Gone are the days when it was only the wedding photographer following you around on your special day. Now you’ve got the entire wedding party to contend with, waving around smartphones armed with enough megapixels to catch the graceful falling motion of every grain of rice, so it’s more important than ever to look your absolute best. While the bride traditionally plans her day-of look months in advance, grooms nowadays have their fair share of prep to pursue as well.
“Your wedding day is likely one of the most important days of your life,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, board certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in NYC. “And all eyes are on you.” She explains that a growing number of grooms-to-be are adopting intense skincare regimens and seeking in-office procedures, like Botox and fillers, in the lead-up to their special day. “Helping my patients prep in advance gives them confidence and helps them feel great about themselves on the day of their wedding and in all the photos that they will cherish forever. Removing just that one worry from the equation also helps reduce wedding jitters.”
To that end, we’ve put together a panel of industry experts for the ultimate groom’s guide to wedding day prep. From head-to-toe, we’ll walk you through both quick tweaks and more intense treatments that can help you look and feel your best, from aisle to after-party.
Meet the Expert
A few weeks of great skincare could make a huge difference when it comes to putting your best face forward, whether targeting a specific concern or just coaxing your skin into a healthy glow with some daily TLC. Engelman recommends establishing a skincare plan and introducing new products as soon as you set a date. Ideally, she advises consulting a dermatologist to find the safest and most effective plan for achieving your skincare goals, whether that be clearing up persistent acne or smoothing out crow's feet.
If this is your first foray into skincare, Engelman recommends a minimum routine of cleanser, exfoliant or toner, eye cream, and moisturizer, which should cover all the bases of skin health. Also, why not book a facial or series of facials to jumpstart your journey? Art of Shaving Master Barber Benny Perez even recommends getting your fellow groomsmen in on the action for some pre-wedding bonding.
If you already have a regimen you’re happy with, you could up the intensity by adding a professional-strength exfoliation treatment to help prevent and clear up acne and even out skin texture.
A simple spruce-up can go a long way in polishing your look, but from flyaways to a last-minute hack job, a bad hair day can can all but ruin a wedding photo, so getting your hair game in check before your nuptials is a must. “Always stick to your classic look,” advises celebrity men’s groomer Marissa Machado, who counts Rami Malek and The Jonas Brothers among her clientele. “This is not the time to try a new hairstyle.” Also, schedule your final haircut before the wedding according to your style-of-choice. Machado recommends cutting your hair a week before to allow it time to “break in.” However, if you’ve got a style for which precision is a must—such as a fade—Perez says you can wait until the day before (or even the day of, for the truly brave) to ensure every detail is sharp.
Let’s say for some reason that your usual barber isn’t available and you need to take a chance with somebody new. “Always read reviews, especially ones with photos,” Perez advises, and don’t be afraid to bring a picture of exactly what you want.
For guys who rock them, your beard is your calling card, so take time to get it into perfect shape. “If you want to maintain a neat look without changing the length, consider a beard trim the day before or the morning of the wedding,” Perez says. “If you want to take off length, do it a month or so beforehand to make sure that you like the shorter style. If not, you’ll have time to grow it back out.” He recommends going for a professional trim to ensure crisp, even lines and an optimal length for your look. He also says it’s common nowadays to blend out greys with a semi permanent beard color treatment; however he warns against a heavy hand. “Remember that less is more—you still want to look like yourself.”
Speaking of, if you’re one of those guys who’s normally bearded but thinking of shaving it off for your wedding day, Perez has some advice: “If you’ve consistently worn a beard for a long time, we strongly recommend keeping it for the wedding day. Shaving it for the big day, especially if you plan to grow it right back afterwards, just ensures that you won’t be recognizable in your photos.”
“Just like a well-styled beard can affect a guy’s look, polished brows can change his whole face,” Perez explains. Brows help form the structure of the face; however, Machado notes that there’s a science to well-groomed brows. “Men’s brows don’t really have trends," she says. "It’s about cleaning them to a natural shape, and nothing is worse than an overdone brow.” To ensure precision, she recommends tweezing, since it allows you to be particular about which hairs to remove, or even threading, as it removes all the hair while being gentle to the skin. Simple tweezing can be done the day of your wedding, but ask your groomer to do it rather risk getting carried away by doing it yourself. To fill in sparse areas, go for a natural looking pencil and start out small.
