And The Bride Wore Falsies


All brides want to look fabulous, right? Be careful what you wish for, says Lindsay Frankel. Wedding make-up can be too perfect.


When my then-boyfriend-now-husband proposed six years ago, we happened to be in the middle of our friends’ wedding reception (it wasn’t planned, I think he was just overcome by the love in the room, and possibly the free Champagne). The bride that day also happens to be a make-up artist by profession, so unsurprisingly she looked flawless – dewy, polished and perfect without being overtly ‘made up’. She looked effortlessly gorgeous, even though she later told me she’d been prepping for days.


Looking naturally amazing, without seeming like it took any effort to get there is precisely what most of us daydream of, if we are the sort to daydream about our wedding day. I had never been that type of girl (“He proposed at me!” was how I had clunkily announced our news – well, it wasn’t like I’d ever practised) and yet, one of my first thoughts when he asked was: ‘YES! A valid reason for hiring a professional make-up artist!’


Not being a particularly natural bride (see above) I was happy to forgo the mortgage-sized dress bill or once-in-a-lifetime Louboutins purchase (Dress: £150, random vintage website; shoes: £80, LK Bennett sale). But I still wanted to look as good as I could and have always loved make-up; which is how I ended up forking out more than the combined cost of my entire outfit on getting my face done by a pro.


Attempting to channel my bride friend from that day, and having sourced a make-up artist who was highly rated by all my glossy magazine colleagues, my brief was this: “Can you make me look still like me, but a just really good version?”


I need to clarify that what came to pass was absolutely NOT the make-up artist’s fault. She did a trial, I told her I loved it. I DID love it. The problem wasn’t her, it was me: turns out I just don’t suit being impeccably turned out.


In the photos of me setting off from my hotel for the register office, my make-up does indeed look flawless. I can see that, theoretically, I look pretty, but I can’t look at those pictures without thinking that I look more like a doll than a person; I know I was excited, nervous, impatient to see my husband-to-be… but you can’t see any of those emotions beneath the mask of make-up.


Being so perfectly groomed made me feel on edge. I cringe when I remember hugging guests tentatively for fear of smudging my foundation; when the registrar proudly gave us the nod for our post-vows kiss, I was paralysed by lipgloss paranoia (Will it smudge all over my face? Or all over his face – and which would be worse?). Once my hair started to unravel and I gave up on re-applying my lippy I got a whole lot more relaxed.


As it turns out, one of my favourite pictures from our wedding day is of me and my friend B, on the dance floor towards the end of the night. My lipstick has come off, my eye make-up is smudged, the mask of heavy foundation is long gone, leaving shiny forehead and bright red cheeks in its wake. Pretty much the only thing left are my false eyelashes. Make-up wise, I am a disaster and yet, beaming at the camera with B peeping over my shoulder, pulling a comedy face – we look like we’re having such a laugh. We look happy. The look on my face in that picture is how I remember feeling that day.


Although, I did learn one crucial make-up lesson that day – a falsie goes a long way. No matter how dishevelled you are, as long as you’re wearing some professionally-applied fake lashes, you can get away with anything else. Oh, and the other lesson I learnt? A wedding isn’t about lipstick, anywhere near as much as it is about love.




Lindsay Frankel is a writer and the Assistant Editor on Red magazine.

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  • Fi Nightingale

    God, there is nothing worse than feeling self conscious, and especially on your wedding day. My friend paid for a MUA, pure Barbie. She washed it all off as soon as the reception was over. Lovely piece.

  • One of my friends got married a couple of years ago and her mum’s best friend did her face. There was A LOT of slap involved. In the car, 5 minutes before we arrived at the church she said “Oh god, I can’t go in like this, it’s not me- GET IT OFF GET IT OFF.” So there were three of us scrubbing at her face, trying not to get anything on her dress. We managed to sort of soften everything down quite well I think, considering we only had tissues and spit!

    • Fi Nightingale

      I’m all for a bride looking her best, but not if it means her groom doesn’t recognise her when she gets to the altar.

