Hairstyle begins long before ceremony

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— Finding the perfect hairstyle -- and the perfect hairstylist -- can make getting your hair done on your wedding day a luxurious self-indulgence rather than a chore.

"It should be the first part of the wedding day, not just like, 'Oh, I have to get my hair done,'" says Susan Johnston, owner of ImageMakers Salon in Craig. "I close the salon, order a cheese tray and always have wine. It's such a big day and it has to be just so. I want to help make it a fun day where everybody's happy and excited instead of people being in an uproar."

Planning your wedding hairstyle is relatively easy and fun, but it is something you should give a first thought to at least six months in advance of the big day.

That first thought is nothing more than an assessment of where your hair is and where you want it to be by your wedding day. If you've always pictured yourself walking down the aisle with hair swept into a classic chignon, but in real life you sport a chin-length shag, it will take six months to grow hair long enough for a good up-do, says Domingo, a hairstylist at The Gallery in Steamboat Springs who counts wedding styling among his specialties.

Once the day gets closer, Domingo advises brides-to-be to make three key hair choices in order: Decide on the color you want your hair, decide on the hairpiece, finally, decide on the hairstyle itself.

Choosing a stylist for the big day may be as simple as asking your regular hair cutter for help, or it may require some interviewing. Some key questions to ask:

n Is the hairdresser comfortable doing wedding hair? Not all hairstylists are equally comfortable with creating up-dos as they are with cutting and coloring.

"It's a specialized treatment, it took me a long time to get really good at it," Domingo says. Some hairdressers prefer not to do intricate styling.

n Is the hairdresser willing to travel to the ceremony site to do hair -- many stylists will travel within a certain distance to make wedding-day logistics easier -- or will you (and your bridal party, if they will get their hair done, too) have to make time for a morning trip to the salon?

"It's becoming more and more common (for stylists) to travel," says Johnston, who regularly takes her equipment on the road to help bridal parties at popular wedding venues such as the Sleepy Cat Guest Ranch in Meeker.

n If you have curly hair, is the person experienced in styling curly hair? Make sure you are dealing with a hairdresser who is good at styling your hair type.

n Is the stylist or salon comfortable handling the number of people getting their hair done, and are they willing to work in the necessary time frame on the wedding day itself? Having a stylist cancel at the last minute adds unnecessary stress; make sure your stylist understands and is willing to provide exactly what you need, when and where you need it, on the wedding day, Domingo says.

Once you have selected a hairdresser and your hairpiece, make an appointment one to two weeks before your wedding day to try various looks. If you plan to get your makeup done professionally as well, it's a good idea to schedule a makeup trial at the same time.

"A lot of brides don't want to look completely, entirely different on their wedding day -- the same goes for makeup," Johnston says.

A wedding's overall theme can also help dictate the bride's hairstyle, Johnston says. For a country wedding where all the men will be in cowboy hats, a romantic upsweep with soft, loose tendrils around the face suits the theme far better than a tight, ultra-sophisticated chignon.

"Go to the grocery store and pick up a few wedding magazines and look at the hair," Domingo advises. "I try to keep a lot of wedding magazines around so that when they show me the hairpiece, we can look at ideas."

Domingo usually goes through three or four different styles with a bride-to-be, giving her a chance to see some different looks -- or modifications of classic looks -- to pick the best style for her.

Johnston likes to photograph the bride's pick with her digital camera, so that on the wedding day, the bride can look at the picture and tell Johnston what she did and didn't like about the style.

The hairpiece and dress also influence the hairstyle: If a heavy veil will cover most of the bride's head, for example, a style with lots of curls doesn't make sense. If the back of the dress is carefully detailed, it shouldn't be covered by long hair.

"Even for women who always wear their hair down, I recommend putting their hair up so it doesn't touch the back of an intricate dress and overtake it," Johnston says. "When they get the pictures back, they are always happy; they have beautiful hair and a beautiful dress, and one isn't overpowering the other."

This year, Domingo said he is seeing the traditional veils and tiaras, as well as many brides coming to him with tiny roses or baby's breath to be woven into their hair. Johnston also says whole flowers can work well into a style.

On the wedding day itself, Domingo recommends scheduling an hour for each bridal party member, with the bride going first to give her time to do anything else necessary -- or just to rest and relax -- before the ceremony. Doing the bride's hair three to four hours before the ceremony is ideal, the experts say, although a good hair spray will hold the style together if the hair needs to be done earlier.

After hair is styled, makeup can be applied and, finally, the bridal party can change into their dresses. Members of the bridal party should wear button-front shirts during the styling so they can change into their dresses without mussing their hair.

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