Updated: Mar 7, 2018
It's interesting how every time I told someone I was getting married, the instantaneous response I was almost always met with was, "Congratulations! So, who's doing your wedding makeup?". The very fact that I was asked this question reveals a few things about weddings. (1) Your wedding is as good as your makeup (2) Thanks to social media, everyone is in the know of the power of makeup (3) Your makeup takes prevalence over everything else... including who you're marrying!
Backing up a little for those who don't know me, my journey with makeup started way back in childhood. I'm no makeup artist (or MUA!) by any means, but I've always had tremendous interest and passion in learning the skills and testing out products to explore color and texture. I attribute a portion of this interest to my general artistic endeavors. And the rest to my maternal aunt who indulged me in this art during her vacation visits from the USA (I lived in India at the time). I would often spend hours watching her do her hair and makeup on a day to day, and rummage through her makeup collection to find brands like Mac and Bobbi Brown - intrigued by the sheer diversity of products in their collection. For one of my early teen birthdays, I asked my father for a 'makeup kit', and him being a person of extravagance (and a huge heart!) bought me my first Elizabeth Arden makeup collection. I was beyond excited to play with the metallic shades on the eyeshadow palletes and practice lining my lips with the 24-hour lip liners. Unfortunately much of my opportunity to actually wear makeup as a teenager was limited to a few home-alone evenings and the school prom. Flash forward to college, during which I spent 4 years in emerald city (or Sea-town, as they call it!), I was amazed at how well my peers were so fashionable and put-together as college students. I would barely make it to classes in time - in my pajamas, only to find myself seated next to a bunch of really well-groomed kids with straightened hair, perfectly shaped brows and luscious lashes. This is not to advocate the need to look a certain way, but it occurred to me that makeup (or dressing up for that matter) can be an everyday thing and there's no harm in spending a few extra minutes every morning to put yourself together a tad.
My desire to explore ways to look more presentable resulted in my exposure to the world of beauty on YouTube. What started with an "Everyday Makeup Tutorial" slowly led to "perfecting your winged liner" and "contouring and highlighting like a pro". Long story short, I spent a lot of my free time watching makeup tutorials and trying out new products & techniques that would work on my skin tone. I slowly found myself enjoying this process, even if it was for a few minutes every morning, as I was allowing myself to be creative and explorative, and at the very least, feel little more put-together. I wouldn't say I mastered the art over the years, but I did get very comfortable doing my own makeup, whether it was for work or for special events. I took feedback from friends, family (who, even today, give me slack for wearing makeup everyday!), photographs, and pretty much anything I could, to keep improving.
I was inspired by a South-Asian YouTuber who did her own wedding makeup and I thought to myself, makeup can't be that big of a deal if it's something I wear almost everyday. So when it came to the time of planning my wedding - I decided to take the plunge, be my own makeup artist and do my own makeup. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Cost. Let me be upfront and say that makeup (or hair) artists are expensive. It's sometimes justified based on the experience they have, but is more often justified for the bride because it's a once-in-a-lifetime expense. I personally didn't see the value in paying (what's quite a fortune today) for something I was comfortable DIY-ing.
2. Fear of too little or too much. Not everyone can pull off a full face of beat (or basically many layers of makeup), and even those who do, wear it the right way. The intensity of makeup I wear on a given day depends on a few things - including my outfit, the number of accessories I have on and... my mood! For the wedding events, I wanted to customize the intensity of my looks based on a combination of these things (except the mood perhaps, as I experienced a whirlwind of moods during wedding week!). I wanted to be in complete control of how much makeup to wear - not too little and not too much - depending on what suited my overall look. I had heard several horror stories on brides being used as blank canvases for disasters, only realizing when it's time for the wedding photographs. So I thought it made a lot of sense to take matters into my own hands.
