During my nine years of living in New York City, I’ve cultivated a finely tuned team of hair and makeup artists who help me look and feel my best. So when it came time for my wedding—a summer destination wedding in Italy—it felt wrong that these women would not be the ones making me look my absolute best on my big day.
After all, there’s a true camaraderie with someone who pulls the hair from your upper lip—shouldn’t she score a wedding invite? That led to more questions: Should I add the cost of transporting them to my wedding budget? Or trudge back and forth from Milan for trials till I found new hair and makeup artists in Italy?
These are common concerns for brides opting for destination weddings, says my planner, Rachel Birthistle of The Lake Como Wedding Planner. “Using someone new can be stressful, and brides often fly in their own teams,” she says. “Many women are used to having individual artists for other services, such as brows, eyelashes, nails, spray tans, as well as hair and makeup.”
This feat is hard enough at home, let alone in a far-flung locale. So leave the worrying to us: With these expert-sourced tips and tricks, you’ll be looking just as stunning as your Pinterest inspiration photos in no time, no matter where you’re celebrating.
1. Book Beauty After Booking the Venue
“If the venue is a hotel, it’s recommended to use the spa and salon staff as they are exposed to the wedding coordinators more and allow for a smooth wedding day,” says Ryan Gilmore, Hilton Orlando's front office assistant director and former director of spa & fitness, who oversaw the spa’s salon services for bridal parties. If not, do your research. Birthistle adds: “Establish in advance what services are readily available and which to consider flying in.”
2. Ask for Advice
Wedding planners usually have referrals for hair and makeup, but if you’re looking for local recommendations, don’t be afraid to consult with the concierge at your venue. Andeen Rose, owner of Las Vegas-based ADD Hair & Make Up, which specializes in destination weddings and celeb-focused events like the Grammy Awards, recommends booking your glam squad three months before your big day, since most of the talented teams book up quickly and you don’t want to be left scrambling right before the wedding.
As for the one "don’t" when choosing your glam squad: Don’t let money get in the way. Booking highly experienced hair and makeup teams will be more costly but can put you at ease, Birthistle says. And honestly what's the value of having one less thing to stress about on the big day? Priceless.
3. Don’t Forgo the Trial
Squeeze in as many tryouts as you can during trips for site visits or catering tastings. Alternatively, ask beauty pros for their travel schedule to see if they can meet up if they are traveling stateside—or if you can fly to meet them. Also, set up a phone call to ensure you communicate well, especially if you aren’t fluid in each other’s language. “You need to determine if the personalities are ones you want in your space on your biggest day,” says Birthistle.
Maria Barboza Rodriguez, event manager at Los Sueños Marriott in Costa Rica, suggests the option of arriving three days in advance to do a trial before the big day. She also reminds brides to consider the weather on their wedding day. For instance, a humid locale can wreak havoc on a very voluminous look—something you might not realize during a trial done inside with the AC on.
If you are lucky enough to pencil in two hair consultations, Gilmore recommends using the first to meet with the stylist to craft a plan you’re happy with. The second consultation would then act as a dress rehearsal, complete with accessories you plan on wearing at the wedding.
4. Put in the Prep Work
Sasha Schwartz at South Beach’s Warren-Tricomi Studio (located inside the Confidante Hotel) suggests looking for realistic inspiration photos of models (or real brides) who have similar hair texture and color to yours so you can get a better idea of how a style will look on the important day.
You can also consider the unique (but still helpful) option of a trial via FaceTime. Send photos via video chat so the artist can familiarize herself with your hair, face, nails, etc., and then ask her to do a trial on a model with similar skin tone or hair texture to re-create the looks you want.
Once you decide on a style, start growing out your hair six months before the wedding, scheduling regular trims and avoiding any major changes three months before the big day. Also, it doesn't hurt to bring along a set of extensions to add length or volume, in case the salon or stylist doesn’t have an extra set.
5. Book Pre-Flight Treatments
The week before you fly, book a conditioning treatment with a trim and blow-dry. “This will focus on tidying up dry and wispy ends in your style that can become a frizz magnet,” Rose explains. “Also, make sure your color is refreshed at least seven to 10 days before you leave. It’s best not to try a new cut or color right before your big day.” She also recommends getting an exfoliating facial two weeks before the wedding date to allow acne and blemishes to surface and disappear. And if you have a skin condition or use specialty makeup, be sure to pack that as well.
6. Go Natural
“For a beach ceremony, we recommend hair either up or pulled back, that way brides and bridesmaids will look stunning in photos and don't have to worry about the ocean breeze blowing strands of hair in their faces,” says Sandos Hotels & Resorts weddings expert Martina Mairhofer. “For makeup, we recommend to go for natural looks as the warm and humid tropical climate can take its toll quickly on heavy makeup. Airbrush makeup is a very popular solution to ensure a longer-lasting radiant look.”
7. Don’t Skimp on Sunscreen
“Couples usually arrive a few days prior to the wedding at the resorts and might not be used to the tropical sun, which is why we recommend to use plenty of sunscreen—especially during those first days to avoid sunburns,” Mairhofer says. “While it will look great to have a sun-kissed tan in the wedding pictures, keep in mind that the sun is very strong and can easily be underestimated.”
8. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
For day-of emergencies (like a last-minute zit), Birthistle suggests organizing a “little black book” of local pros to contact if something arises (pun not intended). Browse client reviews and confirm they are available on or around your wedding date.
A version of this story appeared in the August/September 2019 issue of Brides.
Additional reporting by Lane Nieset.