How to choose the right wedding makeup artist for you

Finding and choosing a makeup artist (mua) for your wedding day can be a bit of a minefield.  Lots of women I meet have never had their makeup done professionally before, so other than Google, aren’t sure where to start.

Before we get started, many blogs and wedding magazines state that you don’t need to worry about booking your wedding makeup until pretty near the date – like six to eight months before.  This is NOT true!  As with all other suppliers, if you want the pick of the bunch, you need to get in early.  This is even more essential if you’re getting married on a peak date (like a spring or summer Saturday) or you want a well-known, popular artist.

Booking early is even more important for 2021 and 2022 weddings.  With so many 2020 weddings postponed owing to COVID-19, lots of makeup artists will already have many more wedding bookings for the year ahead than they would normally.

1. What kind of bridal makeup look are you going for?

Start by thinking about your overall bridal look, and your normal makeup habits.  Are you looking for a super glam look, or something super natural?  Wedding blogs and Pinterest can be good sources of inspiration for different bridal styles. Knowing what you want to achieve is really important before choosing the best person for the job, as many muas have a distinct style, which will come across when you look through their work.

2. Ask people you know for recommendations

Think about weddings you’ve been to, and friends/relatives/work colleagues who’ve got married in the past few years. Have a stalk of friends’ wedding photos on social media.  When you know someone in real life – as opposed to seeing photos of strangers online – you can really see the results of their wedding makeup, and know if you like it or not!  When you’ve seen results you like, ask the brides who did their makeup and whether they’d recommend them. 

Sometimes a great result and a positive recommendation don’t go hand in hand!  I recently had a bride whose wedding dress was stunning, but when I asked her where she got it from, she said she wouldn’t recommend the boutique as they’d been difficult to deal with, and if she’d known the dramas she was going to go through, she’d have gone elsewhere!

3. Trust the professionals

If you’re thinking about using a friend or relative who isn’t a professional mua, but is good at doing their own makeup, get a trial booked in as soon as you can. They might do an amazing job!  But someone doing makeup on their own face, in their own style, is very different to doing someone else’s, with the added pressure and time constraints of it being their wedding day! 

You and or bridal party might also have to provide your own makeup and brushes etc as a non-professional shouldn’t be expected to have things to suit all skintones and skintypes, or enough clean brushes to do everyone.

Some other things to consider when using a non-professional, are how they won’t have formal arrangements in place like terms and conditions, insurance etc.  Some venues insist that all suppliers have public liability insurance and/or PAT-tested electrical equipment, so you could run into issues further down the line.

Now of course I’m biased here!  But unless you’re really happy with how the person does your makeup, and you know you can 100% rely on them on your wedding day, I’d always recommend hiring a professional makeup artist for an occasion this important.

4. Search on Google, Facebook and Instagram

Make sure to include the location of your wedding/where you’ll be getting ready in your search where possible, particularly if that’s some distance from where you live.  Google may suggest “makeup artists near me”, but that’s no good if you’re at home when you’re doing your research, and your venue is 100 miles away.  Of course, you can always pay for makeup artists’ travel, but if it’s a long distance that can add quite a bit to your overall costs.

Search on Instagram using hashtags. For example, if you’re getting married in or near Winchester, hashtags like #winchestermua #muawinchester #winchestermakeupartist #makeupartisthampshire should all bring up makeup artists that work in that area.  Instagram is a great place to find makeup artists as it’s visual and easy to see lots of their work at a glance.

In addition to makeup artists’ own Facebook pages, there are lots of wedding pages and groups on Facebook – local, national and regional – that can be a good source of recommendations for suppliers.  It’s also nice to use them to connect with other brides if everyone you know in real life is sick of you talking about your wedding!

It’s worth bearing in mind that, with social media being so popular for makeup, not all makeup artists have their own website, or one that is updated regularly.  It’s easier to see how recent any images are on social media, as the posts will be dated.

5. Ask your venue or photographer for recommendations

Chosen your venue or photographer already? Ask them for recommendations and check out makeup artists tagged in their weddings on social media.

