“Your wedding day is your Oscar moment, so live it up.”
So writes Editor-in-Chief Carley Roney in last fall’s The Knot Minnesota. She offers a big-sisterly promise laced with pressure: “We’ll make sure you’re ready for the red carpet with the essentials for a glamour-filled celebration.”
The June-July issue of Modern Bride strikes a similar note. “Wed like a celeb,” the cover teases below the capitalized exhortation, “Get gorgeous.”
But what it takes to get gorgeous has changed. A flattering dress, a liberal application of mascara and the natural cosmetic of joy no longer suffice, according to today’s wedding industry. The bridal beauty on display this season depends upon more advanced interventions: fake eyelashes, professional teeth whitening and, in some cases, an injection of Botox.
“It’s very popular now,” said Angela Elser, owner of Stonewater Skin & Laser Center in White Bear Lake, which offers bridal discounts. “They’re coming in younger and younger.”
Injecting Botox to reduce under-arm sweat is popular among brides under 25, Elser said. They also get Brazilian waxes, while older brides tend to opt for more-traditional bikini waxes, devoting the majority of their cosmetic dollars to facial causes: “routine Botox and lip filler.”
‘Movie star syndrome’
The pressure to look perfect on your wedding day is ignited the day a woman gets a diamond, said Katie Derdoski, 27, a St. Paul writer. When she got engaged a year and a half ago, questions revolved around her appearance: how would she wear her hair, what kind of dress she envisioned, what style of makeup would she apply.
“The expectations are huge,” Derdoski said. And they only mounted when she made the obligatory purchase of bridal magazines. “I bought every magazine, ripped out all the pictures I loved and put them in a binder. I’d look at them and think, ‘I hope my hair looks as shiny as hers, I hope my eye makeup looks as good as hers…’ “
“We’re all having that movie star syndrome,” Elser said. ” ‘My God, her skin looks amazing. This woman has no pores.’ ”
America’s age-old obsession with celebrity has been tinged with an aura of attainability. Makeovers are fleshed out in unflinching detail on reality TV. Celebrity weddings are detailed in magazines. And the marketing of beauty and fitness products for brides has amped up.
“All these companies are jumping on the bandwagon, discovering there’s a lucrative niche in the bridal market,” said wedding consultant Mary Olson of Roseville-based Saratoga Weddings. Cosmetics are now presented as wedding packages, wrapped in ribbon and emotion.
“They’re aggressively marketing to those brides, and they’re succeeding,” Olson said. “Suddenly you’re thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I really do need to have a seaweed wrap facial the day before the wedding so my skin glows!’ ”
An understanding of how seaweed benefits the complexion is not a prerequisite to applying the supposed extracts to the face.
“You get a case of wedding-brain,” said Derdoski, who’s planning to wear fake eyelashes at her Maui wedding. “It’s really easy to get carried away. The wedding fever catches hold of everyone—no matter how grounded you are.”
Minnesota brides do tend to be more grounded than the average bride, Olson said, but they still need reminding to keep their cosmetic purchases in check. “Beauty expenses can mushroom unexpectedly. When you see the budget, you think physically of the big things—the reception, the band, the caterer. It’s all those incidentals that you forget about.”
The first step toward bridal beauty is often a sweaty one: weight loss. Jamie Campos, 22, an event planner who was married in Mounds View last May, lifted weights to look good in her strapless dress. “I was really concerned about my arms and shoulders,” she said.
A growing number of exercise videos and aerobic classes cater to brides. Some fitness centers offer “bridal boot camps,” a name that conveys the severity of the mission.
The pressure can lead brides to set unrealistic weight-loss goals. At David’s Bridal in Richfield, I met a pregnant woman who is getting married one month after her due date, and hoping to lose the baby weight in time.
Many Twin Cities brides are not only ambitious with weight loss, but successful, said Sue Richardson, an Edina seamstress. She regularly takes wedding dresses in two sizes, which typically accounts for the loss of 4 inches—or 40 pounds.
“Brides take dieting and exercise seriously,” Richardson said. “They know they’re getting photos and they want to look good.”
Occasionally, a bride’s lofty diet fails, and Richardson has to do emergency alterations. Once, she added 12 inches to a wedding dress.
