Wedding Hair: Our Best Tips in One Spot

How to match your hair to your dress, when to book the hair trial & more

Mirror Image of Woman Adjusting Hair
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Preparing for your big day can be daunting, but I'm here to help answer your burning questions about wedding hair, including:

  • Should you wear your hair up or down?
  • Do you choose the dress first or your hairstyle?
  • Can you do it yourself?
  • What is all this talk on wedding boards about a "hair trial" and how much do they cost?
  • How far in advance are you supposed to book the stylist?

Deep breaths. I've got you covered.

In the article below, I'll answer all these questions and more. And by the time you walk down the aisle your hair is going to look fantastic.

Rule No. 1: Thou Shalt Look Like You, Only Better

On your wedding day, you should look like the very best version of yourself. This means if you are a casual person in your daily life who never wears makeup, your wedding day is not the time to break out your inner Kim Kardashian. Likewise, if you walk around looking like a Kardashian in your daily life, this wedding hair experience is going to be epic for you. Start collecting pictures now.

Here's the deal: You want your groom (or bride) and your guests to recognize you as you walk down the aisle. Even more importantly, you want to feel comfortable and supremely confident as you walk down that aisle. True beauty, after all, comes from within.

Throughout this process, check in with your gut. Does this feel right?

Does this feel like you? And if I can give you a bit of advice learned from generations of brides that have come before you: you can tune out that well-meaning advice that will surely come from friends and family. If you want extensions, get them. If you don't want to grow out your short haircut, don't.

If you don't want to wear that moth-eaten veil from your mother's 1978 wedding, don't.

Remember: this day is about you and your partner. This is not about what others want for you. So take that, future mother-in-law!

What about makeup, eh? See my 18 Best Wedding Day Makeup Tips.

Picking the Right Hairstyle

Once you make the decision to have a wedding, all of a sudden life can get very, very complicated (thank you Pinterest for absorbing me in your wedding web for 5 hours last night).

The wedding options are endless. So are the wedding hair options. You can pull your hair up in the most amazing loop de loops, or you can wear your hair half up and half down. There are jewels you can wear in your hair or flowers flown in from Oahu! Maybe you should do a retro 50s thing with a short little Jackie O veil. Or curls spiraling down your back...

Deep breaths.

Before you do anything hair-wise, you should pick your dress. A bride's hair should complement her dress, not compete with it. Your veil is different. If you choose to wear one, you can actually choose a veil based on the hairstyle, or vice versa.

Another good rule of thumb for selecting a hairstyle is to consider your personality and the wedding theme.

Are you a casual person getting married barefoot on a beach? Consider keeping your hair down. Are you spending $1,000 per wedding guest to marry on the top-floor of a Manhattan high rise? Consider a formal updo. Is this a farm wedding? Cascading curls!

You'll want to consider your hair texture and length as well because if you want that shellacked updo, you're going to need long-ish hair to achieve it. There are many amazing hairstyles for short hair brides, so don't let that freak you out.

As for hair texture, I recommend you don't fight your natural texture. Curly hair looks amazing either down or up. Straight hair can be curled into waves and wound into ornate updos (with the help of pins and hairspray). Wavy hair can be either straightened or curled and is the perfect texture for half-up/half-down styles as well as updos.

A few months before the wedding, start perusing magazines and online hairstyle galleries (like this fabulous gallery) to pick out some favorites. If you are super organized, you can even pin your favorite styles to Pinterest to keep them in one place and show off your options to your friends. In any case, you'll want a few options to bring along to your hair consultation (more on this in a bit).

Finally, when selecting styles, think ahead 20 years. When your kids look at your wedding album will they see a classic bride or a dated bride (careful with those cascading tendrils)? You want your wedding day style to be timeless.

Extra tip: Consider if you're going to keep the veil on for the reception or take it off after the wedding ceremony. Most brides take it off, but I've read in many forums that pictures can be really romantic if you wear your veil at the reception.

See my photo gallery of timeless wedding hairstyles.

When to Book Everything?

I'll go more into detail below on your wedding hair timeline, but most brides choose their hair stylist and book them for their weddings about 3 months before the wedding. There's no hard and fast rule to this, you just want to ensure you don't miss out on scoring your chosen stylist. The popular stylists can book up pretty fast for Saturdays, especially in prime wedding season.

Can You Do Your Own Hair?

You can absolutely do your own hair for your wedding if you want to. This is your day! Kate Middleton learned how to do her own makeup for her multi-million dollar wedding, after all. If you aren't one to spend extra money on a hairstylist and makeup pro, then why do it? Save your money for the honeymoon. Or the down payment for your first house.

I do recommend enlisting a friend to help you out with your hair on your wedding day. The two of you can do a trial run a week or so ahead of time, just as you would a trial run with a pro.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Hair Stylist

While many of my friends have done their own hair or had a friend do it for their weddings (hey, we are a relaxed bunch), reports that in a survey of more than 2,000 brides, 85 percent said they plan to have their hair professionally styled on their wedding day.

