Why I will not be wearing an ounce of make-up at my wedding

October 28 | Guest post by Brink Powell
Baity Miss Sally Rice} Before
"BMiss Sally Rice with all her make up sanded off" photo by Gushi SodaCC BY 2.0

On my wedding day I will not be wearing an ounce of make-up. Why?…

Once upon a time I was fifteen years old and started dating a boy who would become my first and longest relationship. This boy was very critical of my appearance. And, being young and naive, I became convinced that he was this way because he cared about me, and wanted me to look my best.

I changed the way I dressed. I started dying my hair and having it cut different ways. I started wearing some make-up when we'd go out. At first it felt strange, and I didn't really like it. Then I just got used to it and wanted to avoid hearing that I was "sloppy" or "plain," or any of the other well-chosen insults he used to control my appearance.

When we broke up I was twenty-three years old, and I realized that I had lost a lot of myself to the relationship. I sort of didn't know who I was anymore.

One thing I had left of my pre-relationship self was my involvement in theater. When I was invited to hear one of my theater acquaintances bands play at a local bar I went, alone. I threw my hair up, put on some comfortable pants and flip flops, didn't even wash my face, and that's the night my relationship with my fiancé began.

The first time my fiancé ever saw me in make-up was when he came to see me in a show — five months after we started hanging out. He said I looked "weird" with it on. I have never, in the three and a half years we've been together, felt any pressure to look a certain way or to be anything other than what I am. I have also not put make-up on unless I'm in a show. There's no reason to. He loves me for exactly who I am and exactly what I look like.

Originally, I was going to wear make-up for my wedding. I was going to do it myself and it was going to be minimal eye make-up and perhaps some lip gloss. But then I thought, why? Why am I going to do this? Is it because I want to? Or is it because it's been drilled into my head by society that a bride should look like the "best version of herself," and make-up is the way to achieve that?

Why should I try to look any different than I do on a day to day basis?

Based on how many people have asked "where are you getting your make-up done?" without ever pausing to consider the possibility that I won't have it done professionally, it's clear that choosing to have no wedding make-up goes against what many people think a "normal" bride should do.

Well-meaning friends and family have cautioned me against this decision for reasons ranging from looking washed out in photos to the more stereotypical "but you're a bride, you should be made up!"

To them I say this:

On our wedding day, I want to look like myself. I want to keep the streak of gray that's appeared in my hair over the past year. I don't want to cover up the little moles on my face. When I walk down the aisle towards my fiancé on that day, I want him to see me the way I naturally am, and the way I was always meant to look.

  1. Yes, yes, YES!!! I didn't wear any make up on my wedding day and I don't regret it! When I look back through our wedding photos, I see a happy and radiant ME, the me I recognise and not some strange, made-up person. Like you, I only wear make-up for work (and that is only because I have to). My husband says I look pretty wearing make-up, but he equally loves me without it (and knows I prefer to go without wearing make-up). The most important thing is how you feel, not bowing to the industry standards 🙂

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    • Excellent! Glad to here from someone who went the way I'm going and has no regrets! That's been the nagging voice of dissent in the back of my mind. The "will you regret this?" but I just keep shutting it down. I know what I look like, I like what I look like, and that's how I want to look on my wedding day.

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  2. Makeup was one of those weird areas where even the most non-tradition, offbeat, counter-culture people I knew kept giving me the old "but you have to." The idea was that what I look like in the mirror would be so different than what shows up in wedding photos that I'd be horrified. I went and did a trial run of makeup at a salon and cried after, I felt so uncomfortable. I knew I would spend the whole day self-conscious about the stuff on my face. I did wear a little bit of makeup but it was the same sweep of mascara and blush I'd have put on for a Tuesday night book club. I am SO GLAD that I didn't cave.

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    • Right!? I don't know why no make-up is the one decision that people can't seem to wrap their minds around. Given how non-traditional the rest of our wedding is it's just like "Really? That's the thing you're tweaking out about? What I have on my face?" Like you, I don't want to look at my wedding photos one, ten, twenty years from now and go "Who the hell is that girl standing next to my husband?" I've been to weddings where the bride looked so different than in every day life, and while that's cool if that's their choice, it's just not for me.

      1 agrees
      • The weird thing? Somehow, my twisted mind never even thought about skipping makeup as a possibility until I saw this post–and the last time I wore any makeup other than lipstick was 9 years ago at my sister's wedding. My fiance saw photos from that wedding for the first time recently and said, "You still look pretty, but you don't look like you." I was dreading how to find make-up that wouldn't make me break out or look strange. One less thing to worry about!

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        • Good for you! I'm so happy to hear that's been taken off of your mind.
          Planning a wedding is stressful enough so the less you have to worry about the better! You will look like you and your fiance will love it 🙂

  3. Eee! So excited to see a post from a close Tribesmaid featured on the blog!

    I commented there so will try not to reiterate too much, but I did wear make up on my wedding day. Not because I was pressured, but because I wanted to. I was pressured to do the full face of foundation, concealer, blush, etc. but I didn't want that. I am terrible for wiping my face and I wanted to see my freckled face so I did my make up myself and that was that. I'm happy with my decision but I support anyone who wants to do a full face or a blank face. It's a personal choice for a personal day and there is no right or wrong way to do it!

