Everything you need to know about wedding hair and makeup trial runs

flyer with close up on two brides. The text says "everything you need to know about wedding day trial runs
This is a comprehensive guide for brides about wedding day hair and makeup trial runs

A trial run for your wedding day hair and makeup is a luxury that not all brides get. However, if you are in a position to “treat-yo-self” it’s a wonderful experience that is a part of wedding day planning. Let’s just go right out and say it: your wedding is going to be the biggest, baddest party anyone has ever been to. You want to look AH-MAZING! Why not hire a glam team to get you and your attendants ready!

When to reserve an artist for a trial run 

Do not wait until the last minute to book your wedding hair and makeup artist! If you have zero clue what you want and how to get it, I suggest looking for a hair and makeup artist about 9-12 months ahead of time. This means you need to start researching current trends and leading artists in hair and makeup right after your engagement. Give yourself time to sort things out in your head. 

However, if you are comfortable with all things hair and makeup and already have an experienced professional in mind for the day, go ahead and relax. Reach out to your preferred artist and tell them to save the date. Ask the artist to schedule your trial run about 3 months from your wedding date.

Ultimately the timing is up to you. The best artists book up about 3-12 months in advance (depending on the area you live in). If you have any reservations or no clue what you are doing, then book your trial right away. It’s not uncommon for a bride to have more than one trial run. However, I am in the camp of “buy nice or buy twice”. In other words, go to the artist that you think will get the job done the way you want it the first time. Essentially, you get what you pay for when it comes to hiring a professional artist.   

The best time for a bridal trial run is three months before the wedding

Most professional artists agree that three months before the wedding is the right time to have your hair and makeup trial run. Why three months? Your hair and skin will closely resemble how they will look on the wedding day. This means your hair length and color are where you want it and any skin issues have been sorted out. Additionally, at the three-month mark, you will have time to fix any lingering problems with your hair and makeup before the wedding day arrives. For example, it’s a good idea to have hair extensions color-matched within a three-month period. 

Hairstylist Jennifer Lee Johnson applying the finishing touches on a brides hair by pinning in the veil
Test out your hairstyle ideas for your wedding day with a trial run

Tips for bridal hair trial runs

A hair trial run is especially important if you’re considering a new style for your big day. A trial run gives you the chance to see how the style looks and whether it works with your dress and face shape. Be realistic about what will work with your hair type and face shape. Trying something new may be fun, but it’s important to choose a style that will look good on you.

Bring pictures of the style you want to try

This will help your stylist get an idea of what you’re looking for. Definitely bring a photo of your dress. If possible, share a photo of yourself in the dress too. As an artist who is counseling you, I will want to see the whole package. 

Dress in something that makes you feel pretty.

Wearing an updo with a button-down flannel shirt looks weird and matronly. Do yourself a favor and wear something that has a neckline that is similar to your wedding dress and is light in color. Consider wearing a full face of makeup if you are having a makeup trial with a different artist. 

Make a plan if you are you are using hair extensions 

If you are planning on using extensions, you will want to work with an artist who is familiar with using them. I cannot stress how important it is to plan ahead. Make sure your regular hairstylist or your wedding day artist can, install, color match, and shape them correctly. Cutting extensions properly is very important and something you don’t want to do too far in advance, especially if you are wearing your hair down. For my brides, I prefer to have the extensions prepped before the wedding. If there’s time, schedule a fitting about 2 weeks before the wedding date. If you cannot do a fitting, avoid cutting the length until the wedding day. Please be advised that using hair extensions will add time to your appointments and wedding day timeline. 

Arrive with clean hair

I know that there’s a lot on the internet about having dirty hair for your wedding day. While it may be good for everyone, it’s not a magic bullet for all. I suggest going to a trial with clean and dry hair. A good bridal hairstylist will know how to add a ‘dirty’ texture to your hair by using high-quality salon products. After your trial run, you can discuss if it’s necessary to have dirty hair or not on the wedding day. In most cases, clean is best. However, if you are a naturally curly girl who is planning on wearing their natural curls, then stick to a normal, curly-girl washing routine. 

Bring hair accessories

If you have your veil and hair accessories and jewelry, please bring them to your hair trial. It’s exciting to put on the veil with proper hair and makeup for the first time. You really become a “bride” at that moment. I find that wearing the veil helps take the edge off of wedding day nerves too.

If you do not have your veil or wedding hair accessories yet, bring something so that you can visualize the look. I suggest a sprig of baby’s breath or fresh flowers. 

Not considering a veil or hair accessory? No big deal. However, I want you to think of your hairstyle as a sculpture. An updo looks weird without a little something extra in it to move the eye around. A hair accessory is less important if you are wearing your hair down. 

Consider a hairstylist who specializes in weddings 

Don’t assume that your regular hairstylist is an updo artist or professional stylist. Many people think that their regular hairstylist will be the hairstylist for the big day. Make sure that they are comfortable with updos. Not all hairstylists are jacks of all trades. I highly recommend investing in a hairstylist who specializes in bridal hairstyles. 

Makeup artist Jennifer Lee Johnson applying eye makeup to a bride
Getting your makeup done should be a fun and relaxing experience

Tips for a makeup trial run

When you are getting ready to have your makeup trial run, it is important to take a few things into consideration. 

Products play a big role in how your makeup turns out.

The weather

The weather will probably be one of the last things on your mind on your wedding day. However, it is important to keep in mind what the weather will be like, especially if you are having an outdoor wedding since will impact what products the makeup artist will use. For example, if it is going to be hot and sunny, you’ll need to make sure that you wear sunscreen and that your makeup is sweat-proof. 


