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In the past, brides may have simply booked a stylist for their wedding date; now they're likely to have as much forethought about their hair as their dress.
updated 10/15/2008 1:39:29 PM ET 2008-10-15T17:39:29

When Leigh-Ann Drew, of Minneapolis, was planning her wedding in her parents' hometown of Houston, she left no detail to chance — especially her hair. On the recommendation of her wedding planner, Leigh-Ann booked an appointment a year in advance for a consultation with hairstylist Jim Robeson of the Norris of Houston Salon and Spa. After some discussion of Leigh-Ann's dress (a strapless, ivory duchesse satin gown by Kenneth Pool embroidered with Austrian crystals and pearls), bride and stylist envisioned a romantic look. Leigh-Ann flew home with an order to put a moratorium on haircuts (“That was hard,” she says); six months later, she returned to Houston for her hair trial with Robeson. Following the result, an updo with lots of loose curls, Leigh-Ann consulted her wedding coordinator, who thought a modified, more defined version would best complement her dress. Leigh-Ann returned to Robeson's chair for a second trial. Bride, stylist and wedding coordinator were thrilled with the elegant result. Robeson took photos and notes to ensure a perfect re-creation on the wedding day.

So, was all the preparation worth it? “For me, it was priceless,” says Leigh-Ann, who also had her hair and makeup professionally done for her rehearsal luncheon, and hired two more stylists (plus two makeup artists) for her bridal party, mother, mother-in-law and grandmothers.

A "heightened awareness" among brides
If you think you've been obsessing about your hair and makeup, rest assured: You're not alone. No longer content to simply hire a stylist and makeup artist for the big day and cross the task from their lists, brides are interviewing and consulting with beauty pros months — occasionally, years — before their nuptials. By forming a close bond with their beauty team, brides hope to resolve ahead of time such questions as, Should I grow out my hair for the wedding? How do I want my makeup to appear? And perhaps most important of all: How will I look in my pictures?

For their part, beauty pros report they're pleased with the growing trend of bridal clients starting a dialogue with them that can take place over several phone calls and meetings before the wedding day. Salons and independent artists are responding by providing more customized services, and increasingly, offering their expertise for the other events surrounding the wedding, from the bridesmaids' luncheon to the send-off brunch. “Our wedding business has definitely grown recently,” says Patti Schulte, wedding coordinator for Joseph Cozza Salons in San Francisco. “I think with the greater focus today on celebrities, there is a heightened awareness among brides of the detail that goes into hair and makeup. They also see there's no longer such a thing as 'bridal hair,' and that there's such a range of modern styles to choose from.”

In the past, brides may have simply booked a stylist for their wedding date; now they're as likely to have as much forethought about their hair as for their dress. “When a bride calls the salon, I get all the information I need: the date, what she's looking for, what the whole wedding is about, what colors she's using, what her dress is like,” says Schulte. Brides and pros are then paired by personality, style and budget. “All of our stylists are amazing, but if I know from our conversation that this bride has very naturally curly hair and this particular stylist is just wonderful with curls, I'll match them up,” says Schulte. The bride then comes in for a complimentary consultation, and is encouraged to bring as many visual cues as she can, from a sketch of her dress to the headpiece or veil she'll be wearing to the flowers she's chosen. Four to eight weeks prior to the event is a trial ($85), followed by the wedding day itself ($125 for in-salon services; $175 per hour on location, with travel time, plus 20 percent gratuity).

Some brides, on the other hand, will entrust wedding-day hair to no one but the stylist who's been trimming her tresses since her single days — no matter where the wedding. For some lucky pros, that means packing their brushes and their passports, travel expenses paid. “I've done weddings in the Caribbean, Italy, Mexico, New York,” says Jessica Tingley, a senior stylist at Frederic Fekkai in Beverly Hills, who says she's also frequently been flown to Napa Valley, a popular destination for Los Angeles brides. Known around the tony Rodeo Drive salon for her range of elegant styles, Tingley may be just as sought-after for her people skills, which go a long way toward easing wedding-day jitters. “I'm usually a good person to calm the bride, especially when she's far from home, because I'm sort of the neutral party there,” says Tingley.