Some venues have preferred suppliers: these are great to add to your shortlist to investigate further, but also be aware that some venues (not all!) get a kick-back from suppliers for recommending them, in which case it’s not always a sincere recommendation.  Also, some venues don’t update their recommended suppliers lists for years.  Provision for wedding makeup has exploded in the past few years and there’s so much choice now, that I wouldn’t recommend you to go with venue recommendation alone, but by all means add them to your shortlist.

Photographers can be good to ask as they have seen first hand bridal before and afters, and how smoothly things go on the day when brides are getting ready.  When they edit their photos they’re able to see the quality of the makeup application in great detail – to the point that there may be muas that they recommend you DON’T book!

6. Use online supplier directories

There are lots of wedding supplier directories online – although some are more useful than others!  You may have already discovered your favourite wedding blogs, and many of them also have directories of suppliers.

Directories like Make Me Bridal not only let you see lots of makeup artists in one place, but you can also save time by putting out a request to see who’s available on your date, or contact a particular mua that catches your eye directly through the Make Me Bridal site.

7. Check out their work

Go through the makeup artists’ photos on their websites and social media. Try and look beyond “model” photos.  If all of their photos are on models, taken in a studio-type setting with professional lighting, ask to see some ‘real’ brides.  Equally, if the quality of the photos isn’t the best, try to see past that: you might still be able to see if the makeup is good or not.  The best makeup artist for you might not be the best photographer, or a whizz at making their Instagram grid look pretty.  Similarly, just because they don’t have a zillion followers, doesn’t mean they aren’t skilled.

Be aware of lighting/filters.  If an mua’s photos look heavily edited or filtered but you like their work, ask to see some unfiltered versions.  In some social media photos, the models barely have nostrils let alone pores!  Makeup can reduce the appearance of things like acne scarring and eyebags, but it can’t erase texture.  Some ‘before and after’ photos can be very misleading, with a warts-and-all before pic in unforgiving, natural lighting; next to a filtered, ring-lit ‘after’ photo.  Photos like these aren’t comparing like-with-like.

8. Look for reviews, testimonials and awards

Check out the makeup artists’ reviews on things like Google and Facebook, and testimonials from brides on their website or social media.

These will often mention qualities beyond the makeup: like that they were friendly, helped keep them calm on the big day, that the mua helped them figure out what they wanted when they weren’t sure, or saved the day when something didn’t go according to plan. 

Something here might strike a chord with you that will help you pick one makeup artist over another.

Industry awards, where a makeup artist has been recognised by their peers, clients – or both in the case of The Wedding Industry Awards – are always a nice endorsement to have.

9. Decide on your budget

As with all wedding suppliers, there’s a whole range of budgets when it comes to wedding makeup. Some makeup artists will have their prices on their websites, but others you may have to contact for a quote.  Make sure that that quote includes things like travel costs – or additional artists if you have a big bridal party – so that you get no surprise charges further down the line.

Are you planning on paying for all of your bridal party to have their makeup done, or are they paying for their own?  Does the makeup artist offer hairstyling too?  If so, sometimes it can be more cost effective to book hair and makeup together, than booking someone separately to do your hair.

Some wedding makeup artists will have a minimum booking amount, or minimum number of people they work on.  If you only want makeup for yourself, this may rule out some artists, although most will still oblige if you’re prepared to meet their minimum fee.  Or you could try finding other guests attending your wedding that would like get their makeup done too, to make up the minimum number – but they would need to be getting ready at the same place to make this work.

10. Are you protected?

Does the makeup artist have a contract/terms and conditions and insurance etc? Even with the uncertainties presented by COVID-19, some don’t, and this should ring alarm bells.  ALL your suppliers should have something in place to protect both you and them when you book their services eg a cancellation policy, what happens if you need to postpone, they’re ill on the day etc.

It’s always a good idea to take out wedding insurance too, although this has got harder since the pandemic.  For UK couples, Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website is a good place to start for advice.

I hope that these tips help you in your quest to find the right makeup artist for you!  If you have any questions or fancy a chat about your bridal makeup, do get in touch!

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