If there’s one common misconception about beauty editors, it’s that we’re also makeup artists. And hair stylists. And board-certified dermatologists. The times I have been asked to consult on wrinkles and dark spots are too numerous to recount here. The second most common request: wedding beauty.
I have been watching the best in the business—Pat, Charlotte, Dick, Val, Gucci, Lucia (Pieroni and Pica)—perform small feats of color cosmetics for the last 15 years, which has given me a knowledge base that is, admittedly, better than average. But a professional I am not, and successfully using these application skills on brides—who tend to have . . . exacting standards—is a recipe for anxiety.
That said, I have accepted the wedding beauty challenge twice and have survived with some fail-safe guidelines from my spin as a reluctant makeup artist. These aren’t steps to picture-perfect, looks-good-in-all-lights-and-at-all-angles color that won’t budge through ceremony, reception, and after-party; if that’s what you’re after, hire a professional. But they should help keep things low-key while ensuring you look like the best version of yourself, a la the Duchess of Cambridge, who reportedly wed Prince William in front of an international viewing audience with nary a makeup artist by her side.
Do a Makeup Test
It’s definitely worth doing a makeup test before your wedding, especially if you want a graphic look, so you’re not applying (and removing) hypersaturated color while guests arrive. A bachelorette weekend is a fun time to try out options and watch YouTube tutorials with the added mood-enhancing benefit of copious amounts of wine.
Don’t Sleep on the Facial
Proper skin prep cannot be overemphasized when it comes to successful wedding makeup. While preplanned microcurrent treatments, peels, and masks are all well and good, a day-of skin ritual is almost more important, both to create a smooth canvas and to provide a nice moment of cathartic Zen before inevitable stress ensues. I like to apply Sharon McGlinchey’s MV Organics Cream Cleanser, then remove it with a warm towel and follow with her rosewater mist and a massage with Rodin Olio Lusso or your non-comedogenic oil of choice (avoid coconut-based salves at all cost). It’s a trick taken from editorial pro Tom Pecheux that feels great, boosts circulation, and calms nerves.
Go Easy on the Foundation
Sworn foundation addicts will disagree, but making sure you can still see a bride’s skin is essential as far as I’m concerned. Even if you like a little more coverage, try sheering it out with a dampened Beautyblender for a hint of transparency. And if you don’t need foundation, don’t use it. Instead, spot-treat with a thicker concealer, such as Cle De Peau’s, on any blemishes, around the nostrils, and along the corners of the mouth. For the under-eye area, choose something with a bit of slip, such as Armani’s Maestro Eraser Dark Circle Concealer, which brightens, camouflages, and never looks cake-y.
Skip the Brushes
. . . Especially if you’re going for a more natural look. Nobody does natural, cream-based color in universally flattering shades quite like Rosemarie Swift. Her RMS Beauty pigments, such as the Eye Polish in Myth—the perfect shade of shimmery mink—and the multitasking Lip2Cheek in Demure, a dusty rose, melt into the skin and blend particularly well when you work them in with your fingers.
Find Your Light
Don’t be afraid to go outside to get an accurate read on shade-matching, and to gauge how much highlighter and contour is too much. One of my fondest memories of braving the makeup-artist role at my friend’s Mendocino, California, wedding this past summer is sitting on a deck outside the bridal suite nestled among the redwoods as we played with Charlotte Tilbury’s excellent Hollywood Contour Wand and Beauty Light Wand. (In lieu of Polaroids, iPhone test shots can be a good barometer for shine).
Make It Matte
A statement red lip that still allows you to enjoy kissing, eating, and drinking at your own wedding is possible, and what used to require liner, pigment, powder, and blotting on repeat can now be achieved with a simple long-wear product innovation. NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment in Starwoman, a vivid blue-red, is an easy winner in this category. Its pointed applicator makes it easy to both line and fill with a single gesture, and the matte texture is basically budge-proof. (A bit of transference onto your partner at the altar is still possible, but there is something kind of charming about that.)
Generally, I never use powder, but a loose compact version occasionally comes in handy—especially for wedding makeup when a light dusting in the center of the forehead and along the nose can keep an excessively dewy finish from ruining your photos.