The ever-crucial run-through
Brides are consulting makeup artists too, earlier and in more detail. Between three and six months ahead is wise, though some brides schedule a makeup run-through even before they book the reception site. “I've had brides come in for a trial the day they've scheduled an engagement portrait,” says Camille Clark, a makeup artist with the Cloutier Agency in Los Angeles.

These run-throughs are strongly encouraged by makeup pros. “I won't even do a wedding unless we do a trial first, because I don't think it's fair to either one of us if we're surprised that day,” says Carlo Geraci, makeup artist at Barneys New York, who has done big-day looks for some of Manhattan's most sophisticated brides, including Samantha Boardman, and has been flown to work at weddings in Rome and California. After a trial, he says, “The bride is relaxed and happy to see me coming through the door on her wedding day, because she's already confident about what I'll be doing.”

Savvy brides tend to already have an idea of what they want, and need some help fine-tuning their vision, says Lisa Trunda, a makeup artist who splits her time between Chicago and Miami and got her start doing makeup on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (and has since been doing makeup for magazines, including Vanity Fair). “Usually a woman who comes to me is very detail-oriented, and so we'll do a run-through first,” says Trunda. “Plus, she needs to feel good about the people working with her that day. The makeup artist and the hairdresser are going to be working very close to her, so she needs to feel comfortable with them.”

Well before she pulls out her makeup brushes, though, Trunda begins by simply having a conversation with the bride. “I want a feeling for how she looks normally, to get a sense of her lifestyle and who she is, how makeup fits into her life.” From there, a look evolves, says Trunda.

Trunda (whose day rate is typically $1,500; for that fee she'll do makeup for as many members of the bridal party as time allows) says more brides are viewing their makeup selections as crucial to the look of the event. “When somebody is getting married at the Four Seasons and spending $50,000 for her gown, it's a comparatively small amount of time and expense to make sure you have a makeup artist or hairdresser who's taking good care of you,” she notes. While Trunda usually sticks around to do touch-ups for photos, it's not uncommon for her to be invited to stay for the reception.

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For the bride whose destination (or budget) may not permit professional makeup, a makeup lesson with a top-notch artist can be the perfect compromise. Geraci, whose fee ranges from $1,200 for a half-day to $2,400 for a full-day (with assistant), notes that a makeup lesson at his counter in Barneys is complimentary with the purchase of $250 worth of cosmetics. Though Geraci provides brides with a helpful face chart (a diagram he creates to show where each product should be applied), it's a good idea to bring your maid of honor or your mother, he says, to have a "visual diarist" who can help re-create the look on your wedding day.

Just as brides collect photos of hairstyles they like, they should do the same with makeup looks. “Tearsheets are helpful, because they let you know the bride's boundaries,” says Clark. “It's good to have a visual, because her idea of a smoky eye might be different from mine.” Clark also advises brides to schedule a makeup consultation for a day when they will see many people, to get lots of feedback.

The team effort
Though a bride may be in love with a look that's hot this season, professional makeup artists advise against following anything too current, at least when it comes to the wedding day. “I like to notice the woman, not the makeup, so I do a very natural bride,” says Geraci. “I make sure the skin looks really perfect and the colors are very gentle.”

Picking the right beauty team for your wedding may be one of the most important things you do. “At the end of the day, all you have are your photographs, and if you hate your hair and makeup, that will haunt you forever,” says Tingley.

Bride-to-be Jennifer Mayer, a public relations director in New York City, will be bringing two Manhattan-based stylists from Frederic Fekkai (for herself and her bridesmaids) and a makeup artist to her seaside wedding in quaint Cape May, NJ. “This is one day I'll never repeat again, and these are pictures I'll look back on the rest of my life,” says Jennifer. “I want to look different, and the best I possibly can.”

Once the formal picture-taking is over, most pros discreetly slip away, leaving the bride to relax and enjoy her reception, and occasionally refresh her look on her own.

This article originally appeared in Brides magazine. For more wedding tips, please visit Brides.com.

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