your wedding is not the time to try something drastically different, it’s just a time to try something better.

Step 6 // Travel Fees

Depending on where you are getting married or getting ready, it may require the salon to come to you. If this is the case, make sure you ask if they are able to meet you at the venue. If it’s out of state or out of the country, you may be looking at paying travel fees for your stylists, so be prepared. If travel is something they can’t do, and you can’t go to the salon the day of your wedding, you may need to book different vendors.

Step 7 // Cheaper Does Not = Better

Let’s face it: By now you’ve probably realized that anything associated with weddings or brides costs more than it does normally. Your budget might be on its last legs, but don’t skimp on this important part of the planning process. What you look like is going to be captured forever, so you want to make sure you look your best. Make sure to leave a few hundred dollars or so in your budget for proper hair and makeup.

Jodee Debes Photography

Jodee Debes Photography

Step 8 // Timeline

Believe it or not, getting your hair and makeup done plays a very important role in the timeline for your wedding day. Typically, that’s a bride’s first stop for the day; and if you end up running late there, it pushes everything back, like a domino effect. Make sure you share your timeline with your salon and work backwards from there. For example, my wedding didn’t take place until 2:00 p.m., but we were at the salon at 8:30 a.m. to make sure we had enough time for me, my mom, and my bridal party to get ready, get home to grab some breakfast, and be ready for when the photographer came. Your salon or stylists will know how long it will take to do your hair and makeup – the trial is also the time to see how long it takes to get you prepped – and how long it will take to do everyone else. A great salon/stylist will want you in and out as quickly as possible so that you can get on with your day and photos. Might that mean an early wakeup call? Yes. Might it mean a long day? Yes. But you are going to be so psyched and full of adrenaline on your wedding day, getting up early will be a piece of cake.

Get picture perfect with a professional makeup artist (not Aunt Jean!)

Written with love, by Tamra Johnson


Sure aunt Jean would love to help you on your special day…but can she effectively:

Q: Accommodate your bridal party, big or small?

why hire a professional wedding makeup artist

A: When you request a professional to travel to your hotel or home while in preparation for your ceremony and photos, it's a luxury and it's also wise.  Aunt Jean might have great intentions to glam you and your wedding party up but what often happens is...she herself is strapped for time and can't possibly get everyone ready for the camera.  "Professionals stick to schedules, amateurs allow life to get in the way!" On this day, you deserve to kick up your stilettos and get truly pampered by a stylist who knows how to service you and your entourage...sorry Aunt Jean, #SorryNotSorry!


Q: Style you for your engagement photos and rehearsal dinner?

A: Many of you will opt for the DIY or calling (Aunt Jean) when the engagement photos and rehearsal dinner comes around, but you might want to reconsider. When you work with a seasoned artist, he or she will create a wearable, appropriate look that the camera will eat up.  If "Aunt Jean" does it, she might focus on your eyes and lips...that's a big no-no!  Don't make your features compete.  Both occasions deserve a beauty savvy application.

Sorry Aunt Jean, #SorryNotSorry!


Q: Calm the room if chaos starts to stir?

A: Time to ask yourself this question: If tears, anxiety, nerves, butterflies, intoxication from the Champs bubbles spread like wildflower, will your Aunt Jean know how to calm the room or will she be too distracted with all the wedding drama? A room full of Chatty-Cathy's, loud music, endless text and phone calls really needs to be put in place.  Your vendor should be someone who can help lighten up the mood and who can bring a sense of zen and calm to the suite.  The last vendor you see with the Bride, her mom, etc. is usually the hair and makeup artist.  We remind you to breathe, relax and reassure - will Aunt Jean be that for you?

why hire a professional wedding makeup artist


Q: Does she know the difference between skin-tones and skin types?

A: Amateurs like Aunt Jean might know her skin, and she might even know yours but will she be prepared for the rest?  Will she know what to prep the skin with? Will she know which products photograph the best? Which products hold up in different lighting and different temperatures? Maybe your ceremony is outdoors and the reception is indoors, and this matters with makeup!

All in all, it is our job to know various skin-tones and skin types and with a big or small wedding party, complexions will vary.

"Sorry Aunt Jean, I got this one too!"

Tamra Marie Makeup Artistry Logo

As a nine-year industry veteran, San Francisco native Tamra-Marie has built an extensive BEAUTY background in makeup artistry---specializing in giving her clients a fresh, clean and glam look.

Tamra-Marie has trained with industry brands including NARS, MAC and Laura Mercier Cosmetics. She has had the opportunity to showcase her creative talents in runway shows, commercials, fashion editorials, red carpet appearances and celebrity photo shoots.

“Sure, makeup is about art but its’ also about giving proper attention to features and how to accentuate your complexion.” Makeup offers transformation, on the runway it creates an edgy feeling and in real life it can help promote confidence. My beauty philosophy has always been “ less is more”, a radiant face with a hot pink lip is the pop, it’s what I offer today’s women.

Her gutsy spirit moved her to Los Angeles for three years but now Johnson resides in SF Bay Area. Her clientele includes models, actors, designers, musicians and socialites. She is consistently requested because of her talents, industry experience and a client-first attitude.

In between projects, you can find her collaborating with photographers, shopping vintage boutiques, and uncovering just what is the best darn mascara is on earth|?|

Bridal Trial Series: Final Looks, Products Used, and the Blooper Reel

Over the past five days, we have given you a behind-the-scenes look at a real bridal trial with our beautiful bride, Kelsey, and our hair and makeup team from Swell Beauty. And for those of you who have not yet had your trial for your wedding day, I hope that your fears and anxieties were eased, that you learned how to ensure you find the best stylist for you, and that you now have a better understanding of what a bridal trial entails so you can be as prepared as possible when your day comes!

So of course, we have to show you all of Kelsey's final looks...


...some of the professional products that were used...


...and what would an eight hour bridal trial be without a blooper reel! Enjoy :)

A huge thank you to Dee and Stacey from Swell Beauty, Shawna from Bleudog Fotography, and Johnny from AfterDark Media for making this amazing series possible!

And Congratulations to our beautiful bride, Kelsey, for allowing us to film this process! We cannot wait to feature your wedding in October :)



I hope that this series is not only fun for you to watch, see, and read, but that is eases any worries or unknowns about what your hair and makeup trial will be like. Our goal is to guide you through the process of choosing your stylists, offer you tips and tricks along the way, make sure you are best prepared for your trial, and help you through all the way to your wedding day!


Swell BeautyBleudog FotographyAfterDark Media