3. Being in control. I was told several times that doing my own makeup would be a bad idea because weddings are a stressful time (it sure is!) and I may not be in the right frame of mind to be patient and detail oriented while doing my makeup. However, I felt that I'd be more in control if I practiced my makeup looks ahead of time (free of cost) and get an early start on the day of the event, rather wait on a makeup artist to show up on time, or to communicate ahead of time exactly what I wanted (As I honestly, didn't quite know!).
4. There's always Photoshop. Let's be real - all of this effort to put on your best face is to ultimately look marvelous in your wedding pictures. There's oodles of editing and airbrushing that goes into even the most perfectly put-together brides. And so, as long as you didn't gravely louse up your makeup (and have picked a capable photographer!), you're mostly covered.
Of course, I'll add that a lot of this depends on your personal comfort level & experience with makeup. These were just some of my reasons behind deciding to do my own makeup. I'm not advocating that brides should do their own wedding makeup, but by sharing a few tips, I hope I can can simplify the process and make it seem less daunting for any potential bride-to-be's considering this path. Moreover, I considered this to be a personal feat to work towards getting better at something I was passionate about (...besides breaking a few conventions). On that note - here are some things I felt were absolutely essential in preparing myself for this challenge.
1. Getting the right products. This is seriously important, should you decide to do your own makeup. I personally felt that investing on makeup products (which I get to keep for a while) was still less expensive than hiring a makeup artist for 3+ events (Indian weddings span over days!). If you don't already have a set of products that work for you, do your research or spend sometime talking with the beauty consultants at Sephora or your local beauty store to understand what would work for you, particularly for event makeup. It doesn't cost a thing to get advice and there's no pressure to buy the products you try. Asking for product samples is also a great way to save money and avoid commitment. Good makeup brushes (see recommendations below) are just as important as great products and are an excellent investment towards making your makeup work for you. Keep reading to see what products I used on myself for the actual wedding.
2. YouTube to the rescue. Besides the database of makeup videos I had already binge watched over the many years, I did look up a few additional videos on doing wedding makeup to understand the nuances around products, lighting and technique to educate myself. A word of caution to not get too overwhelmed by beauty videos, as they might often tell you way more than you need to know. And most importantly, what works on someone else may not necessarily work on you. Which is why, item #3.
3. Practice, Practice and Practice. Once you have the right products and techniques identified, put them to use. The great thing about makeup is that it's buildable. You can start with a simple every-day look that is most natural to you, and slowly layer more color or product as needed to achieve the level of glam you're going for. The other great thing about doing your own makeup is you can always pause, analyze your work and correct if needed before moving on to the next step - that way you can foresee any disasters waiting to happen ;). Personally, my biggest struggle was getting the base right and finding the best technique that would prevent my makeup from getting cakey or blotchy. Maintain your strengths while working on your weaknesses. Lighting is another key aspect of event makeup. It's best if you apply your makeup in the lighting that your event is going to be in. For example, if you know your wedding is going to be outdoors during the day, do your makeup in natural lighting as well to minimize any lighting related imperfections.
4. Take plenty of photographs. As I said, the ultimate goal is to look your best in photographs, so you'll only know how well you've practiced when you see the proof! Correspond your photography technique depending on the situation in the actual event, i.e. if your makeup look is intended to be worn at an outdoor event, then photograph yourself in daylight. It also helps to test your makeup with flash photography (both indoors and outdoors) to see how it turns out. Photographers almost always use flash, even in natural light.
Here are a few specifics on what products I personally used for my wedding makeup, maintaining the order of importance as it related to me.
1. Getting the right foundation. I cannot stress how important it was for me to spend my time researching on the best foundation that would work for (a) my skin type (b) my skin tone and (c) photography. I took a few recommendations from some of the YouTube gurus I follow, and tested them out in-store. My final choice was a combination of Estee Lauder's Double Wear and Huda Beauty's Faux Filter. Although there were mixed opinions on the latter choice, I found it to be very long wearing and light weight on the skin.
