When you’re dreaming of your wedding day, you’re likely envisioning how you’ll look as you walk down the aisle: the outfit, the shoes, the flowers, and, of course, the finishing touch of wedding beauty! Your day-of hairstyle can be integral to how you feel on your big day—and how you look in photos—so it’s often one of the most important parts of any bridal budget.
We recommend allocating 5 percent of the total wedding budget to attire, hair, and makeup costs.
However, as the bridal market continues to expand, pricing for wedding hair can be all over the map. What should you look for when you’re beginning your search for the artists who will bring your vision to life, and how much should wedding hair cost? We chatted with industry expert Sarah Naslund to help you figure out what to expect and what to look out for.
Meet the Expert
- Sarah Naslund is a bridal and updo specialist based in Boston and has worked in the industry for over 10 years.
Average Cost of Wedding Hair
According to Naslund, the average cost of wedding hair is about $100 to $350. Of course, pricing may change depending on what you’re looking for, when your wedding is, and where you live. For example, you may pay more in New York City than you would in Nebraska. It may also depend on the stylist’s experience level too, as you’re ultimately paying for their time and talents.
Bridal hairstyling means just that—you’ll start with clean, dry hair (contrary to what you may have heard, dirty hair is not better) and your stylist will create your desired look, whether that’s an elegant low chignon, an undone braid, or simple curls.
Your stylist may charge for a blow-dry, so be sure to clarify that before you sit down in their chair with wet hair.
What Changes the Price of Wedding Hair
While many assume that what they're paying for is a bridal hairstyle, the truth is your money is really purchasing the artist's time. Prices may vary by professional, but usually, a wedding updo will cost more than a simple blowout. It only makes sense as the more elaborate the coif, the more laborious it is to create it. That said, you can expect to pay an average of $45 more for intricate styles.
Add-On Costs to Consider
When connecting with a stylist, be sure to talk through every potential expense and clearly communicate your needs so there are no surprises later. While the tools of the trade are usually included in the pricing, add-ons specific to a certain style—such as hair extensions or personal accessories—are either procured by the bride and brought in or subject to additional costs. Similarly, if you envision wearing fresh flowers or a floral crown in your hair, those materials would likely be part of the wedding flower budget and require a discussion with your florist. Every stylist is different however, so be sure you’re on the same page with pricing. For example, Naslund personally charges $275 for a bridal hairstyle and charges separately for travel and trial. However, she doesn’t charge extra for any clip-in extensions used to create the final look, and creates mini styling kits for the bride on the big day and beyond with hairspray and dry shampoo.
Since time is a commodity for these vendors, any additional hours required will be billed accordingly. This would include creating a different style for the reception or possible touch-ups later in the evening. (Some brides have even undergone a dramatic haircut between wedding-day events!) Again, this necessitates a thorough and straightforward conversation with your stylist well in advance as some may include touch-ups in their bridal packages. The average cost for additional hours onsite can range from $30-$125 per hour. Similarly, some professionals may charge travel and transportation costs for distant venues and the same goes for overnight stays. If additional stylists are needed to service larger groups, the price will reflect the additional manpower.
What About Bridesmaids?
Pay close attention to what the stylist offers in their packages or price lists. Some stylists may charge $250 for the bride and anywhere from $50 to $100 per style for the bridal party or the mothers of the couple. The national average falls at about $75 per bridesmaid.
Keep in mind that the bride, or whoever is footing the wedding bill, is not always obligated to pay for the bridal party's hair or makeup. Typically, the rule is that if the bride requires the bridal party to have professional hair services, she will cover the expenses. (This often makes for a lovely bridesmaids' gift.) If the professional services are optional, each person may be asked to pay for their individual styling.
Additional Costs to Keep In Mind
Getting a haircut before the big day may not fall within the confines of the wedding budget so much as general maintenance, but it is an additional cost to be aware of. This is especially the case if you're splurging on a new stylist rather than going for your usual trim. Depending on the city and level of expertise, this can range anywhere from $30 to upward of $120. And, in case you're wondering about timing, a week and a half before the wedding is optimal for that last trim.
Just like that final cut, applying fresh color is likely a part of your pre-wedding beauty regimen that doesn't necessarily qualify as a wedding expense. However, it is an expense nonetheless. These prices vary wildly depending on the location, level of expertise, and complexity of the color (think: foils, balayage, or color corrections). Timing-wise, schedule your appointment two weeks before the big day for a routine color and no less than six months in advance for a major change.
Is a trial something you should build into your budget? It can be key to discovering the perfect style and reducing stress on the day of your wedding, so it may be worth the price. The average price for trials falls at about $75, though the range can vary from $50 to $150. Naslund estimates the average to be higher, at $100, but some professionals may include a trial session in their pricing. "I don’t require a trial, but some bridal stylists do. I strongly think that you should [book one], but I realize that if your budget is small, it could be something you skip," Naslund says.
She likens a wedding hair trial to shopping online; you may see a style on Instagram that you think is perfect, but when you actually see yourself in it, it’s not love at first sight. A trial will give you and your stylist room to experiment with different looks and make any tweaks necessary. "The trial is time spent adjusting details and getting an idea of how different styles would look," Naslund explains. "Occasionally, you just nail the perfect style in one try! But most of the time it’s more exploration."
Tip for Stylist
Remember that you’ll need to tip your stylist after their work is done, so be sure to factor anywhere from 15 to 25 percent into your planning and final totals. If multiple artists collaborate on the looks, they should be tipped individually based on their work. Be sure to thoroughly read your contract beforehand as some vendors have a built-in service fee.
If you’re comfortable styling your own hair or have a friend or family member who is handy with a curling iron, you could consider skipping a stylist altogether. However, Naslund feels strongly that bridal hair is something you should pay a pro for. "You could DIY it, but most people just aren’t used to styling their hair," she says. "Plus, you really don’t want to be working in any capacity on your wedding day, especially in the morning. Your main concern should be, 'Who is going to open the Champagne?'"