Tresses for Success

Though every bride imagines her perfect wedding-day look, not every style works with every hair type. So before making any decisions, talk to an expert.

From the moment my fiance proposed, I pictured myself walking down the aisle with my shoulder-length brown hair worn in curls to frame my face. That image stuck with me until the first consultation with my hairdresser. She broke the news that there was no way I could pull it off. My ceremony would be on the beach, and she said the smallest gust of wind would knock my naturally stick-straight locks into a knotted mess. Taking her advice, I wore it in a low bun and not a strand fell out of place.

Though every bride imagines her perfect wedding-day look, not every style works with every hair type. So before making any decisions, talk to an expert. “You should build toward having that certain look,” says Linda Herman, manager of Andrew Michaels Spa & Salon in Salem. She recommends scheduling an initial consultation 6-12 months before the date. The first appointment usually lasts an hour so the stylist can try several different options. At Melrose’s Demiche Makeup & Image Studio, owner Michelle Arruda-DeVoe charges $75 for the first consultation and says many clients make several visits over the months as their tresses grow and color changes.

Keep in mind though, that you want to come across like a gorgeous version of your natural self. “This is your only day to look like a princess,” says stylist Michael Albor of The Loft salon in Boston. “You should look like a timeless, really elegant version of yourself.” He also advises to be wary of fads. “We never suggest that brides alter their natural look,” says DeVoe. Avoid drastic changes like going from red to blonde or cutting off several inches right before your wedding.

Figuring out your hair type is the next step. Is it fine and thin or thick and curly? There’s a ’do for every cut, even if it’s pixie-short.

If You Have … Fine, Thin Hair
Herman recommends a tousled technique for thin tresses. “You’re not going to get a super-quaffed, big up-do. Instead, do something simple, like something shabby-chic or tousled.” She puts the hair back in a low bun or gathers it at the neck, pulling strands out around the face and adding a light wave to each piece.

At The Loft, Albor will even add a hairpiece that is already styled and colored to match your own. “I don’t tease hair anymore because it doesn’t look very tidy. Instead, I’ll use pieces created from extensions to make it very elegant and sleek.”

DeVoe says, “If [straight hair] is worn down, there’s a good chance it won’t last through the night.” At Demiche, she starts with a volumizer or root-lifting product, like the nonsticky Amplify spray by Matrix, and then pulls the hair up in separate sections to give the illusion of more fullness, creating a peak at the front for more height. “Once it’s pinned, it’s guaranteed not to go anywhere,” she says.

If you’re set on wearing it down, DeVoe recommends adding extensions but notes you should insist that the salon use human hair, as opposed to synthetic options. The extra pieces will create a fuller base, giving more control and weight.

If You Have … Thick, Curly Hair
Whether it’s tight ringlets or a relaxed wave, DeVoe says, “Work with your natural curl. Fighting it is a bad idea for any formal occasion.” She starts by de-frizzing with Brilliantine Pomade by Joico and pulls out and curls pieces with an iron between natural curls for a more polished look.

Albor agrees, adding that the super-stick-straight look is out—so no more hair-ironing for the Big Day. “Now it’s all about natural, romantic curls,” he says. “I’ll pull it up in pieces and pin it here and there. And since accessories are huge right now, we place pins studded with crystals or pearls throughout the arrangement.”

Katie Ollmann, owner of Oasis Spa in West Chatham, says it’s OK to straighten the curls on such an important occasion. “It makes you feel more dressed up,” she says. She likes to apply AG’s Set It Straight moisturizer and then use a steam iron on the hair while it’s still wet.

If You Have … Straightened Hair
For African-American women who chemically straighten their locks, Ollmann recommends the CHI Transformation System, which includes shampoo, conditioner, soak infusions and thermal sprays. “Even if you don’t have it straightened regularly, we recommend the whole system,” she says. “It leaves hair feeling like silk.”

DeVoe adds an oil-based product to get shine and firm control. Having extensions also helps create a fuller up-do. “But if you want a natural look,” she adds, “we pull it up so it doesn’t go wild.” Adding accessories, like jeweled barrettes or combs is a simple way to dress up your everyday ’do.

If You Have … Super-Short Hair
Even simple pixie cuts can get dressed up for the Big Day. “It all depends on the cut,” says DeVoe. “If it’s extremely short, go with something more tailored. You can part it to the side or volumize at the crown for that Audrey Hepburn look.” She says to put the focus on texture rather than creating something too flashy.

And, with a short style, Albor likes to simply finish the look with a good product like Aquage.

“Color is another good option,” says Herman. “It’s subtle and adds volume.” She usually discusses color changes during the initial consultation so that there’s time to get it right. For lift, she uses Privé root amplifier and then pushes the bangs to the side in either a sleek or tousled wave.

Ollmann says that a spray with gel, like Tri’s Aerogel, will have the strongest hold for whatever you choose to do.

Getting Ready for Showtime
OK, dress rehearsal’s over: it’s time for you to hit center stage. Schedule your appointment early in the day so there’s enough time for getting dressed before photos. Wear a button-down shirt and bring your veil or headpiece. But most important, every stylist recommends that you come in without washing your hair. “It freaks women out when we tell them this,” says Chuck Conklin, a stylist at Grettacole in Boston. “But when it’s clean and silky, you have a hard time getting it to stay in place.” He recommends blow-drying and styling for the rehearsal the night before and sleeping on it. He also reminds brides to get instructions on how to remove their veil so they don’t get stuck tugging it off after the festivities. Even though it took time and effort to get the perfect hairdo, by the end of the night, it will be the last thing on your mind.