Blusher for the Bride

2nd September 2016

Planning your wedding is enormous fun, but there’s a huge amount of pressure on the bride to look mythically perfect on the big day. Lisa Botwright investigates tips and tricks to minimise the stress…

“Your make up needs to be red carpet immaculate,” purr the bridal writers. “Ensure you look like you, but a beautifully, ethereally enhanced you,” is another scary admonition.
So – no pressure there then.

Even if you feel perfectly confident at applying your own make up on an everyday basis, you may feel nervous about The Day, and have all sorts of concerns. What if my hands are shaking so much with nerves that I end up with a mascara wand in my eye? How can I get my make up to last all day? How can I avoid camera-flash shininess?

Booking a professional to do your make up is the obvious way to take the pressure off – letting you relax while someone else makes you red-carpet-ready. A good make up artist (MUA) will advise you beforehand, pamper you on the day and ultimately create and apply a lovely polished look; but there might be a myriad of reasons why this isn’t an option for you.

Budget is the most important consideration. You’ve already paid out monopoly money on your dress, your favourite photographer and those killer designer shoes that you need – so maybe you feel that an MUA is an expense too far. Perhaps you’re genuinely keen to have a low-key wedding and blanch at the thought of too much fuss. Or you might be lucky enough to be getting married on a beach, or a remote Scottish castle – so unless you can hire a friend’s helicopter or private jet, it’s just not going to be logistically practical for someone to ‘pop in’ for a couple of hours before the ceremony.

Whatever your reasons, happily, there’s a great deal of free advice out there on the theme of wedding make up, so you can research and experiment to your heart’s content. Often you might find that just a few tweaks are needed to complement or elevate your usual look.

A good idea is to pick your favourite department store and enjoy a leisurely meander through the beauty aisles, gleaning all the advice and inspiration you can absorb. If you can do this in the week when it’s quieter, rather than on a busy Saturday afternoon, so much the better. This should be almost as much fun as choosing your dress; but if you’re slightly timid about this kind of thing, rest assured that the sales staff will be at pains to put you at your ease. Carly, on the beauty counter of Benefit Cosmetics, says that she understands it can be “an intimidating process for some,” but she wholeheartedly encourages everyone to “come along and see what’s out there.”

I find that the consultants’ eyes positively light up when I mention bridal make up and they fall over themselves to point out their hero products. Moving from counter to counter at my local store, I learn that Laura Mercier were the first brand to sell primers and their Photo Edition foundation “looks amazing in photos,” enthuses the consultant. Lancôme’s lipsticks are dreamily called ‘Rouge in Love’ (worth buying for the name alone) while Estée Lauder’s Sinful Peach blush compact is, despite the name, perfect for that innocent, bridal bloom.

Each counter offers full makeovers, and mostly charge around £25 which is redeemable against any product purchases – but there’s absolutely no obligation to buy anything at all. Clinique come across as the most easy going, with no fee charged, and an insouciant shrug when I ask if there is an expectation to buy the products used.

Most customers visit well in advance of the big day for their makeover, so they can take their booty home to practise; but the occasional bride will make an appointment on the actual day, which always generates much excitement for the counter team, but strikes me as a little too laid back for the average Bridezilla.

It’s worth remembering, however, that although beauty sales staff are very well-trained in the application of their products, and universally share a passion for make up, they are unlikely to have been to college to study their craft in the same way as a fully trained MUA. Nevertheless, a store makeover is a fun and absorbing experience, and – at the very least – will encourage you to step away from your comfort zone and try out new colours and products.

Although make up is one of those things that’s better bought in person, rather than online; it goes without saying that for advice, research and inspiration, there’s really no need to go anywhere near the high street if that’s not your thing. The sheer volume of blogs and tutorials online is staggering; if you find it a little overwhelming, celebrity make up artist Lisa Eldridge’s website ( is a great starting point. Her mix of videos demonstrating both edgy and classic looks, as well as advice for mums and bridesmaids too, are fascinating and charmingly delivered. (In fact, I have a huge girl-crush on Lisa Eldridge; I love the way she looks devastatingly beautiful in her vlogs, but she’s unafraid to show you her slightly congested ‘before’ face – inspiring hope in the power of make up for of all of us mere mortals.) .

The bridal concepts on – source of so many great ideas for so many different purposes – invoke deep sighs of longing in me, and it’s also really easy to set up your own page as a kind of online make up mood board.

But what exactly are the key differences between bridal and every day make up to be aware of?

Longevity is the key… in everyday life, it’s easy to apply make up at breakfast and find that by tea time your mascara has crumbled to dusty clumps under your eyes, and your foundation has slid away to reveal an unbecoming pallor. This is not a good look for a bride, especially one who must weather tears (of joy, hopefully), lots of kisses and big bear hugs against the chests of favourite uncles.

Make up also needs to look good in those all-important photographs; it sounds an obvious point to make, but have you ever gone out of the evening in full, carefully applied make up, and then been underwhelmed when you revisit your selfies on social media? The uninvited appearance of a big shiny forehead and overly-rosy cheeks, or the illusion that you’re hardly wearing any make up at all, when you thought you’d created good coverage, can ruin the memories of a lovely occasion.

In terms of longevity, the secret is to apply a good quality base followed by very thin layers of well-blended make up. Allow at least an hour from start to finish, much longer than normal – there’s no point in slapping your foundation on straight after your moisturiser in a time-pressed flurry, as it simply won’t last.

Start with your usual skincare routine and after ten minutes or so apply a primer suitable for your skin type. Do you want something to plump up your skin and give you an illuminating glow? Try New CID’s i-prime, below. Or something to close your pores and minimise shine later in the day? Choose Benefit’s POREfessional (£24.50, If you’re wearing eyeshadow, consider a primer for the eyes too: Clinique’s Touch Base for Eyes (£14, will ensure the powder won’t crease in the sockets or smear under your eyes as the day wears on. Again, give careful thought to your foundation and allow it to set fully before applying the rest of your colour. White and ivory fabrics can wash some complexions out slightly, so, if you’re dressing in traditional bridal colours, be aware that you may need slightly more vivid shades than usual.

And a couple of warnings. If you’re after warmth, avoid the temptation to get it from your foundation by notching up a shade or two darker. Buy a foundation that matches your skin exactly (taking into consideration any plans for a light tan), and build up colour with bronzer and blush instead.

Bear in mind that too many light-reflecting products may make your face startlingly bright in photographs. A touch of artfully applied highlighter on the tips of your cheek bones and perhaps collarbones, will look chic, but a full face of shimmering, light-reflecting make up will react dazzlingly (and not in a good way) with a camera flash. And be warned: too many layers of SPF can also bring a chalky sheen to your face in pictures.

Judge for yourself, in advance… take lots of photos at the practice stage. Take some with a flash in electric light, and more outside to check you still look fairly natural (no orange tidemarks!). Make note of what works well and what doesn’t, and continue to experiment accordingly.

Prepare well, and on the day your make up will be your friend, taking you from the ceremony to reception confidently armed only with a spare lipstick and a pretty pressed powder compact for small touch ups later on (delegate the very important job of carrying these items to your bridesmaid.)

And really, all the make up in the world will be no match for the radiance that comes from the huge smile you’ll be wearing the whole day.

Find Your Local