      • Exactly! And I think ‘looking her best’ also incorporates ‘knowing she doesn’t have to keep worrying about her face all night’. Whether that means no makeup, or a full face of long-wearing slap, whatever allows her to enjoy the moment and not keep wondering how she looks.

        • Fi Nightingale

          Zackly. I just wore what I normally wear, but just a bit ‘more’.

  • Esme

    My friend is getting married next year and is apprehensive about having her make up, can anyone recommend somewhere in London which offers make up lessons for brides who want to look natural?

    • I reckon Bobbi Brown would be a good bet.

      • Although I am on offer if she gets it done and then needs tissues and spit.

        • Esme

          Ha! I’ll bear that in mind 🙂

      • Yes I’d second a Bobbi counter, they are usually ace at Bridal. Fenwick and Liberty are normally a bit calmer than Selfridges but in any case it’s worth booking. Best of luck!

        • Esme

          Thanks, I’ll give them ago. No doubt I’ll be me coming away with lots of new products…

  • Mairead

    My cousin is getting married in the Summer and has been asking advice re make up – I’m going to send this on to her! Also, your dress is beautiful, love it.

  • Beklet

    I’m so glad I did my own make up after a lesson at a Bobbi Brown counter

  • One of my favourite pictures is of me and a friend belly laughing, only 8 chins between us. Lovely article.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I did my own make-up the day I got married (which probably isn’t recommended). But I looked like me, and felt like me in the pictures. My favourite photos are the candid ones that you couldn’t plan even if you tried. I always find those shots are where the truest moments shine through.

    • Anna

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing your own make-up. I went for a trial at a salon beforehand to make up my mind, and the young girl just plopped a bunch of various products on my face without giving much thought to how it would emphasise what I wanted it to or highlight what I didn’t. I did my own and it was fine. But further to Sali’s comment, I did curl my usually straight hair!

  • MitziDelBra

    I was a bit fanatical about my wedding make up, but it was so worth it in the end. I did it myself with products that I knew wouldn’t let me down, I still looked like me, and it still looked decent at the end of the night (despite me being so drunk that I got in a bath in my wedding dress. The bath was empty, though.).

  • It gives me the willies when pale, straight haired women suddenly become tanned brides with ringlets. I always think it must be so strange for grooms looking at someone who looks so different from the woman they live with.

    • Fake tan is the bane of many a photographer’s life! Sorting the white balance out on an orange face is not fun.
      Oh and glittery hairspray..please nobody do that. It looks like you have nits in black and white photos.

  • I married when I was very young and didn’t even wear foundation. Just mascara and some eyeliner and lippy

  • wiiaholic

    This makes me feel so much better, am getting married NEXT SATURDAY *panics* and am going to do my own makeup because I never like the way make up artists do it on the odd occasion I’ve had a ‘makeover’! Busy watching vids on wedding makeup and going to have a practice tomorrow..

  • I dd my own make up for my wedding, so it was truly me… loads of blusher, eye make up and falsies, felt great! Had an experience with the hair though..local mexican hairdresser did me big hair (my request) which in mexican must have translated to ringlets!! I combed it through and put it up in the end…no matter …just felt like me, ain’t no way I was doing ringlets!!

  • CrispyCee

    This feature really struck a cord with me. I got married last year in the blazing desert heat of Las Vegas. I was in a dilemma for a while as I knew I needed some clever hair and make up to ensure my face didn’t melt like the Nazis at the end of Indiana Jones, but was petrified of having no opportunity for a make up artist trial. I chose to go DIY, spent a few months prior practising with products and techniques, and I’m so happy I did. I felt gorgeously me; pasty, gappy toothed me. Incidentally, a masive part of my sucess was down to Sali’s Guardian columns, which effectively became my self-taught beauty curriculum! So ta v. much for that!

  • Dani Grrl

    I did my own hair and make-up, sitting on the floor in front of my parents’s mirror wardrobes with my Mum and sisters. We drank tea and shared lipsticks and chatted about the day ahead. It’s a lovely memory.

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