Are you expecting the waterworks to flow on your wedding day? The wrong makeup will leave your makeup looking smudged and streaky. The good news is that there are some waterproof products on the market that can help you keep your look intact. 

One option is waterproof mascara. This type of mascara is designed to stay put through tears, rain, and humidity. Another option is eyeliner. A good waterproof eyeliner will stay put all day long, no matter how many tears you shed. For my big criers, I may suggest using a waterproof foundation too.

Skin type

Is your skin dry, combo, or oily? A good makeup artist will consider your skin type when choosing makeup products. 


Do you have any allergies to makeup? You will wear a lot more makeup on your wedding day than normal. If you are hiring an artist, you will also be using professional makeup that you’ve never tried before. A trial run allows you the opportunity to see if you like how your skin feels with these new products.

Bring your own makeup

I highly recommend that you bring your favorite makeup items from home. We’re talking about the key pieces that you love, not the stuff you never wear. This allows the artist to see your preference for color, brand, and texture. There’s nothing wrong with having your artist use your favorite lip shade on your wedding day!

Don’t go to the esthetician before your makeup trial

Just as you would not get a facial or waxing right before your wedding, you wouldn’t do it before your trial. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t mess with your face for at least a week or two before your trial. This means no Retinol, no waxing, and no facials. If you have troubled skin, consider working with a medical aesthetician at least a year before your wedding. It takes about a year or so to go through the processes of renewing your skin cells via chemical peels, products, and facials. Keep things simple and come to your trial with a clean and moisturized face. This means no day-old mascara or eyeliner!

Tips on tanning

Some people tan so that they can wear less makeup, make their teeth look whiter, or so they don’t look so pale next to their wedding dress. Tanning can make your makeup look different than it does when you are pale. I want you to realize this if you plan to tan before your wedding date. If you really want to see how things will look, I suggest you tan for your trial run. Think of it as a trial run for your tanning technician too! Do your tanning at least a week before the wedding day so that your skin has time to develop its color. Also, make sure that you exfoliate properly before getting your tan. You don’t want blotchy skin! 

Eyelash extensions

If you are planning to wear eyelash extensions on your wedding day, please consider having them freshly done right before your trial run. This way you can see if this is the right route for you on your wedding day. Not all lash technicians are the same either. Make sure you like the style they put on you. Unlike false eyelashes, you cannot quickly remove eyelash extensions if you don’t like them. 

A picture says a 1,000 words

Finally, be sure to bring inspiration pictures and photos of yourself with makeup on. This will give your artist a clear idea of your expectations. I suggest creating a Pinterest board with makeup looks. I find that a lot of brides end up creating boards with a lot of images that are very similar. A good artist will be able to narrow down your preferences and tailor the makeup perfectly suited for you. Take pictures of yourself after the trial run so that you can see if you like the makeup. You will want your makeup to look good in person, up close, and in photos.

More hot tips

Make sure that you like your hairstylist and makeup artist

Hire an artist that is willing to meet and discuss your look. You are going to build a relationship with them and will want to feel comfortable hanging out with them on your wedding day. 

Pay attention to their skill and speed

A true test of an artist’s professionalism is if they can get the job done in a timely fashion without getting flustered. A good artist will deliver whatever look you ask for within a reasonable time frame (45-90 minutes). 

Make sure your artist is running a professional business

Make sure your artist is professional. Do they have a contract? Will they bail on you last minute? If there’s an emergency, will they hire someone better to replace themselves? Do they accept credit cards? A consummate professional will take care of everything for you with minimal effort on your part. 

Allow your artist to help you create an itinerary for your wedding day

Most brides do not have a wedding planner. However, your makeup artist and hairstylist can provide excellent advice on creating the perfect timeline before the wedding ceremony. There are many factors to consider when creating a schedule for the bride and the attendants; there are so many moving parts! I always ask my brides about the photographer’s arrival time and the wedding day plans. From there I create a chart detailing who is getting services, their role in the wedding, who is a morning person, who is always late, who has a ton of hair, and when the best time grandma should arrive. A good schedule helps keep things organized and running smoothly. 

Bring a snack

I know a lot of brides die before their wedding. Your trial run is not the time to be hungry. Bring a snack. You’ll be there for up to 3 hours if you are getting both hair and makeup done. 

Bring someone, or don’t

If you’re an introvert, bring someone who knows you well and will speak up if they see you’re unhappy. If you are not shy, then it’s okay to go alone and focus on the task at hand. I always encourage my brides to bring a friend. Don’t bring more than one person or else you’ll turn it into a party and slow the artist down. Don’t forget, you’re testing their speed too. 

Double-dip the trip!

Take advantage of looking tip-top and plan a date or an outing with friends. You’ll look amazing and you will get an opportunity to test how well the makeup and hair hold up against time, the weather, and going out to eat. If you are getting an updo, take it down. Your hair will likely be smooth and curly, so it will still look good. Just brush it out a little. Some brides do their trial on the same day as their wedding shower, bachelorette party, or wedding dress fitting. It’s a fun day, get the most out of it! 


The best tip I can give you is to be honest with your artist! If you have any hesitations, speak up! A professional artist will have no problems adjusting their approach. 

Already booked your trial run? Jump to my trial run preparation guide!

Need to find an experienced hairstylist and makeup artist for your wedding in Chicago or Lake Geneva? Send me a message!


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