Having your makeup done by a professional on your wedding day has almost become as synonymous as wearing white. But it’s not the only way to go. If the idea of not having a makeup artist on your big day fills you with dread, let me tell you how I did my own, saved hundreds of pounds and didn’t stress on the day.
After getting engaged in 2019 and planning a wedding the following year, I don’t need to explain what happened to those plans. Instead, I had a micro wedding in May 2021 in Scotland after the final lockdown, but at the time (and to my dismay) makeup artists still couldn’t work due to mask restrictions.
When I’d whimsically thought about what I’d like for my wedding day, I’d always envisioned having my makeup done for me. I’d never felt I was really any good at makeup, and was very happy to place my trust in an expert.
How to do your own wedding makeup: pick your inspo
As that wasn’t to be, I decided it was time to hone the skills myself. My inspo came from Emma Watson’s 2016 Met Gala look: a natural, slightly glowy look, with a touch of a smokey eye and a matte nude lip.
I also wanted to follow the best advice I’d read online: don’t steer far away from your usual look for both your bridal hair and makeup. So, as a fan of Charlotte Tilbury’s iconic Pillow Talk collection, I knew the line would be integral to my look, and it was therefore my first port of call.
Beauty counters were still closed at this time, so colour-matching IRL wasn’t an option. Instead, after a little googling of my limited options, I booked a free Charlotte Tilbury bridal makeup consultation. Zoom certainly has its benefits, but when you’re trying to colour match your skin tone with a stranger who’s never seen you beyond a screen, along with a lack of natural light in my kitchen plus the yellow hue of the walls in my rented flat, it wasn’t the easiest of tasks.
After a few trials, I was really happy with how my makeup looked on the day. I felt it turned out exactly how I planned: an even base with a glowy highlight, ‘Pillow Talk’ eyes, soft blush, and an understated lip colour that would last.
The best bit of it all though? Buying all the products myself meant I spent less than a quarter of the original quoted cost of having mine and my bridesmaids’ makeup done on the day (around £450). Of course, the products were also mine to keep, and I finally learnt how to do makeup. It was a win, win.
My top tip would be to practise at least a handful of times before the big day, in different lighting, too. Get to know the products, your brushes and importantly, what to do if you make a mistake. And time the whole process – then you’ll know how long to set aside on the day, and add in some extra time for photos, bubbles and other lols you’ll no doubt be enjoying while acing your own makeup too.
How to do your own wedding makeup: find your products
Below, I’ve detailed all the products I trialled and ended up using for the big day. I’ve also included affordable swaps you could make from reliable high street brands including NYX, Rimmel and Maybelline, which would save you even more money (many of which are often double the product size and half the cost).
Longwear makeup was relatively new to me. I was more of an IT Cosmetics CC kinda gal, so I needed something that would last all day. The bridal makeup consultation meant I was introduced to the cult Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Filter, told how to use it and also why I needed a pressed powder.
Both were things I didn’t have in my makeup arsenal, but were key products in how to really ace what I was aiming for.
I went for the Airbrush Flawless Foundation, £39, Charlotte Tilbury, which has a silky matte finish, full coverage and is available in an impressive 44 shades. I was happy with how it sat on my skin and lasted too.
DUPE: Maybelline Superstay 30 Hour Foundation, £10.99, Boots has a saving of over £28, but with a shade range of less than half with just 20 shades. It is good for oilier skin though.
Hollywood Flawless Filter, £39, Charlotte Tilbury, is one of those products you think you don’t need, especially at the price. Once you try it though, you wonder how you lived without it thanks to its wonderfully luminous glowy finish. It’s simple, but oh-so effective.
DUPE: Everyone knows about this one; the more affordable alternative is the e.l.f Halo Glow Liquid Filter, £14, Boots, which has an almost identical formula to Charlotte Tilbury’s and saves a very respectable £25. Eliza’s beauty editor Rebecca says it can be harder to blend out, so it’s best done with a damp sponge.