Finding the right stylist to do your hair can seem daunting. You don't have to use your regular stylist for your wedding day hair. Having your hair styled for a wedding or formal event is a specialty that's different from hair cutting or coloring. I recommend interviewing a couple stylists before booking a trial run. You may find someone in your salon who specializes in wedding hair and makeup, or you could ask for recommendations from friends. is a great resource for bridal vendors. Check out their vendors Website.

Once you've chosen a stylist, schedule a hair trial with them and book them for your wedding day. And keep in mind that many stylists also offer makeup services for a wedding at an added cost.

The Importance of the Hair Trial

Schedule a hair trial a couple months to a few weeks before the wedding. Trial runs are basically a run-through of your wedding day hair and sometimes even your makeup. Most stylists charge a fee for a trial run, but the price is worth it for the peace of mind and to ensure you tie down that perfect hairstyle.

This is your opportunity to bring in the veil and the pictures of hairstyles you love. This is also your chance to try out a few styles. You absolutely do not want to try a new style on the day of your wedding, so this is a very important meeting.

Here are some tips for your hair trial:

  • Bring in a photo of your dress so your stylist can ensure your hair fits with the dress style.
  • Definitely bring your veil or hair accessories for the stylist to try out during your hair trial.
  • Be honest with your stylist about your expectations and speak up if you don't love the style you end up with. Many brides have more than one hair trial before they settle on a style they love.
  • Take digital pictures of your hair once it's done from every angle to see how you will look in your wedding pictures and to your guests.
  • Spend the rest of the day with that hairstyle to ensure it will hold up the day of your wedding.

Extra tip: Don't get a major haircut in between your hair trial and your wedding day. You don't want to show up and surprise your stylist the day of your wedding.

Hairstyles That Work Best With Dress Styles

Your hairstyle should complement your dress and shouldn't compete with it. For example, if you have a detailed bodice with long sleeves, you should avoid cascading curls topped with a tiara. A classic, simple updo is a much better option for long sleeves and ornate detailing.

Here are some basic tips for dress and hair combos:

  • Strapless dresses look beautiful with an updo or half-up/half-down hairstyles. Tight, pulled-back updos are not always attractive because all you can see is forehead and neck. Opt for a side part with bangs angled gently over the forehead. You might also choose a looser updo.
  • Big ball gowns look best with dramatic, formal updos such as these.
  • A simple country wedding dress or beachside dress where you might walk down the aisle barefoot (for example) look great paired with loose, flowing waves or curls. You can also opt for hair pulled up on the sides, with hair in the back loose. Pin a few flowers if your hair is really curly.
  • A spaghetti strap wedding dress looks lovely with soft waves, or a loose, casual updo. For a modern, romantic look, keep hair down and wavy, but pull bangs back off the face, like this style .
  • Pant suits and simple modern dresses look great with a sleek blow-out or a sexy formal ponytail.
  • If there's a lot going on in your chest area (for example, if you are wearing a spectacular necklace or a halter top dress, for example), keep hair pulled up into an updo. You don't want hair competing with the heavy neckline.

If you are wearing your hair down and loose, make sure it hits below the top of your dress. Otherwise, it can look boxy. If your hair isn't long enough, you can get extensions just for the wedding. Or grow out your hair.

What's the Proper Timeline for Wedding Hair?

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to prepping for your perfect wedding day hair. Some women get a huge head start on wedding planning and stick to a defined schedule, while others (these would be my very laid-back friends) don't sweat the hair stuff until a few weeks before the wedding.

It is important to book services in advance especially if you're getting married in heavy wedding season. You don't want the anxiety that comes with a stylist you don't entirely trust. Here's a basic schedule for your wedding hair:

  • A few months before the wedding, start collecting photos of your favorite wedding hairstyles.
  • 3-4 months before the big day, research hair pros in your area and book a couple consultations.
  • 3 months before the wedding, finalize your hairstylist and book a trial run. Also book the wedding day for both you and your wedding party.
  • 4-6 weeks before your wedding, get a hair trim. If you straighten or curl your hair professionally, do this at least one month before the wedding so your hair has time to relax.
  • 2 weeks before the wedding, get your hair color touched up. Highlights around the face are flattering for brides. Make sure all grays are covered.
  • Confirm your hair, manicure and makeup appointments at least a week before the big day.

The Day of the Wedding

Your stylist will know how much time is needed to do your hair so be sure to schedule that into the day. You'll want to give yourself plenty of time, especially if you have long hair. Keep in mind the timing of your wedding party hair appointments as well. Your stylist should know how much time to schedule.

Some brides with fine hair opt not to wash their hair the day of or even before the wedding because the dirtier hair is, the better it will stay in an updo. Personally, I can't imagine not washing my hair for my wedding, but whatever works!

Bring extra pins and hairspray along to the reception just in case your updo starts to fall. You can run a hair dryer sheet on your head if there's static in the air and your hair gets frizzy.

More on weddings:

  • For makeup advice, check out my 18 Best Wedding Day Makeup Tips.
  • You'll need to pick a fragrance for your big day. See this list of the Top 10 Wedding Perfumes.
  • Check out's Wedding Website.