Forthcoming nuptials can tip a diet into a danger zone. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee assistant professor Lori Neighbors published a study last year on the relationship between weddings and weight lost in the journal Appetite. She tracked the dieting habits of 272 engaged women who were, on average, six months from their wedding day and found that 70 percent were trying to lose more than 20 pounds. Many of the dieters used extreme methods, including skipping meals, going on liquid diets, fasting, and taking laxatives or supplements. A small number even started smoking in hopes of shedding a few pounds.
If the diet doesn’t work, more extreme measures are available. Dr. Douglas Gervais, owner of Minneapolis Plastic Surgery, said wedding-induced plastic surgery is on the rise. “If you’re the bride, you’re the center of attention, you’re under the microscope, and you might want certain things done, whether it be breast augmentation, body shaping, tummy tucks, liposuction, or if you’re an older bride, maybe you want your eyes or face done.”
Younger brides tend to focus on improving their bodies, he said, while older brides get cosmetic surgery on body and face.
Getting photo-perfect for the wedding day drives many beauty measures. Professional teeth whitening, for example, “has become huge among brides,” Olson said.
Others take it a step further. Mandy Kiser, 27, a Rochester figure skating coach who’s getting married next month, got lumineers, a porcelain veneer that is bonded directly to the teeth, requiring no grinding or shaving. The procedure typically costs $900 a tooth. Kiser had 10 teeth done—the front five on the top and bottom.
“These make my teeth bigger and straighter and whiter,” Kiser said. “I’m so happy with it. They’re perfect. I have perfect teeth. I’m smiling now!”
Kiser is flirting with the idea of hair extensions for her big day, and she plans to lean on the expertise of an aesthetician for her makeup, a common practice among local brides.
Sophisticated techniques can achieve more than makeup once did. Crist Ballas, a makeup artist who owns and operates Metamorphosis in St. Paul, offers brides “corrective makeup” that can hide veins, under-eye bags, tattoos, freckles and sun spots. He can even do prosthetics.
Creating a natural look can mean going against a strong cultural tide, Ballas said. “I’m surprised by how different some brides look on their wedding day—to the point where they are unrecognizable,” he said. “That comes from both ends—the makeup artist’s end and the expectations to look ultra-glam, which is very media-pushed. It’s more of a problem today, with all the extreme makeovers. One bride wanted very, very smoky cat-shape eyes, and she had a really wild dress.”
“Brides are getting more into glamour than they were 10 years ago,” said Stephanie Hart, a freelance makeup artist from Woodbury. “They’re a lot more cognizant of their cosmetic needs.”
Frequent tanning is another trick taken up in the name of bridal beauty. “Brides come in religiously,” said Jenna Reynolds, a spa consultant at Planet Beach in Hopkins. She sees brides coming in every other day in the final weeks before their wedding, and some come with their fiancé. Reynolds said it’s rare to see a groom-to-be come in alone.
Grooms getting in on the act
That’s not to say some grooms don’t take the initiative in cosmetic preparations. Bobby Anderson, 50, a former two-time kick-boxing champion from Hinckley got Botox for his April nuptials. He had 50 units injected at Stonewater at the price of $14/unit.
“I really do feel better,” Anderson said. “And I felt much more comfortable in front of the camera. Flash away! One of the main reasons is that my new wife is only 26. I didn’t want the age gap to look glaring.”
“I believe in cosmetics,” added Anderson, who plans to get another Botox injection in six months, “whatever it takes to make you feel better about yourself, inside and out. Do it if it’s out there! Guys have to keep our appearances up to keep our ladies around!”
Mothers of the bride and groom are also prone to employing some cosmetic measures before their children’s weddings. Take Mary, 49, a professional from Rapid City, S.D. who withheld her last name and occupation for privacy, saying, “I wanted to be as secretive as possible.”
She had a lower-lid blepharoplasty done at Minneapolis Plastic Surgery to tighten her under-eye skin for younger daughter’s August wedding. The procedure costs $3,500.
“I noticed when my older daughter got married, when I smiled, I’d have these baggy eyes,” Mary said. “You just don’t want to look so tired, and this kind of brightens you up. So hopefully the pictures will look better this time around.”
And so, the quest for wedding beauty wages on, fueled by high-octane emotion and underscored by high margins.
It isn’t easy remaining level-headed about it all, Derdoski said—especially when you’re a “worrywart and a perfectionist.” But she’s comforted by a belief that bridal bliss beautifies the face. “Being comfortable and happy are the best cosmetics—and I’m counting on that to kick in!”
Christina Capecchi writes about culture and the social impact of technology. Capecchi can be reached at ccapecchi [at] minnpost [dot] com.