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      • This! That's why I love OBB. Because it encourages us to all BE OURSELVES and make decisions about our wedding that make us happy and comfortable. 🙂

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      • … and I love this article because OP states her PERSONAL reasons for feeling passionately about this particular decision without ever coming across as judge-y toward anyone who might have decided differently. I love that we can all make awesome decisions for ourselves AND those decisions can be super-different AND we can look at the person who made a very different decision from ours and be like "whoa, that is way different from what I did but it is also totally awesome and obviously made your heart sing so GO YOU."

        • Thank you! I absolutely support any bride's decision to wear or not wear make-up. It's a totally personal choice! I just don't feel like anyone should ever be pressured, one way or another, to do something that doesn't make them feel comfortable on their wedding day 🙂

  4. Yay Brink! I'm loving that you are featured on the main blog. Makeup is such a personal thing, and the only wrong answer is the one that makes the person uncomfortable!

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    • Yay! Thank you! You hit the nail on the head too. There is no right or wrong and every person getting married should make the decision on this topic that's right for them. I keep joking with my mother that she's putting more time and effort into her hair and make-up than I am there you have it! We're different people and we'll both look great in our own way.

  5. Yay! Love seeing articles like this. There are too many, I think, that say "no makeup" in the title and then you read the article and find out that "no makeup" apparently means just lip gloss, mascara, eye liner, blush, etc. etc. etc.

    As someone who doesn't even own makeup, I appreciate when "no makeup" doesn't just mean "minimal" or "everyday" makeup to everyone.

    I never wear makeup, I never have (except one time in high school, my friends wanted to see what I would look like with makeup on, lol), and I didn't wear any on my wedding day. No regrets at all 🙂

    Don't listen to anyone who says it'll look bad in pictures or whatever. If you're used to seeing yourself in pictures with no makeup on, it'll look like that. Except even better, if you have a professional photographer.

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    • Yeah, there's no fake out here. When I say "no make-up" I mean none. I never even thought about the photo thing like that so thank you! That makes so much sense! I'm totally used to seeing photos of me with no make-up so our wedding photos really won't look different. Plus, our photographer has done two previous shoots with me for graduation photos and theater publicity photos where I wasn't wearing make-up and they turned out great!

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  6. I literally never wear makeup. I don't even own any. But I wore makeup for my wedding because while I wanted to look like myself, I also didn't want to look washed out in pictures or be self-conscious about zits or dark circles under my eyes. If none of that bothers you, then don't wear makeup! Rock that gorgeous natural face. But if any of that bothers you, don't think that you have to have seven pounds of makeup or nothing. Choose whatever makes you feel comfortable and beautiful!

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    • Nah, that stuff doesn't really bother me. I'm happy you were able to strike a balance that made you feel comfortable! You're right though, I think a lot of times people, especially people in the make-up industry, don't get that a "full face" isn't always the way to go for every person.

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  7. I completely respect you for this! I'm not engaged yet, but my boyfriend and I know it's in our near future. And something we talk about, is having a wedding that shows people who we are, not the people we are not. I will have a white dress, but not a traditional one. I will not wear a veil. I do like make up, but I like my minimal every day make up, I don't need more than that. So thank you, for being you! Your marriage should be about who you are with your partner, and the wedding is *supposed* to be how the world sees you with your partner. I don't want my friends and family to see me as any other woman, than the woman I am 🙂 And neither should you!

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    • Yes, yes, yes! This is so spot on. The only way a wedding is "supposed" to be is how ever the couple wants it to be! When you guys start planning stick to your guns and do what makes you happy. 🙂

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  8. Totally love this. I wanted to add something my mom told me when I was a teenager and started playing with makeup: "Older women wear makeup to try to make their skin look like yours does already. You don't need any!" Now, it's not perfect, because I think older women don't need to fix anything either, but she had a point that you shouldn't fix what is just fine on its own. The whole point is to be comfortable in your own skin- whatever that means in practice.

    1 agrees
  9. This is so positive and bad ass. My only suggestion is that you make sure that you communicate this choice to your wedding photographer (if it is your choice to have one) that you are going make-up-less. Some that I have worked with assume that you will have some on and light you differently. Also it might be wise to have the retouching discussion. Many photographers (including one that I no longer work for) will photoshop the shit out of you because you're supposed to be "flawless" on your wedding day. I HATE that mentality but it is a good discussion to have. I have known photographers to go so far as to photoshop on eyeliner and darker lipstick!!

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    • Thank you for the advice! My photographer and I have actually been friend for 10+ years. She's shot me before without make-up and knows make-up is not my style. You're totally right though that had a hired a photographer who didn't know me personally I'd be having a conversation with them to make sure we were on the same page!