Tooth whitening has made it to the top of many a wedding prep list nowadays. “Whiter, brighter teeth not only look better in pictures, but also present well in person,” explains celebrity cosmetic dentist Dr. Marc Lowenberg of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in NYC. “You want that smile to reflect that inner glow.” The fastest and most effective way to get a dramatic, yet still somewhat natural-looking whitening that won’t beckon any Ross from ‘Friends’ jokes, is to spring for an in-office whitening procedure, such as ZOOM!, which uses a power light to bleach teeth with less sensitivity. But Lowenberg adds that an at-home regimen of whitening strips and whitening toothpaste can deliver a one-two punch quick fix.
If you plan to professionally whiten your teeth before your wedding, Lowenberg recommends getting a treatment two to three weeks beforehand, as it’s difficult to predict exact results or how sensitive you might be in the days afterward.
Before you reach for the rings, make sure that your nails are spotless. “Clean hands are a must,” explains Marcela Correa, licensed medical pedicurist and founder of Medi Pedi NYC. “On top of all the guests coming to celebrate the special day, there will be photographs, especially when you are exchanging your rings.” But beyond the obvious appeal of kempt fingers and toenails, springing for a mani-pedi can be a huge confidence booster for the groom-to-be, helping to contain foot odor and soften calluses so you can feel lighter on your feet.
As for the service itself, Correa advises to keep it simple and straightforward, even telling the nail tech that you’re prepping for a wedding. “Specify that you do not want your cuticles to be cut and give instructions to cut and file the nail straight to avoid potential ingrown nails.” Last but not least, Correa says to ask for a quick buff at the end to bring out your nails’ natural shine.
Hitting the gym in the lead-up to the big day is a great way to beat stress and feel your best, but many guys are going the extra mile and opting for body-sculpting surgery to nip and tuck certain areas, causing an uptick in wedding prep procedures for plastic surgeons like Dr. Thomas Su, M.D. from Art Lipo Plastic Surgery. “I think the standards for grooms looking their best has changed a lot in the past five years,” he says, with liposuction being one of the most sought-after treatments to deliver big results with minimal effort. “Liposuction is a very predictable method of shaping and slimming key body areas for men such as the abdomen, waist, chest, and chin. It is very safe, and the recovery is relatively fast with patients looking much [different] in six to eight weeks.” A quick lipo procedure on the chin can be done in under an hour and show a visible difference in as little as two weeks. As for the abdomen, Su explains, “Some men who are fairly active and fit can't seem to get rid of waist bulge, and it makes them look very out of shape. A simple liposuction of the waist can return a much slimmer look to the torso and give a man that V shape of the upper body.” Recovery time is a bit longer for the waist, roughly two to three months, but the results can be major.
Looking for something a bit more dramatic? Engelman said there are a number of in-office procedures, from peels to Botox and fillers, which can do wonders for smoothing out fine lines, forehead creases, and crows feet. “They give the face a more plump, youthful, and contoured appearance, which makes a lot of grooms feel more confident during their wedding day,” she says. But because the effects may take up to two weeks to hit their peak, she recommends seeking injectables a month or so before the wedding to allow optimal results to develop and any incidental bruising or swelling to subside.
If it’s sun damage or acne scars you’d like to do away with, Engelman points out that fractionated CO2 laser and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments can improve skin’s overall tone and texture in just a few sessions.
What to Consider the Day Of
After all that prep, here’s what you’ll want to consider on the big day to make sure all your efforts pay off.
A touch of makeup can even out your skin tone, add a soft glow, and keep shine to a minimum so you don't end up with a glare in photos. Machado recommends keeping it basic: a bit of concealer under the eyes to ward off dark circles, some translucent powder to protect against shine, and a dash of bronzer to add some warmth. Done right, the only one who will know you’re wearing makeup is you.
Perez recommends washing and drying your hair the way you normally would. No new products, no experimentation. For short-to-medium hair lengths, go for products that have a strong, but flexible hold and matte finish, which will keep hair in place without looking shiny or artificial. For longer hair, again, use what you normally would to tame flyaways and keep hair looking sleek and smooth.
For guys who rock a bald head, you’re definitely going to want to invest in a high-quality sunscreen that will protect your skin without turning shiny or giving off a white cast (try Supergoop's Unseen Sunscreen). Machado recommends bald guys also finish off their look with a dusting of translucent powder for extra shine protection.
Be sure to moisturize the skin beneath your beard to prevent the formation of flakes, Perez said, and go easy on the beard oil to avoid getting oily residue on your tux or casting an unnatural shine in photos.
The Final Takeaway
The last thing you need on your wedding day is more pressure, so the earlier you start getting your ducks in order, the better you’ll feel once the big day rolls around. The most important thing is doing what feels natural to you and makes you feel your personal best.