I also used the Fenty Fairy Bomb Shimmer Powder, £22.50, Harvey Nichols, which I managed to get (with the matching brush) in the Boots £10 Tuesdays deal. Just a touch on your cheekbones is all you need. It’s so delicate yet effective and is probably one of my favourite products now.
DUPE: Revolution Pro Body Glow Shimmer Brick, £10, LookFantastic is more like the Bobbi Brown bricks, but not quite as glittery.
The Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder, £38, Cult Beauty, is another cult product. I used it for the lightest dusting under my eyes to help set makeup and prevent the base from creasing, as well as a tiny touch on my oilier areas.
DUPE: No7 Airbrush Away Finishing Powder, £13.95, Boots, has very similar effects too and is more than £24 cheaper.
Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, £25, Boots, is as creamy as it sounds. It’s so easy to seamlessly blend and comes in 24 shades.
DUPE: Another product from e.l.f, this time it’s the Hydrating Camo Concealer, £6, e.l.f and offers a saving of £19. It’s available in 26 shades, which are also split by undertones. Work it with your fingers to warm it up first before applying.
DUPE: Rimmel London Maxi Blush in ‘Third Base,’ £6, Boots gives a really understated flush of colour that’s also easy to blend and build.
Anyone who has tried Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Setting Spray, £17, Cult Beauty knows it’s light, non-sticky and holds everything where it should be. It’s also a fine mist and feels more like skincare than a setting spray.
DUPE: The NYX Plumping Setting Spray, £8, LookFantastic, is almost double the size and half the price, and is a great alternative.
I had lash extensions for the first time a few days before my wedding. Although I don’t think they were for me in the long run, they really helped with my look. I then used the Maybelline Falsies Lash Lift Mascara, £10.99, LookFantastic, over the top to give depth and a bit of a lift, which I think is better than most of the more expensive brands.
The Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Eye Palette, £45, Sephora has been my go-to for years, so I knew it had to be part of my wedding makeup. But for the price for such a small pan, it’s a luxury buy.
DUPE: At less than a quarter of the price, the Revolution Xxposed Eyeshadow Palette, £10, Boots is a great alternative. Although the colours are darker, Rebecca Fearn thinks the affordable quad of shades blends almost as well as the OG.
Brow products can be like marmite in my opinion. I initially didn’t like the Brow Build Gel, £23, BBB but actually as its name suggests, it grew on me so much that it earned a place in my wedding makeup bag. It’s easy to shape brows with, build and clean off if you smudge it.
The Clear Brow Gloss, £23, BBB also fixes brows nicely, without making them hard and looking like they’ve been PVA-glued.
Longwear lip colour was also pretty new territory to me, as was matte. Although at the time, glosses were making a comeback, I’m of the age when glosses meant your hair (and anything else) stuck to your shining pout, so I wasn’t ready to risk it for my wedding photos.
As much as I love CT’s Pillow Talk, it doesn’t seem to last that long on me, and not wanting to have to worry about topping up all the time, I found Mac’s Retro Matte Longwear Lip Colour, £22, LookFantastic. After asking some more in-the-know colleagues who wrote about beauty, I went for the ‘Burnt Spice’ colour and matched it with the Mac Lip Liner in ‘Spice,’ £17, Boots.
DUPES: The NYX Professional Soft Matte Lip Cream in ‘Abu Dhabi,’ £6, LookFantastic, is creamy and goes on well, but doesn’t have such long-wear as Mac’s. However, the NYX Suede Matte Lip in ‘Cannes,’ £4, LookFantastic is my new fave lip liner.
I also love a lip scrub and feel strongly this is an often forgotten about, yet key part of, preparing your lips. I used Kiko Milano’s Lip Scrub, £5, Sephora and then keeping with the Mac theme, used the brand’s Lip + Prep Stick, £20, LookFantastic that I happened to see while ordering the rest of my lip kit on Boots’ website, and was obviously in the “why not – it’s your wedding day” mood.