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.
"We make it fun," says TriBeCa Hair Studio Inc. owner Susan Dressen. "We serve mimosas and pastries for the whole wedding party and put on fun music and movies like 'My Best Friend's Wedding.'"
But getting to that point, and being able to enjoy and relax while being pampered and primped at the salon requires some advance planning. For the best results, hairstylists recommend that you should first give a thought to your hairstyle 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, said Domingo, a hairstylist at The Gallery in Steamboat Springs who counts wedding styling among his specialties.
The six-month point is also a good time to start playing with basic styles -- up, down, or partially up -- to determine what will look best on you, Dressen said.
"We'll talk about what type of hairstyle looks good with your face shape, and then you can keep that in mind when you go find a hairpiece," she said.
As 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, and 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:
Is the hairdresser comfortable doing wedding hair? Not all hairstylists are equally comfortable with creating up-dos as they are with cutting and coloring.
"Talk to the person and make sure they're comfortable with doing your hair and you are comfortable with them," Dressen said. "Make sure the stylist is someone who will work with you, and not just tell you what kind of style they'll do."
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) schedule a morning trip to the salon?
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.
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 said.
Once you have selected a hairdresser and your hairpiece, make an appointment two months 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 women don't want to look completely different on their wedding day, but this is a celebration, so it's always nice to have festive hair," Domingo said. A hair and makeup trial is a chance to make sure your wedding-day look is something you are comfortable with.
"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.
Domingo suggests that brides bring a camera along for that experience. That way, the bride has a visual record of the style she likes best -- and, if she wants, she can take the pictures to friends to get their opinions on the best 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.
If possible, Dressen recommends that the bride come in about a week before the wedding for a dry run through the hairstyle, to confirm what the style will look like and to answer some basic logistical questions. "I do the total hair and get it down really quickly so that the day of the wedding, I know exactly what I'm doing, and exactly how long their hair will take," she said. "A lot of times, they're kind of freaked out, and if they know, 'at least I know what my hair is going to look like,' and how much time we'll need to plan for the rest of the wedding party, it's one less thing to worry about."
Domingo sees 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. Curls, too, are making a comeback, he said. Along with spiral curls and tendrils around the face, some brides are opting for hair that is straight on top and falls into soft, chin-length curls, reminiscent of the movie-star styles of the 1940s and '50s.
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 hairspray 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.