Please listen to me! I see everything that happens at weddings. I talk to brides after the Big Day. Really, photographers have the "scoop" on all aspects of weddings. We see it all: the good, the bad and the ugly.
There are mistakes that we see getting made over and over. They turn into wedding day nightmares for the brides that make them. Seriously ~ listen to me now! Save yourself the time, stress, headaches. We have decided to "spill" and tell the public about the nightmares we see ~ the things that go wrong that could have been prevented. The things that could have been wedding day dreams.
And if you don't listen, you can't say you weren't warned up front.
Because we see so many weddings, we are going to write this as a series. Today's installment & the first wedding day nightmare is...
the hairstylist from hell.
Now, we are not going to name any names. I am not going to show any nightmare photos of brides crying when they saw their hairstyle in the bathroom mirror. There is absolutely no need to do that. But YOU don't want to be in that picture, either!!
The first thing you need to know is that your regular hairstylist is not necessarily an expert at formal up-do's or even down-do's. In the hair biz they talk about someone who is great "at the chair." These means that person is great with cuts and color. You should not automatically assume they have honed their skills beyond that. Or perhaps ~ beyond doing hairstyles for high school girls going to the prom.
You are not going to the prom. This is your wedding day. You want to look a little more sophisticated, elegant and grown-up than the average high school junior. You need a pro.
To help me out on this blog, I interviewed my very, very favorite hairstylist. Her name is Ashley Riddle and she owns Up Do's for I Do's. She is a hairstylist from heaven, imho.
According to Ashley, the first step in having dream wedding hair is to do some research. The obvious is pulling out sample photos from books and magazines of styles you like. But also consider your dress/neckline, as well as your jewelry and the hair accessories you will be using, such as a veil, tiara, headband or flowers. Finally, think about the weather and time of year for your wedding. If you're getting married in the middle of July and the heat & humidity will be off the charts, you may want to think in terms of practicality ~ like how much cooler your neck and back might feel with an up-do, for example.
Next, you should schedule a hair trial. Take all your homework with you: the pictures, your veil or hair accessories and even a photo of the dress. Ashley says that most hairstyles work best with one-day dirty hair. I know, I know -- you feel gross. Get over it.
"You really need to listen to what your stylist needs from you and follow instructions," Ashley told me. "One of the biggest problems we see is when girls don't listen. Things like the one-day dirty hair. They show up with it totally clean and wet from the shower instead. That makes the stylist's job much more challenging."
At your hair trial ask a lot of questions and really get involved. Be HONEST!!! Let me say that again so everyone sees it... BE HONEST. Both with the stylist and with yourself. I can't even count the number of girls over the past two years who have whispered to me on their wedding day, "Rissa, I am so unhappy about my hair. I hated the trial but figured she'd do something different on my wedding day! I should have listened to you about this." Don't do this to yourself, ladies!!
(And you know, it's not fun for me either when I'm with you and you hate your hair, just as a little sidenote. I've had girls ask me to redo their hair when they hated the style they got and ladies ~ I am a photographer! Seriously, doing hair is not my line of work! I simply cannot put your hair in a loopy up-do. I'm sorry!)
The hair trial is to there to determine a lot of factors. How do you like working with the stylist? Are your personalities a good match? Do you like her work, her artistic way of doing hair? Is she communicating with you? Do you feel comfortable with her ~ enough to speak your mind and guide her on your likes and dislikes?
"At hair trials I am always telling brides that they will not hurt my feeling if they ask me to change something," Ashley explains. "It's hair, it's not unalterable. You're not dying or cutting or coloring. It's easy to change and move. It's often a simple fix. Sometimes changing the smallest thing makes a huge difference. Something like moving the part, moving a curl, making something tighter or looser. Sometimes it's even moving the veil or tiara slightly. She just has to talk to me."
Try anything you feel you want or need to at the hair trial. Ask a lot of questions. Will they come to you on the wedding day? Is there a travel fee? How many wedding have they done? You should expect to spend a little money on this. If the cost is only $50 for your day-of 'do ~ that is not a deal. You are going to be crying in the bathroom while I am handing you a tissue and reminding you about your mascara.
Ashley suggests asking about the stylist's training and license. The state of Maryland requires this for all hairstylists. She also says to look for professional quality products and equipment. Your stylist shouldn't be using hot rollers from Target on your wedding up-do. Finally, most formal-occasion hairstylists have had a good deal of continuing education classes to keep up to date on trends, products and techniques. You can ask about that, too.