2. Concealer. I wanted a great concealer (or a combination) that could do two things. (1) Cover any acne scarring that my foundation failed to hide and (2) highlight my under eyes & T-zone. I'll say upfront that I'm not a fan of the 'go-two(hundred)-shades-lighter-than-your-skin-tone' look which to me felt very unnatural. I chose a concealer from Anastasia Beverly Hills for spot-correction and Tarte Shape Tape for a natural highlight under my eyes & T-zone. I highly recommend the Tarte Shape Tape, and it's a viral sensation for obvious reasons!
3. Powder. A good setting powder is essential for most skin types but especially for weddings in humid climates (Read: Chennai). The trick is to go easy on the foundation and concealer and slightly heavier on the powder. I chose to go with a yellow-based powder as I felt that looked better in photos and did not give me that dreaded white cast that us brown ladies fear most! My choices were Revolution's Banana Powder for a light dust on the highlighted areas and Wet and Wild's Contouring Pallete for more tailored highlighting.
4. Lashes. The most transformational beauty product ever invented, in my opinion, are false lashes. It's single most thing that can instantly glam one up, and look absolutely amazing in photographs. I'd even recommend doing without eyeshadow if you have a good pair of false lashes. I purchased a range of lashes (from natural to glam) to customize my looks. I also recommend individual lashes - which I wore on my wedding day - for a very natural look (see pictures below). Some great, affodable options can be found in Ardell lashes and House of Lashes.
5. Bronzer. Using a cream contour does not always work for me - but a great powder bronzer usually does a fantastic job with de-chubbying my face. However, I always recommend building up on your bronzer as it could very easily become too dark and unnatural. I used Estee Lauder's Pressed powder which was a shade deeper than my skin tone for an overall bronze and then contoured specific areas with Wet and Wild's Contouring Pallete.
6. Highlighter. This was another product that was a last-minute buy, but added the perfect amount of "oh-la-la" to my makeup. Highlighters (in the right amounts) provide subtle attention to the high points of your face. I used Becca's Champagne Pop on the bridge of my nose and high points of my cheeks, and it's no surprise why this is another best seller.
7. Eyeliner. If you know Indian Brides you know their love for eyeliner. This is something most south-Asian women are bound to have (an abundance of) in their collection so I'm not providing recommendations here. A tip that goes a long way, especially with false lashes, is tight lining (or lining your upper waterline). This technique takes your already great eye makeup to the next level and does make a difference.
8. Eyebrows. South-Asian women are often known for having wonderfully thick and shapely brows, but even the most naturally perfect brows can use some filling-in on event days, especially for flash photography. I've been a loyal user of Anastasia's Brow Pomade for years now and this didn't fail me on my wedding events as well.
9. Lipstick. We're in 2018 and we should all know that cream lipsticks are a thing of the past. I highly recommend using liquid lipsticks for your big day and with a combination of a good lip liners, they will keep the color in place for a long time. I chose a few from ColorPop, Milani and Sephora for the different events.
10. Setting Spray. A good setting spray not only locks in your makeup, but takes away any cakeyness or powdery-ness that comes from layering on products. I used Urban Decay's All Nighter setting spray and put on a generous amount after I was done with the overall application.
11. Blush. I don't use a lot of blush for everyday looks as it always gets washed out on my face somehow, but I did use a dash of Wet & Wild's Blush in Pearlescent Pink which did the job.
12. Eyeshadow. I wouldn't say this is an absolute essential, unless you're someone who loves a colorful eye or likes to match your eyeshadow to outfits. I personally am not a fan of either of the above, although I do like metallic shimmer, and occasionally, glitter. I did invest in a few versatile pallets (and some were given to me as gifts) with great color payoff and ended up with a few subtle eyeshadow looks for my wedding events. If palettes are not your thing, I definitely recommend getting a metallic gold shade for the lid and a matte brown shade for your crease at the very least. Morphe has some great palettes for a good price. I also used some popular choices like Anastasia's Modern Renaissance and Huda Beauty's Desert Dusk as they had more pink-toned shades to match my outfits.