  10. Go, you! I'm definitely in agreement about walking down the aisle looking like the same person you always are! At my brother's wedding, my (then-boyfriend) fiance was really bothered by the fact that I looked weird (as a bridesmaid, I'd had my makeup professionally done, and she didn't have a light hand with it because I wanted my skin, for the first time, to look flawless). It made me realize how pervasive that mentality is- to get an airbrushed look on your wedding day. Fine if that's how you roll, but I'm with you- I want to look like the women my fiance fell in love with. Also, I don't want to have to worry about mascara runs when I inevitably cry. 😉

    • I actually did not cry at all on my wedding day! I was too happy and was laughing way too much to shed any tears. BUT if I had there would've been no black lines running down my face because I was true to my word and did not wear one bit of make-up!

  11. I don't normally wear make-up. My husband doesn't like it (specifically the way it smells). But I wanted it for my wedding day because of the photography. I told my make-up artist (I don't wear it often enough to do it myself – like you I only wear theatrical make-up) to make it as little make-up as possible. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a miscommunication. He made it *look* like I was wearing very little make-up but actually did the full foundation/powder thing. Still, my husband didn't seem too offput by it and I love how I look in all my pictures. I am still very undeniably ME, but the kind of me that I see on my best days when I got the perfect amount of sleep and am in perfect health.

    While I have no regrets about wearing it on my wedding day, I think it's important to realize its a matter of priorities. I'm not a "live in the moment" kind of person. While I have a great narrative memory (we did this THEN we did that and you said THIS not that) I'm not very good at … immersive? memory. My memories don't play back like a video. It's hard for me to conjure up the images and emotions of a memory – unless I have pictures. The moments that I have pictures of will always be what I remember most clearly and think back on most fondly. As a result, photography was *the most* important thing for me about the wedding, which included looking just right in the pictures. For a lot of people, that's not the case and it makes sense that, if you don't wear make-up normally (especially if your partner isn't super fond of you in it) you wouldn't want to wear it on this day either.

  12. For those of you who, understandably, would feel uncomfortable in make up because you don't usually wear any, I would ask you to consider wearing only the *slightest* amount for the sake of the photography. As someone pointed out earlier, makeup-less faces can tend to get washed out under the bright lights of professional photography, as well as emphasize imperfections, blemishes, or areas of uneven coloration – things that might not even be noticed except by the camera!

    And unless you have perfectly normal skin (that does not teeter towards either the oily or the dry end of the spectrum), do consider just a little bit of skin treatment/coverage. For dry skin, you could wear a tinted moisturizer or a BB cream. It will be very lightweight, and the "tinted" part will be extremely sheer. If your skin starts to get a little parched as the day wears on, you can reapply in the areas that need it. If you tend to be a little oily, consider a mattifier: a sort of serum that you put on your skin (it absorbs right away) that keeps you from getting too shiny later in the day, and possibly some sheer pressed powder (applied *sparingly* with a fluffy brush so as not to look or feel cakey). You can use these products only on your t-zone if that's the only place you have a problem with oiliness, and you can touch up throughout the day by using oil-absorbing blotter papers, available at your drugstore.

    Neither of these things are going to make your skin look particularly different in person, except maybe a very slight evening out, but it may actually make your skin *feel* better! (For instance, I always put on mattifier even if I'm not leaving the house!) But it may have enough of an effect that your photographer – especially if you talk to him/her about your lack of foundation – won't be tempted to get all Photoshoppy with your face, and then go totally overboard with it.

    I also have one "absolutely don't do this" tip: If you're going to be outdoors or need to wear sunscreen for whatever reason, don't wear physical barrier sunscreen – only a chemical sunscreen! Physical barrier sunscreens contain either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. The whole reason why these two ingredients work is because they reflect the sun's rays off of your skin. Unfortunately, they reflect a large part of the visible spectrum of light too, including the photographer's flash. This will give your skin a bright white cast in pictures everywhere you applied a physical sunscreen; if you've ever seen those red carpet pictures of Hollywood starlets that look like they have white powder all over their faces, it doesn't actually look like that except in the pictures! It's becaused they used a powder or some other product that had one of these ingredients in it – titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are usually the primary ingredients of mineral makeup (which is why mineral foundations always have such a nice SPF). Stick to a chemical sunscreen that has active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, Parsol 1789, etc. But be sure to test it out on your skin for sensitivity well ahead of your wedding, as some people are sensitive to chemical sunscreens and can't wear them without breaking out (I happen to be one of those people).

    Congrats to you all for sticking to your guns and not letting the pressure of others' expectations and conventions back you into doing something you're just not comfortable with!

    • While I agree with you in theory about the photography, in practice I feel that a good photographer should be able to work with a make-up-less face. Our wedding photographer has shot me several times before with no make-up and none of the photos she's done of me have ever looked washed out. While we haven't gotten our professional pictures back all the ones that our guests took and have shared look great! I look like me, imperfections and all.

  13. I too will be wearing minimal wearing on my wedding day, and would prefer using the same skin care products as I prefer to stick to only one brand, (like this) which I have been using since the last couple of years, even on my wedding day!

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