Some other things to look for... Are there bobby pins sticking out all over your head? Well, that's not cute. You shouldn't see bobby pins, they should be pretty much concealed. Check for it. Also check to make sure the style feels secure because you are going to be dancing all night and getting hugged something like 2,500 times on your wedding day. That style has got to stay put. And of course, go home and try it on with your dress. Do you like them together? If not, maybe have another trial and do something different.
So... your trial is all done and you A) love it or B) don't love it so much.
Let's examine both possibilities...
A) You love it! Awesome! Well -- don't wait another second! Seriously, book that stylist! Good hairstylists can book up wedding weekends a year or more in advance, just like any other vendor. And make sure you are signing a contract to get the SAME PERSON who did your hair at the trial. That's a big deal. A really big deal. Get it in writing.
B) Yikes... you don't love it. You hate it, actually. Well -- this is going to sound like common sense, but DON'T BOOK that person. Keep looking. For some reason, girls get this thing where they feel bad about not booking a hair stylist even though they didn't like her or hated the trial or whatever. I mean... why? It's not personal, you just weren't a good match. Move on! This is the Baltimore/DC metropolitan area. I guarantee there is someone else out there who can do the perfect wedding day style for you. Guilt or a sense of obligation are the wrong reasons to book a stylist. Would you buy ugly carpet just cuz the guy who was selling it was really nice? Of course not! Who wants an ugly carpet? It's no different. Move on. Try someone else.
If you are thinking of going to your usual girl at your salon, just ask her point blank if she has training and/or history doing the kind of style you are thinking of for the Big Day. It has been our experience that most "great at the chair" stylists aren't always the perfect person to do your wedding day hairstyle. Perhaps yours is an exception... there are always exceptions. Let me tell you though, we have seen some nightmares come from a few of our brides' regular stylists this summer. I have often walked away wondering if those girls were ever going to go back to their regular stylist. Honestly, I wouldn't have.
Ashley told me her career as a stylist started in a salon, though now she is a formal-occasions specialist.
"Most people in a salon only do formal hairstyles twice a year - homecoming and prom. When I was in the salon, we had maybe one wedding party a month. That's it. And there was other stuff going on, too. I'd have another client in foils, people waiting to be shampooed, and be doing the bride's up-do at the same time. It's like we just fit her in," Ashley said.
Also, many salons do not have special contracts for wedding hair styles. You will just make an appointment and if your girl is off, someone else ~ whoever is there ~ will cover for her. I've seen this go down the toilet too, at wedding earlier this year. No one in the bridal party was really pleased with their hair and nearly a thousand bucks was spent on everyone. So much for the regular girl at the salon for that bride. Sigh...
"There are so many moving parts to a salon," Ashley explained. "We had a bridal party once and we didn't have keys to get in at 11 when she showed up for her appointment. The receptionist had her days mixed up and never came in to unlock the door. We started the bride and her bridesmaids' hairstyles standing on the sidewalk. Until it was all sorted out, she was an hour late because of a confused receptionist."
Ultimately, your hair is your crowning glory on your wedding day. It should look radiant and beautiful and make you feel confident. Find the perfect fit. You will go to all that trouble for a great dress (duh), for color coordinated napkins, for the right manicure to show off your ring. Seriously ~ go for the right hair stylist. She's out there.
"Personalities have to click. Weddings can be stressful, you need someone who can go with the flow and work with you," says Ashley. "Hairstylists are artists. As you go on and become an artist, you develop your own style and techniques. The way you do things, you approach them differently. Even something simple like a basic French twist, there are different ways to do that. You need someone who has proper technique, not just the glamour-appeal."
Please.. listen to my advice! Don't hire the hairstylist from hell. Find your own personal Ashley instead. Someone you trust, have faith in and really genuinely like. I wish this for all my brides!
Wanna meet Ashley? Find her in her studio at Up Do's For I Do's, based in Catonsville MD.
We also like Erica at Silver Immersion. She's based in Catonsville, too.
Are you in Virginia? We like Ky Washington at Richie Make-Up (tho there aren't any of her hair pix in the website last time I looked - we know her from weddings!)
Oh and hey..Wanna peek? I know you do. I know it! Here are some dream pictures... hairstyling by Ashley Riddle:
In closing... Another very smart and practical tip from Ashley: Hair with multiple layers of color or highlights can really show off a complicated hairstyle!
"Having some dimension in your hair will really make a difference in the pictures," she says. "Even just a shade or two lighter will show up beautifully."
And you know, I am ALL ABOUT anything that makes pictures look better.
Happy hair-hunting, ladies!