13. The rest. I put the remaining products I used into one category as I didn't think these made a big difference (possibly because I got items 1-12 fairly right!). I used Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer underneath my foundation. I felt this served as a light-weight alternative to my moisturizer, as I worried using my hydrating moisturizer would weigh down my makeup. For mascara - I used Tarte's Gifted Amazonian Clay Mascara which did a great job lengthening my lashes and giving it volume at the same time. I wore pretty bold lashes for most of the events but on wedding day, the mascara served as a great base for my individual lashes.
Of everything listed above, I think I spent the most time getting my base right - i.e. finding the right balance of foundation, concealer & powder - to achieve a natural, yet high-coverage base. Another huge constraint I had to work against was my acne scars and ensuring they were covered for the most part. Acne bumps on the other hand are always an unfortunate challenge, and if they show up on D-day, you kind of have to roll with it!
The goal of my makeup was to present a more glamorous version of myself. Yet, look like myself.
And now, for the big reveal:
Here are a few pictures from the wedding events. I've used raw images given to me by the photographers to be as true as possible to the real outcome. Note that I used the same base (i.e. foundation + concealer + powder combination) in all of the looks as I felt it worked very well for my skin.
Look 1: I went with a "natural-glam" look for the first event, which was a small Puja at home with close family and friends. I kept the eyes simple with kohl and natural lashes (Ardell Demi Wispies). I wore a bold maroon lip to contrast the eyes. I kept the hair very simple as well and wore it in a half-up-half down. (Photo: Akshay Sunil Photography)
Look 2: The bridal Mehendi event came soon after the Puja in the morning so I didn't have a ton of time to redo my makeup. I used some blotting paper to take off the residual oil & sweat and powdered my face once again with a Banana Powder. (Photo: Akshay Sunil Photography)
Look 3: As much as I was hoping to redo my entire makeup for the Sangeet which was a few hours after the bridal mehendi (look 2), I felt lazy and worried I'd run out of time. So I blotted whatever powder I could off of my face to spot correct with some concealer in places where it had worn off and powdered again. For the eyes, I took it up a notch by deepening my crease and adding some glitter shadow. I substituted the lashes for some glam Iconic Minis from House of Lashes and switched up the lips with a deep pink shade from Milani to match my dupatta. PS: I also did my own hair for this event! (Photo: Monalisa Mani)
Look 4: For the Viratham & Nichyadhartham, I went with a glam face with bold eyes and lips. For eyes, I used the Morphe 35F and Huda Beauty Desert Dusk Palettes for a purple smokey eye. On my lips, I had Milani's liquid lipstick and for my lashes, I used Boudoir from House of Lashes. I had my hairdresser put my hair in a messy braid - (as messy as my family would approve of!). (Photo: Monalisa Mani)
Look 5: For the reception, I went with a full-face of makeup with a generous amount of contouring and highlighting. I kept the eyes simple as I wanted a bold red lip to match my blouse. Given I already had a lot going on with the outfit and jewelry, I wore my hair down in loose curls. (Photo: Monalisa Mani)
Look 6: Probably the most natural look of the lot. For the wedding ceremony, I went with a kohl-lined eye with individual false-lashes and a muted red lip. I was quite particular on keeping this look as natural as possible as bulk of the attention would be on the jewelry and flowers. It also helped to keep the eyes simple yet strong - to endure all the crying and emotions that transpired! (Photos 1-3: Monalisa Mani, Photo 4: Akshay Sunil Photography)
Overall, I was happy with how everything turned out and looking back, I had a lot of fun doing my makeup with the pleasant suspense of how my final look would turn out. It was a blessing to have my friends around to calm my nerves and be my make-up assistants when needed. It was also super helpful to have a photographer friend, who was able to take some test shots and show me how my makeup looked with some opportunities for last-minute fixes when needed. Overall, I think fared reasonably well on the challenge and as a bonus, I have a truckload of makeup to serve me for a few years!